"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Saturday, July 23, 2016

Iraq: Man brutally executed by ISIS for "being gay"

Man accused of being gay executed by ISIS in Iraq, July 2016
Man accused of being gay executed by ISIS in Iraq, July 2016
ISIS has publicly executed yet another man accused of being gay by throwing him from a rooftop.

The Iraqi man was executed by ISIS militants in the Kirkuk stronghold, after being accused of homosexuality, reports local media.

The victim is the latest of dozens of men perceived to be gay to have been executed by the militant group.

ARA News Network published the story which has not been independently verified, showing footage of the man being thrown to his death.

According to the report, a crowd had gathered, who threw stones at the man’s body after he hit the ground.

“He was thrown off a roof in front of dozens of people,” the reads the report.

“Then ISIS militants called on the people to stone the victim, although he was already dead. They started to barbarically stone his corpse.”

Such punishment is often the result of Shariah law being carried out by “judges” or “courts” who decide whether the accused is guilty.

“Civilians who live under Isis suppression are forced to follow any order by the group, otherwise they could get killed,” the head of Nineveh media centre Raafat al-Zarari said in the report by ARA News.

“People sometimes have no choice but showing loyalty to IS.”

Just over a month ago, Omar Mateen took to the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49.

Mateen called authorities and declared his loyalty to ISIS before he was killed at the scene.

Hillary Clinton visited the nightclub on Friday, and spoke at a roundtable event to say she would make changes to protect LGBT+ people from being targeted.

Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump also said he would do “everything in his power” to protect LGBT people, despite having held anti-LGBT stances for some time.

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Source: Pink News, July 23, 2016


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Arkansas Supreme Court Grants Stay, Keeping Executions On Hold

A decision by Arkansas' chief justice almost certainly means there will be no executions in the state through the rest of 2016.

Arkansas Chief Justice Howard Brill on Thursday provided the 4th vote needed to grant inmates' request to keep executions on hold while they ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear their appeal.

Brill's procedural ruling was also favored by the 3 justices who have disagreed with the court's rejection of death-row inmates' challenge to Arkansas' death penalty secrecy law.

In June, the state Supreme Court rejected 9 inmates' challenges to the secrecy law in a 4-3 vote. On Thursday, the same 4 justices - Brill included - rejected the inmates' request for the court to reconsider their decision.

However, Brill joined justices Paul Danielson, Josephine Hart, and Robin Wynne in granting the inmates' request to grant them a stay pending the outcome of their petition for the Supreme Court to grant certiorari and hear their appeal in the case.

Justices Karen Baker, Courtney Hudson Goodson, and Rhonda Wood - all of whom had, like Brill, voted against the inmates' challenge and the rehearing request - would have denied the stay request.

The inmates now have 90 days to file their certiorari petition at the U.S. Supreme Court. A response from the state could be filed by the state or requested by the court after that - a process that takes additional time before the justices would consider the petition.

Given that timeline, it is unlikely the justices would consider the request before December - meaning executions are almost certainly on hold in Arkansas through the rest of 2016 due to the fact that, even if the U.S. Supreme Court denies cert, advance notice then needs to be given for any execution dates set at that point.

While the state has not held an execution in more than a decade, Gov. Asa Hutchinson attempted to restart them in 2015, but has so far been stymied in carrying any out.

Source: buzzfeed.com, July 23, 2016


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Saudi executions exceed 100 this year

Public execution in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Public execution in Saudi Arabia (file photo)
Saudi authorities on Friday executed a man for murder, the interior ministry said, bringing to 101 the number of people put to death this year in the ultra-conservative kingdom.

Fahad Abdulhadi al-Dusari was found guilty of shooting dead fellow Saudi Mubarak bin Mohammed al-Dusari following a dispute, the ministry said in statement carried by the SPA state news agency.

He was executed in Riyadh province, it said. Saudi Arabia's growing use of the death penalty has prompted Amnesty International to call for an "immediate" moratorium on the practice.

The kingdom imposes the death penalty for offences including murder, drug trafficking, armed robbery, rape, homosexuality and apostasy.

Most people executed are beheaded with a sword.

There were no beheadings during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which began in the kingdom on June 6. However, capital punishment resumed on Sunday when authorities put a Saudi murderer to death.

On Thursday, authorities carried out the 100th execution of the year, executing another murderer.

"Saudi Arabia is speeding along in its dogged use of a cruel and inhuman punishment, mindless of justice and human rights," said Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa head Philip Luther.

"At this rate, the Kingdom's executioners will soon match or exceed the number of people they put to death last year," he said.

Many of those executed are convicted after "deeply unfair trials," he said.

Amnesty says the kingdom carried out at least 158 death sentences last year, making it the 3rd most prolific executioner after Iran and Pakistan.

Amnesty's figures do not include secretive China.

"The Saudi Arabian authorities must immediately establish an official moratorium on executions and abolish the death penalty once and for all," Luther said.

Murder and drug trafficking cases account for the majority of Saudi executions, although 47 people were put to death for "terrorism" offences on a single day in January.

They included prominent Shiite cleric Nimr al-Nimr, whose execution prompted Iranian protesters to torch Saudi diplomatic missions, triggering a diplomatic crisis between the two arch-rivals.

Source: Agence France-Presse, July 23, 2016


Saudi Arabia passes 'grim watershed' as it executes 100th person this year

According to the Saudi Press Agency, Saudi Arabia's Ministry of Interior announced that an execution was carried out in Riyadh today bringing the total number of executions carried out so far in 2016 to 100. In response to this news, Philip Luther Director of Amnesty International's Middle East and North Africa Programme said:

"This is a grim watershed. With its 100th execution this year, Saudi Arabia is speeding along in its dogged use of a cruel and inhuman punishment, mindless of justice and human rights.

"At this rate, the Kingdom's executioners will soon match or exceed the number of people they put to death last year - which, at 158, was the highest recorded figure since 1995.

"Many of those executed have been convicted after deeply unfair trials, as a result of flaws in the justice system. The Saudi Arabian authorities must immediately establish an official moratorium on executions and abolish the death penalty once and for all."

Source: Amnesty International, July 23, 2016


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Indonesia: Executions near after prisoner loses appeal

Nusakambangan Island, Indonesia
Nusakambangan Island, Indonesia
Third round of executions moves ever nearer after Indonesian court rejects case review from drug lord

Indonesia's Supreme Court has rejected a case review filed by a convict on death row scheduled to be executed with several foreign nationals in the country's next round of executions.

Supreme Court spokesman Ridwan Mansyur confirmed Friday that an appeal received by the court July 13 from the lawyer of Freddy Budiman -- sentenced to death by a Jakarta court in 2012 after being found guilty of smuggling 1.4 million ecstasy pills from China -- had been lost.

"Yes, it is true that his case review has been rejected," kompas.com reported him as saying.

Attorney General Muhammad Prasetyo has previously said that Budiman was on a list of death row convicts to be executed in an upcoming 3rd round of executions, and they would not take place until the court had made its decision.

Last year, President Joko Widodo's administration executed 14 prisoners in 2 stages, inviting scathing criticism from the countries involved and the wider international community.

On Friday, Prasetyo expressed happiness at the decision, saying the public had been waiting for the news so that the executions could go ahead.

"It was what we expected. The community had been waiting for this," he was reported as telling reporters at his office.

In a budget meeting in the House of Representatives last month, Prasetyo said it plans to execute 18 drug dealers this year, although he declined to name them.

"I forgot their citizenship. There are many," detik.com quoted him as saying.

When pressed earlier this month, metrotvnews.com reported he had said that inmates from Nigeria, Zimbabwe, and Indonesia will be on the list, but added there were none from Europe.

Kompas.com has reported that all preparations for the executions have now been completed, including preparing clergy, a firing squad and doctors.

It quoted Prasetyo as saying that the executions would once again be carried out in Nusakambangan prison island in Cilacap, Central Java.

After being accused of coordinating drug trafficking operations from inside his prison of Bogor, West Java, Budiman was moved to the Central Java prison.

Source: Anadolu Agency, July 23, 2016


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

On Death Penalty Cases, Tim Kaine Revealed Inner Conflict

Tim Kaine and Hillary Clinton
Tim Kaine and Hillary Clinton
Kevin Green’s lawyers were pleading with the governor for mercy.

It was spring 2008, and Mr. Green, a 31-year-old who had shot and killed a grocery owner, was on Virginia’s death row. His woes, his lawyers said, dated to childhood; he was born with his umbilical cord wrapped around his neck, repeated three years of elementary school, could not even tie his shoes.

His was precisely the kind of execution a young Tim Kaine, a Harvard-educated lawyer with a deeply felt revulsion for capital punishment, would have worked himself to the bone to stop.

“Murder is wrong in the gulag, in Afghanistan, in Soweto, in the mountains of Guatemala, in Fairfax County,” he once declared, as one of his clients was about to be put to death. “And even the Spring Street Penitentiary.”

But on the night of May 27, Mr. Green was led into the execution chamber at the Greensville Correctional Center, strapped to a gurney and hooked up to intravenous lines.

Shortly after 10 p.m., he became the fifth person put to death while Mr. Kaine was the governor of Virginia.

For Mr. Kaine, now a senator and Hillary Clinton’s newly named running mate, no issue has been as fraught politically or personally as the death penalty. His handling of capital punishment reveals a central truth about Mr. Kaine: He is both a man of conviction and very much a politician, a man of unshakable faith who nonetheless recognizes — and expediently bends to, his critics suggest — the reality of the Democratic Party and the state he represents.

He opposes both abortion and the death penalty, he has said, because “my faith teaches life is sacred.” Yet he strongly supports a woman’s right to choose and has a 100 percent rating from Planned Parenthood. And Mr. Kaine presided over 11 executions as governor, delaying some but granting clemency only once.

He cast his decisions in simple terms: As Virginia’s governor, he was sworn to uphold the law — a message that helped him get elected governor. Calm, never letting his passion overtake reason and open to compromise, Mr. Kaine, 58, is well liked even by many Republicans he has worked with. His centrist appeal is one reason Mrs. Clinton added him to her ticket.

But some death penalty opponents cast his decisions as political survival and ambition.

“Tim is a politician,” said Jack Payden-Travers, who served as the executive director of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty when Mr. Kaine was the governor. “Even though they say they’re not running for the next office, there’s always something coming up.”

Deep inside, Mr. Kaine’s allies say, his role in seeing prisoners put to death tore at him. On days when an execution was scheduled, said Wayne Turnage, his former chief of staff, the normally outgoing governor would be “less communicative, and quietly pensive,” and when the moment was near, he would retreat to his corner office and remain there alone.

When it was over, an aide would enter quietly, to report the dead man’s last words.

Wherever Mr. Kaine could hold to his ideals, his supporters say, he did. Though he commuted only one sentence, to life in prison, Mr. Roberts said the governor’s team had used an expansive legal theory to have that inmate declared mentally unfit for execution, interpreting Supreme Court case law in a way Mr. Kaine’s predecessors probably had not.

When the Supreme Court took up the constitutionality of lethal injection in 2008, Mr. Kaine suspended executions until the court ruled to allow the procedure.

And when Republicans in the General Assembly tried to expand use of the death penalty to cover more crimes, the governor blocked them.

“If there was any death penalty bill that came up, it would go into the incinerator, I will tell you that,” Mr. Turnage said. “There was no sentiment for expanding the death penalty. That wasn’t going to happen.”


Source: The New York Times, July 23, 2016


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Once a Jolly Hangman, Singapore Justice in the Dock

Once a Jolly Hangman by Alan Shadrake
The government of Singapore does not want anyone to read this book.

When it was first published in Singapore, police raided [author] Alan Shadrake's hotel room and arrested him. He was taken into custody and interrogated for two full days and two sleepless nights, then charged with contempt of court by "scandalising the judiciary".

As Shadrake awaited trial, he discovered to his discomfort just what happens when a person challenges the Singapore system. He was followed everywhere. Journalist friends reacted with alarm if Shadrake called them from his mobile, concerned that their association with him would then be known to the police. They knew, although at first he did not, that his mobile phone was bugged by the police. Most local journalists did not have the stomach to be seen as opponents of the regime.

His trial in the Singapore Supreme Court started on Monday, 18 October 2010. At the heart of the prosecution was the allegation that Shadrake had committed contempt of court by saying (and, it must be said, illustrating by example) that there was "something sinister: how the Singapore legal system works in secret and how politics, international trade and business often determine who lives and who dies on the gallows". The examples he gives in "Once a Jolly Hangman" point fairly strongly in support of that conclusion.

Shadrake's book is about the use of capital punishment in Singapore.

Singapore justifies its use of capital punishment on utilitarian grounds: the government says that the drug problem in Singapore would be much worse if those caught smuggling drugs, as [Australian drug mule] Van Nguyen was, were not killed by the State. How curious then that this logic dose not extend to cases where Singapore's diplomatic or trade interests are involved.

This is the puzzle Shadrake's book seeks to answer. Singapore's response suggests that the answer has hit a raw nerve. 

-- Julian Burnside, QC, Foreword to the new edition, Melbourne, 2011.



Alan Shadrake, author of 'Once a Jolly Hangman'
Alan Shadrake, author of 'Once a Jolly Hangman'
Once dubbed by The Economist as the world execution capital, Singapore is believed to have one of the highest per capita rates of execution of any country worldwide, thus remaining totally out of step in the move regionally and internationally towards a death penalty-free world. A historic momentum is building from which Singapore chooses to exclude itself.

The UN's 2008 resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on executions as a step towards total abolition has been heeded by an increasing number of countries. Not so by Singapore, however. Over 420 people have been executed there since 1991, mostly for drug trafficking, for which there is a mandatory death sentence [see update here]. A number of countries have mounted protests against the execution of their nationals in Singapore and cases have been raised at the highest level.

Once a Jolly Hangman unearths new or little-known information. The author argues convincingly that only the cases with possible negative political or economic outcomes appear to have succeeded in preventing executions of foreign nationals. In contrast, he exposes the pitiful, hopeless situation of poor, uneducated or desperate drug mules with no important connections. 

-- Margaret John, Coordinator for Singapore and Malaysia, Amnesty International Canada, Foreword to the original edition.



Below are two selected excerpts from Alan Shadrake's Once a Jolly Hangman:

PLEASE DON'T LET THEM KILL ME!

"Please don't let them kill me. I don't understand why they have to kill somebody for something like this." This haunting cry from a terrified young man was ringing in lawyer M. Ravi's ears as he walked through the gates of Changi Prison in the sunlight. He had just said his final farewell to his client Amara Tochi, who was due to hang at dawn the following day. It was a tearful moment for them both. Ravi had done all he could to prevent the killing of this likeable, handsome young man, a talented footballer who had come to Singapore to fulfill a dream. For the 21-year-old kid from a dirt poor village in Nigeria, Ravi was his last hope. He knew he would be dead the next day.

Amara Tochi (left), lawyer M. Ravi (right)
Amara Tochi (left) and lawyer M. Ravi (right)

Earlier that morning, the Court of Appeal refused to commute the death sentences on Tochi and his alleged accomplice Okele Nelson Malachy, a 33-year-old South African, for trafficking 727.02 grams of heroin into the country. Ravi had worked ceaselessly to save Tochi, first in the Appeal Court then, as a last resort, with a desperate plea for clemency from President S.R. Nathan. Tochi said he thought he was carrying African herbs that tasted like chocolate, and even ate once capsule, according to the evidence, to show the police it was "safe", a gesture suggesting either complete ignorance or naïveté.
The court delivered the death sentence after a thirteen-day trial during which even Judge Kan Ting Chin himself raised reasonable doubts about the alleged crime before sentencing Tochi to death.
Tochi had left his poverty-stricken village in Nigeria three years earlier and headed for Dubai hoping to find a football club willing to give him a chance to achieve fame and fortune. He had just turned 18 and had little education, having dropped out of school at 14. Bur his skill as a player was impressive. He was such a promising player he went to Senegal to join Njambi Football Club, where he so impressed his mentors he was picked up to play for Nigeria in the quarter-final in the West African Coca-Cola Cup. Tochi then returned to his village to plan another career move. He wanted to widen his experience and become a world-class player -- and above all help his family get out of its poverty cycle. A football coach told him there were opportunities in Dubai for a talented, determined young African player like him. With only a few hundred dollars in his pocket he travelled by plane and train to Islamabad in Pakistan to obtain a visa for the Arab Emirates.
There his plans began to go awry. His visa application was refused. He did not have enough documentation and the little money he had was running out. He was stranded and alone in a strange country. "I was in total despair," he wrote in his diary in his cell on death row in Changi Prison on 4 August 2006, six months before he was hanged. "No accomodation, no food and little money," He went to Saint Andrew's Church in Islamabad for help. "Pastor Andy was very kind to allow me to stay," he wrote.
During a Sunday service at Saint Andrew's, Tochi met "Mr Smith", another African from the same Igbo-speaking language group. He told Tochi he was an engineer and even recognised him as the player who missed a penalty that cost his team the match.
"I told him my story. From time to time he used to give me money for my survival and buy me food. I met him again in a restaurant when he told me he could help me get a visa to enter Dubai. He said there was a Dubai Embassy in Afghanistan. He took my passport and we went there together by plane."
Tochi's visa application was again refused. He needed much more documentation from his homeland to prove who he was. Smith assured him all would be well. "Not to worry," Smith kept assuring the youngster. "He said he would take care of me," continued Tochi in his diary. It was clear that he did not fully realise whose hands he was now in. Tochi then described being flown back to Dubai to catch a connecting flight to Singapore, where, Smith assured him, he would be able to apply for trials with the football federation. Smith would pay for the flight and his basic expenses. And, as a favour, would he take some special African herbs for his best friend, a "Mr Marshall"? He was also African and sick with a serious stomach ailment and needed them desperately. In return "Mr Marshall" would give him US$2000 to enable him to enter Singapore on a thirty-day visa -- enough time and money to obtain a long-term work pass and achieve his football dream.
When Tochi arrived at Terminal 2's transit lounge there was no sign of Mr Marshall. He should have been at the pre-arranged meeting point, an ubiquitous Coffee Bean and Tea leaf café. After waiting six hours, he called Smith, who was by then back in Pakistan. He was worried he would be stranded again if Marshall did not turn up with the promised money in exchange for the herbs. Without it, he would be sent back to Dubai, a country that would not let him enter either. His future seemed very dire indeed. But he was assured that Marshall would turn up soon. Exhausted by the wait and travel, Tochi decided to check into the airport's Ambassador Hotel and get some rest. The receptionist noticed he did not have a visa and advised him that he would be sent back to Dubai the next day without one. Tochi explained he was waiting for his friend to arrive with enough money for him to enter Singapore. The receptionist told him she was duty bound to inform the airport police. Twenty minutes passed before the police turned up. While waiting for them, Tochi strolled around the transit lounge unconcerned by the fact that the police would want to know all about him and the "African herbs" he had in his bag. The police came and questioned him. Then they looked in his bag. Tochi's football dreams had come to an abrupt end.
After his trial in the High Court ended on 22 December 2005, Tochi was found guilty and sentenced to death. Marshall's real name turned out to be Okele Nelson Malachy and his true nationality was never determined. He was described as a stateless African who had arrived in Singapore using a forged passport. He was also sentenced to death for trafficking the same 727.02 grams of diamorphine (or heroin) into Singapore even though he never took possession of the capsules.
Ravi, Tochi's second lawyer, fought a losing battle in a frantic bid to save him. He appealed against the sentence and asked for a retrial. This was denied. Then he made the desperate plea for clemency.
"It is disturbing to note," Ravi told me after Tochi was hanged, "that the learned trial judge himself raised reasonable doubts as to his guilt." In paragraph 42 of his judgement, trial judge Kang Chiu said: "There was no direct evidence that he knew the capsules contained diamorphine. There was nothing to suggest that Smith told him that the capsules contained diamorphine, or that he had found out on his own -- but he should have." In paragraph 48, Judge Kang wrote: "I found he had wilfully turned a blind eye on the contents of the capsules because he was tempted by the US$2000, which was a large sum to him. Consequently, even if he may not have actual knowledge that he was carrying diamorphine, his ignorance did not exculpate him."
Against Malachy, he said: "Although there was no direct evidence that the accused knew that the capsules contained drugs, there is no presumption of such knowledge raised against him." He then proceeded to convict both men and sentenced them to death. Ravi maintains that criminal laws of Singapore are unjust.
"They are completely weighted against the accused. For example, confession alone can be relied upon in sentencing a person to death. Also there is no right to pre-trial discovery on accused statements or admissions. It is almost impossible to rebut the presumption where the burden is reversed on the accused to prove his innocence. Further, an accused person can be convicted solely on the uncorroborated and unsupported evidence of a co-accused. The courts here have moreover declared they have no juridiction or powers to reopen a case even if there is fresh evidence adduced before execution."
The night before Tochi and Malachy were hanged, I joined a candlelight vigil outside Changi Prison attended by barely a dozen Singaporeans, testament to the secrecy the government maintains. At the vigil, prominent Singapore-based art critic Lee Weng Choy said he disagreed with Singapore's mandatory death sentence [see update here], which he said takes away the discretionary power of the judiciary. "I also disagree with its justification as a deterrent. The reality is that drug trafficking has not been reduced to zero, neither has drug use," he said.
Changi Prison, Singapore
Changi Prison, Singapore
The execution of Tochi was carried out despite an appeal by Nigerian President Olesegun Obasanjo who asked Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to commute the death sentence. Lee maintained that Tochi had committed a serious offence under Singapore law and had exhausted all legal options. "We did not take this decision lightly," Lee wrote in a letter. "I realise that Mr Tochi's family will find Singapore's position difficult to accept, but we have a duty to safeguard the interests of Singaporeans, and protect the many lives that would otherwise be ruined by the drug syndicates."
Ravi believes African nationals in particular caught trafficking drugs in Asia get different treatment. He cited a spate of executions which had largely gone unnoticed, and some Westerners like Julia Bohl and Michael McCrea who escaped the gallows. "It's clear", he said, "that Africans are treated in a discriminatory manner and their cases rarely get the attention of the international or local media. Many young African males are lured to Asia by attractive sports and athletic deals but end up being exploited as petty drug traffickers."
As with other protests, the campaigners outside Changi Prison were obliged to gather in groups of no more than four otherwise they would have been arrested for "unlawful assembly". Tochi's red football jersey, which was given to Ravi by Tochi as a farewell present, was hung on the prison fence with many candles lit around it. As the time of the hanging approached, many people who were gathered outside the prison sat down and quietly bowed their heads to say their silent goodbyes to the young Nigerian. "There was no need to kill him," said Ravi angrily. "Even if he had some idea what he was doing was wrong, was it worth snuffing out such a promising young life?"
At dawn on Friday, 26 January 2007 these two African men who had never met before their arrests were hanged simultaneously in Changi Prison. The executions received scant attention in the local and world media. The news was announced in a brief statement by an assistant superintendent at Singapore's Central Narcotics Bureau. Tochi's family had not travelled to Singapore to see him because they could not afford the journey, according to an official at the Nigerian embassy. A lawyer representing the family flew to Singapore hoping to pass on personal messages of love from his parents and other family members but even he was denied permission to see Tochi before he was hanged.
I have written very little about Nelson Malachy, the man Tochi was destined to meet at the table in the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf café and who had never heard of him until he arrived in Singapore from Dubai courtesy of Smith. While investigating all these characters I began wondering who "Mr Smith" really was. Did he matter to the Central Narcotics Bureau who prosecuted Tochi and Malachy on behalf of the Singapore Government? In fact, did Malachy matter to the judge who heard his trial and sentenced him to death? According to court records, Malachy was a stateless person, sometimes described as a South African. But there was no one in the court to speak up for him. No diplomat from the High Commission, no one from his family. As far as everyone was concerned he did not have one. Malachy was defenceless in his anonymity. He was nobody. Just another black man. He did not exist. An he too, was prey to Singapore's judicial system. More importantly, there was no campaigning newspaper in Singapore carefully following the trial of these men which might have sounded the alarm bells that yet another miscarriage of justice might be taking place.


A WOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE

With Singapore's much-vaunted recovery program for drug addicts and Changi Prison proud motto "Captain of Lives: Rehab, Renew, Restart" one would have thought 37-year-old hairdresser Yen Mary Woen would have been in safe, caring hands. As a serious heroin addict, she would definitely have qualified for special treatment in a bid to return her to normality. Yen, a Singaporean, was a victim of a broken home. During her teen years, Yen dreamed of one day finding a good man to marry and raise a family with. Her special wish was to be given away by her father, wearing a beautiful white wedding dress. After her parents divorced her life spun out of control. She began using drugs such as marijuana to ease the pain and mixed with the wrong company. As the years passed she gravitated to heroin and ice. As so often happens, her circle of friends was targeted by the narcotics police after a tip-off and an undercover agent joined in, carefully taking note of what she and the others were doing. Unable to find regular employment she began trafficking the drug to fund her habit.
Changi's Women Prison
Changi's Women Prison
She was charged with trafficking in not less than 30.16 grams of diamorphine, or heroin, on 8 May 2002. A team of Central Narcotics Bureau officers was instructed to look for her near a taxi stand at Block 179 Toa Payoh Central. They saw her arrive in a taxi which stopped a short distance from the taxi stand. "She alighted," one of the officers recorded, "and brought a black sling bag to the boot of the taxi and closed the boot. She then went to meet a male Chinese near the taxi stand while the taxi remained where he had stopped."
The officers moved in and arrested Yen, the man and the driver of the taxi. It was obvious the officers knew what they were doing. The boot of the taxi was opened in her presence.
Yen was taken to CNB headquarters at the police Cantonment Complex and charged with trafficking 120 sachets of diamorphine. Inspector Neo Ling Sim recorded her on-line response: "I did not know there was so much heroin." Subsequently, according to court records, a series of five investigations were recorded from her between 10 May and 20 August 2002. These revealed that on the day of her arrest, a friend "Tua Kang" telephoned her and arranged to return to her some cash and a cheque arising from a football bet; she called her drug supplier "Jack" and ordered a week's supply of twenty or thirty sachets of heroin and some ice from him, and collected and paid for the drugs at Thomson Place. That was when the police pounced.
Yen said that se was "high" at the time of her arrest and in a state of fatigue. She also said she was very frightened and at a loss when she realised there was so much heroin in the bag. She felt that she would not be believed if she said the heroin did not belong to her, and thought that if she admitted that twenty to thirty sachets belonged to her she would evade the death penalty. She also claimed that when she made those statements, "I did not take heroin for a few days and I felt very lousy."
There was no plea-bargaining for Yen while a deal was being worked out. She was found guilty as a matter of course. Judge Boo Bih Li said she had not rebutted the presumption under the Misuse of Drugs Act that she was in possession of the heroin for the purpose of trafficking. Very little was said about Yen's background and how she came to such a dire end.
The government-controlled media gave very little ink or airtime to the case, merely reporting the basic details. No mass media coverage for her, no powerful country or organisation using its muscle to try to prevent yet another judicial hanging -- only a court-appointed lawyer. There were no anti-death penalty demonstrations outside the court when the verdict was announced. Yen didn't stand a chance even in her own country surrounded by millions of fellow citizens who would be too scared, gutless or disinterested to say boo to the system, even if they really know what goes on under their noses. Hardly anyone knew about the case, let alone lifted a finger to help her. She was not a foreigner from a country prepared to use its economic muscle to protect her; she was not one of those they give impossibly long jail sentences to or thrash with the rattan; she did not come from the higher echelons of society and live in the nicest parts of the city.
Singapore's Court of Appeal
Singapore's Court of Appeal
It was unfortunate for Yen that she was born to a poor family in a less salubrious neighbourhood -- a million miles from the likes of Sentosa, Goodwork Park and Balmoral Park. She needed the money only to fund her habit. She and two co-conspirators had been under surveillance. Undercover officers had been watching their every move, waiting for the right time to strike. Yen was quickly tried, sentenced to death and hanged soon afterwards with hardly anyone in Singapore knowing about her plight.
As ever, there were no campaigning journalists at the Straits Times, the New Paper or Today demanding a better deal for her, no account of her sad life that came to such a tragic end.
Yen's case was reported only briefly in the local press and there was no official general discussion about the merits of capital punishment or comparisons to the way others, more fortunately placed in society, had been treated. It would have been an ideal topic for one of those late evening or Sunday afternoon round table television discussions with a variety of ordinary people saying their piece. There was no top-level wheeling and dealing with high-powered lawyers to save her young life -- no chance for "Rehab, Renew, Restart" for her.
"Yen's life was tragic in so many ways but I don't believe enough was done for her to give her another chance in life," said a friend of the condemned woman. "She may have been a difficult case when attempts were made to rehabilitate her, and there were some when she was younger, but the authorities gave up on her too soon. She was disposed of like a piece of garbage. The break-up of her family devastated her and she turned to drugs to escape from reality. She was not a major trafficker, either, and the profit from what she sold was only to fund her own cravings, not out of greed to enable a super luxury life like the drug barons are able to lead unmolested by the law."
But there was at least one happy moment she experienced shortly before she was hanged. She made her only sister promise to make the white wedding gown she had always dreamed of as a young girl and dress her in it before placing her body in her coffin. She got her wish. "She looked beautiful," said her friend, who, with tears streaming down her face, helped push Yen's coffin into the furnace.


The above excerpts are from:

Once a Jolly Hangman: Singapore Justice in the Dock  – (revised edition)
by Alan Shadrake
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Pier 9 (June 1, 2011)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 1742663737
ISBN-13: 978-1742663739

Once a Jolly Hangman may not be readily available online or in bookstores. You may contact Alan Shadrake directly to obtain a (signed) copy of his book for £25 (US$32 - €30) including postage (Secure online payment via Paypal).


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Friday, July 22, 2016

U.S. Supreme Court could revisit ruling on controversial Oklahoma execution protocol

A controversial death penalty case in Oklahoma is back in the national spotlight.

The U.S. Supreme Court could revisit a ruling involving Richard Glossip.

You may remember, his attorneys challenged the use of a certain lethal injection drug used in our state.

The new developments are stemming from a big case in Arkansas.

Attorneys for 9 death row inmates challenged Arkansas's execution protocol, and when their state supreme court upheld it, the justices cited the ruling in the Richard Glossip case.

"The Glossip case has resulted in an unmitigated disaster in Oklahoma," attorneys representing the Arkansas death row inmates wrote in a recent court filing.

Now, those attorneys are taking a possible loophole in the Glossip case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

"They challenged the execution method by saying for example, a person can be put to death by firing squad. Apparently, the Arkansas Supreme Court said that may be true, but that's not a method that's authorized by law here in Arkansas," criminal defense attorney David Smith said.

Legal experts say the U.S. Supreme Court left some things unanswered in the Glossip case.

Richard Glossip's attorneys challenged the constitutionality of Midazolam, the sedative used in Oklahoma's executions.

"The Supreme Court says you have to identify another method of execution that's available and feasible, it's known and attainable, but they don't say whether it has to be something authorized by state law of that state," Smith said.

In Oklahoma, there are only 3 drugs authorized for use in executions.

Last year, officials discovered a wrong drug was about to be used on Richard Glossip, and Gov. Fallin issued a last-minute stay.

That was months after that same wrong drug was actually used in the execution of Charles Warner.

For now, it's up in the air whether a new ruling could affect future Oklahoma executions, but legal experts say more clarity in the Glossip ruling is critical.

"It's kind of a splitting of a hair, but it's a pretty important hair," Smith said.

The executions for those Arkansas inmates are on hold right now.

Their attorney told NewsChannel 4 that he will file a petition to the U.S. Supreme Court soon.

He has 90 days.

Richard Glossip's attorney told Newschannel 4 he's hopeful the U.S. Supreme Court will hear the case.

Source: KFOR news, July 22, 2016


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

Turkey rebuffs EU on death penalty, as Erdogan calls for 'new blood' in army

Turkey rebuffed the European Union on Friday over the death penalty, while President Tayyip Erdogan vowed to restructure the military and give it "fresh blood", signalling the scope of a shake-up yet to come under a state of emergency.

There is growing worry in the West about Turkey's widening crackdown against thousands of members of the security forces, judiciary, civil service and academia after last week's failed military coup. On Wednesday Erdogan announced a state of emergency, a move he said would allow the government to take swift action against coup plotters.

The possibility of Turkey bringing back capital punishment for the plotters of the attempted coup that killed more than 246 people and wounded more than 2,100 has put further strain on Ankara's relationship with the EU, which it seeks to join.

Turkey outlawed capital punishment in 2004 as part of its bid to join the bloc and European officials have said backtracking on the death penalty would effectively put an end to the EU accession process. Erdogan says the death penalty may need to be brought back, citing the calls for it from crowds of supporters at rallies.

"People demand the death penalty and that demand will surely be assessed. We have to assess that demand from the standpoint on law, and not according to what the EU says," Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told broadcaster CNN Turk.

His comments are likely to spark further unease in the West, where there is growing worry about instability and human rights in the country of 80 million, which plays an important part in the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State and in the European Union's efforts to stem the flow of refugees from Syria.

Erdogan accuses Fethullah Gulen, a charismatic U.S.-based cleric, of masterminding the plot against him, which crumbled early on Saturday. In a crackdown on Gulen's suspected followers, more than 60,000 soldiers, police, judges, civil servants and teachers have been suspended, detained or placed under investigation.

Bozdag said that armed Gulen supporters had infiltrated the judiciary, universities and the media, as well as the armed forces.

Erdogan told Reuters late on Thursday he would restructure the military and give it "fresh blood", citing the threat of the Gulen movement, which he likened to a cancer.

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States for years, has denied any role in the attempted putsch, and accused Erdogan of orchestrating the coup himself. Turkey wants the U.S. to extradite the cleric. Washington says Turkey must give clear evidence first.

SUPREME COUNCIL

Erdogan said the government's Supreme Military Council, which is chaired by the prime minister, and includes the defence minister and the chief of staff, would oversee the restructuring of the armed forces.

"They are all working together as to what might be done, and ... within a very short amount of time a new structure will be emerging. With this new structure, I believe the armed forces will get fresh blood," Erdogan said.

Speaking at his palace in Ankara, which was targeted during the coup attempt, he said a new putsch was possible but would not be easy because authorities were now more vigilant.

"It is very clear that there were significant gaps and deficiencies in our intelligence, there is no point trying to hide it or deny it," Erdogan told Reuters.

Erdogan also said there was no obstacle to extending the state of emergency beyond the initial three months - a comment likely to spark concern among critics already fearful about the pace of his crackdown. Emergency powers allow the government to take swift measures against supporters of the coup, in which more than 246 people were killed and over 2,000 wounded.

Emergency rule will also permit the president and cabinet to bypass parliament in enacting new laws and to limit or suspend rights and freedoms as they deem necessary.

Germany called for the measure to end as quickly as possible. An international lawyers' group warned Turkey against using it to subvert the rule of law and human rights, pointing to allegations of torture and ill-treatment of people held in the mass roundup.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the reaction to the coup must not undermine fundamental rights.

"What we're seeing especially in the fields of universities, media, the judiciary, is unacceptable," she said of detentions and dismissals of judges, academics and journalists.

For some Turks, the state of emergency raised fears of a return to the days of martial law after a 1980 military coup, or the height of a Kurdish insurgency in the 1990s when much of the largely Kurdish southeast was under a state of emergency.

Opposition parties which stood with the authorities against the coup expressed concern that the state of emergency could concentrate too much power in the hands of Erdogan, whose rivals have long accused him of suppressing free speech.

Erdogan, an Islamist, has led Turkey as prime minister or president since 2003.

"We will continue the fight ... wherever they might be. These people have infiltrated the state organisation in this country and they rebelled against the state," he said, calling the actions of Friday night "inhuman" and "immoral".

Around 1/3 of Turkey's roughly 360 serving generals have been detained since the coup attempt, a senior official said, with 99 charged pending trial and 14 more being held.

The Defence Ministry is investigating all military judges and prosecutors, and has suspended 262 of them, broadcaster NTV reported, while 900 police officers in the capital, Ankara, were also suspended on Wednesday. The purge also extended to civil servants in the environment and sports ministries.

The state of emergency went into effect after parliament formally approved the measure on Thursday.

Source: Reuters, July 22, 2016


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde

What explains Indonesia's enthusiasm for the death penalty?

For many years, Indonesia was classified as a "low-application state" in its use of the death penalty. But recently there seems to have been a surge in enthusiasm for capital punishment, with public officials lining up to declare their support. The death penalty has been offered as a solution to a range of problems, from narcotics crime, to sexual abuse, and corruption. Last month, for example, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo urged police to chase, capture, and strike down drug dealers. "If the law allowed it, [I'd tell you to] blast them," he said. Earlier this year, he signed a presidential regulation authorising the death penalty for child sex offenders. Following her boss's lead, Health Minister Nila Moeloek said the suspects in the recent fake vaccine manufacturing scandal deserved execution.

What explains the recent popularity of the death penalty? Are officials just responding to public demands? Does public enthusiasm for the death penalty reflect frustration with the weak rule of law in Indonesia?

The embrace of capital punishment in Indonesia is a symptom of a growing environment of penal populism in the country. Penal populism describes a situation where politicians promise to solve the nation's troubles by punishing crime, rather than by pursuing social justice. Penal populists rely on, and generate, fear of crime, suggesting it is a growing threat to society. They blame an impotent justice system and accuse it of being too lenient on criminals. In response, they call for more severe punishments against perpetrators, exploiting what they see as the public's appetite for harsh law and order policies. This might make them popular but it only serves to perpetuate problems in the justice sector.

For populists, the cause of crime, including drug abuse, is always the individual perpetrator. The social conditions that contributed to the offending behaviour are never part of the picture. Users and dealers are considered the sole cause of the drug problem and deserve to be punished accordingly. But because populists focus on individual offenders, the public can become blind to deep-seated challenges in society. No crime can be divorced from its social context, including factors such as race, gender, class and education. There is no point blaming individual offenders for drug crimes while washing our hands of the structural issues that contributed to the problem. The shortcut solutions offered by penal populism - such as the death penalty - are not only oppressive, but they ultimately have little impact on the causes of crime.

Penal populists work hand-in-hand with the media. The media help whip up fear about the levels of crime in society, and advocate harsh punitive measures in response. The media largely endorsed the government framing of the 2015 executions as a matter of national pride and sovereignty, and ignored analysis debunking State Narcotics Agency (BNN) figures on levels of drug abuse. The simplistic presentation of the drug issue influenced how the public and other decision makers responded.

It is not hard to see how the courts might believe that by delivering harsh punishments they are strengthening the rule of law. Every time judges deliver a death penalty verdict they are applauded in the media. Politicians, including the president, endorse their decisions and even suggest extending the punishment to other crimes. But they are not strengthening the rule of law, they are doing the opposite. Judges end up undermining their own profession by allowing myths, public anger and disillusionment with the criminal justice establishment to affect their sentencing decisions.

The rise of penal populism, which exploits public anger, is threatening the independence of judiciary. Under Soeharto's New Order the greatest threat to judicial independence was intervention by the executive. But now, in the democratic era, the threat comes from the media, public pressure and mass demonstrations, sometimes accompanied by violence. Judicial corruption cannot be ignored either, of course, but there is growing evidence suggesting judges fear backlash when they make decisions that conflict with public sentiment, greatly compromising their independence. A 2015 Judicial Commission survey, for example, found that 3/4 of district-level judges in Medan had been threatened or intimidated.

Issues like the absence of checks and balances within the criminal justice system, the lack of access to justice, or poor quality of legal aid available for suspects are of little interest to penal populists. Yes, populists mention the criminal justice system, but only to blame it for not delivering sufficiently punitive punishments. There is no attempt to inform the public about the challenges facing the system, or have a rational debate about how they might be addressed. Jokowi is guilty of this, too. He makes no attempt to discuss the challenges of addressing drug abuse, preferring to propose shooting dealers in the street. When law enforcement is driven not by evidence but by public outrage or anxiety, the result is an increase in miscarriages of justice, as well as torture and arbitrary arrest and detention by law enforcement officials.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo
As in other countries, the cases most vulnerable to being exploited by penal populists, and resulting in such miscarriages of justice, are those involving terrorism, sexual or narcotics crimes. The Jakarta International School (JIS) case, for example, demonstrates the powerful impact of public pressure on investigators and the courts, which worked together to punish individuals accused of sexual crimes against children. Confessions were extracted under torture, one suspect died in police detention under highly suspicious circumstances, and a Canadian teacher and Indonesian teaching assistant were imprisoned based on very weak and questionable evidence.

Similarly, a study by the Community Legal Aid Foundation (LBH Masyarakat) in 2011 found that torture and mistreatment in police custody was routine in narcotics cases. Many people accused of narcotics crimes were not told about their right to legal aid, and those who were informed of this right were often warned that they would face heavier sentencing demands if they sought assistance.

Civil society and legal aid organisations are not above engaging in the rhetoric of penal populism. This has particularly been the case with corruption. Although civil society organisations frame their populism in terms of "monitoring the courts", and do so with the intention of ensuring a fair result, there have been occasions where the tone of protests has been threatening. At a time when politicians are only too happy to engage in penal populism, civil society organisations need more than ever to avoid a populist approach and discipline themselves to offer a more nuanced and detailed picture of the challenges facing the criminal justice system.

The government also needs to change its approach. Jokowi may well be frustrated with judicial corruption. But if the president is sceptical about the justice sector - falling just short of endorsing extra-judicial killings - what about the public? Should they then resort to vigilante justice? By focusing on harsh punishments, penal populists weaken the justice system, because they allow weak and corrupt courts to carry on with little imperative to change. They are a major threat to the justice sector reform project.

Exploiting high levels of public ignorance about crime and punishment might not be ethical but it is easy. Offering rational and evidence-based arguments is much more difficult, and not usually popular, especially in an unbalanced media environment. But when the government is not doing so, it is up to civil society groups to provide clear and accurate information about the complexities of crime and punishment.

Source: Coconuts, July 22, 2016. Nurkholis Hidayat is an Indonesian human rights lawyer and previously served as a director of the Jakarta Legal Aid Institute (LBH Jakarta), and national advisor for legal aid and criminal justice for the Australia Indonesia Partnership for Justice (AIPJ).


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." - Oscar Wilde