Archive for April, 2016


DEATH PENALTY SUMMARY: mid to end of April 2016

Interim International Update (from 14.4.16 – 28.4.16)

Date format: day/month/year

UK

o   14.4.16 – Mya Foa, Death Penalty Director of Reprieve stated, ‘

It is easy for Ministers to condemn the death penalty from Foreign Office briefing rooms.  But if the words are to mean anything, the UK must be willing to engage in targeted ways on specific cases, including making its concerns public where appropriate.  The countries driving a global surge in executions are amongst the country’s closest allies.  This gives us a voice and we should use it in service of our values.

She highlights Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and also Iran, where the recent resumption of diplomatic relations demonstrates how we can make a difference.  She quotes the instance of how David Cameron’s intervention in 2013 in the cases of three young men who had faced torture and abuse, and were given death sentences, had contributed to their pardon and release.

o   24.4.16 – Catherine Dunmore, a young lawyer from Swindon, who supported Amnesty while at secondary school, is about to spend 3 months in Florida, working as an unpaid volunteer for Amicus.  This organisation provides legal representation for those on death row – For anyone who might wish to support her, please go to Crowdfunder appeal   The Salisbury Group wishes Catherine well.

  • USA –

o   14.4.16 – Non Profit Quarterly have reported on the steady decline in executions since 2009 – from 52 texas executionto 28 in 2015.  They attribute this in part to changing public opinion and increased media scrutiny, but also to the activism of death penalty opponents which has led to the limited availability of drugs essential in the use of the lethal injection. 

The review shows that, while 31 states have the death penalty, only 4 are actively executing prisoners using lethal injection – Missouri, Texas, Alabama and Georgia.  Florida are currently reviewing their procedures, while Louisiana, Virginia, Arizona and Arkansas have, or are about to, use the last of their supplies.  Ohio have had to re- schedule their executions, and Nebraska are looking for a legal source of drugs.

The Danish Company Lundbeck were exposed as the suppliers of phenobarbital by Maya Foya of Reprieve, and the campaign against its supply and use was joined by Amnesty International.  One of Lundbeck’s straplines on its UK site is: ‘Improving human life for almost a century.’  Although a number of states are considering alternative methods of execution, it is hoped that the delays and setbacks will provide sufficient time for the Supreme Court to consider the constitutionality of the death penalty.

o   Texas

  • Pablo Vasquez, convicted of murder and on death row for 17 years, was executed on 6.4.16
  • Robert Pruett’s execution, scheduled for 27th April, will now take place on 21.6.16
  • Charles Flores is to be executed on 2.6.16
  • Robert Roberson                             21.6.16
  • Perry Williams                                 14.7.16
  • Ramino Gonzales                            10.8.16
  • Rolando Ruiz                                     31.8.16
  • Robert Jennings                               14.9.16
  • Terry Edwards                                     19.10.16

United Nations – 19.4.16 – The first special session held in nearly 20 years to address drug policy resulted in tensions between countries as to whether criminalisation and punishment, or health and human rights, should be the main focus.  AI reported that 30 countries have laws supporting the use of the death penalty for drug related offences, with at least 685 executions in 2015.

The outcome adopted by the member states included no criticism of the death penalty, stating only that countries should ensure punishments were ‘proportionate’ with the crimes.

UK/Indonesia

o   19.4.16 – AI called on Mr Cameron to challenge the President, Mr Widodo, on his decision to re-implement the death penalty for drug related offences, and to raise the case of the British woman, Lindsay Sandiford.

o   28.4.16 – The Guardian reports that, a year after the execution of eight people convicted of drug trafficking, there are rumours of preparations for further executions, which could take place in the next few weeks.  Prisoners on death row include two Britons – Lindsay Sandiford and Gareth Cashmore, and a young man – Yusman Telaumbana – believed to have been a minor at the time of the crime, and to have been tortured.  (Note: Indonesia was booed at the United Nations session on drug policy).

Nigeria – 21.4.16 – It was reported in the Nigerian media that prosecutors in Kaduna were seeking the death penalty for members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) for the killing of a soldier in the course of two days of violence in December 2012 in the northern city of Zaria.

Urgent Actions

Iran – UA 65/16 – Alireza Pour Olfat was scheduled to be executed on 16.4.16 for a fatal stabbing committed at 16 in the course of a group fight.  His execution was postponed to allow more time for seeking a pardon from the victim’s family.  (Circulated to DPLWG 15.4.16).

Iran New Zealand Amnesty petition – an online petition from Amnesty New Zealand calling on the Iranian Authorities to cease the execution of those who were children at the time of their sentences.(Circulated to DPLWG 27.4.16 and on the website) 

Campaigning

  • Reggie Clemons – we continue to await news 
  • The Group continues to focus on the sentencing to death of juveniles in Iran and to press AI UK for a coordinated action. 
  • This month’s Group Urgent Action – New Zealand petition (see above)

 China remains the country with the highest level of executions – believed to be in the thousands – but the statistics are a state secret.

Thanks to group member Lesley for compiling this report.


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New Zealand petition

Iran, in addition to its position as the world’s number two country after China for the execution of its citizens, also executes individuals who were minors at the time of their alleged offences.  Our colleagues in New Zealand have been doing sterling work on this and the link below will take you to a petition on their site.  Children as young as nine can be caught in policy.  International protest is slowly having an effect.

There are facts and background information on the link.  We hope you will spare a few moments to sign it.

New Zealand petition


Teresa May, Home Secretary

Teresa May, Home Secretary

Theresa May, the Home Secretary said in a speech today that the UK should leave the European Convention on Human Rights.   We have been waiting for some time now for this announcement – or something like it – and it was expected to be made by the Justice Secretary.

Rachel Logan, Amnesty’s legal programme director, said:

Mrs May’s proposal to tear away from the European Convention on Human Rights would strike at the very architecture of international protections, and betray the British people who built the convention at the end of the Second World War.

The Convention has done so much for the rights of the free press, gay people, women, people with disabilities and other ordinary people here and across Europe.

Some see this as part of Mrs May’s pitch to become prime minister if and when David Cameron quits the scene.  There is considerable media pressure to quit the convention often based on misleading information.  We shall have to see how this develops and we still await the Bill of Rights long promised but slow to appear.

As one of the countries which promoted the convention after the war it would be a tragedy if we left it.  As the Amnesty spokeswoman says it has done so much to promote rights not only in this country but elsewhere in Europe.  It is a surprise to many people when told what a beneficial effect it has had in countries such as Russia.

A spokesman from Liberty called the speech ‘desperate’.

Tapestry in the Playhouse

Illustrated left is the tapestry made by Amnesty groups in the south region currently on display in the Cathedral Chapter House, which shows the clauses of the Un Convention on Human Rights on which the ECHR was based.

 

 


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Groups meet in Salisbury

Members of the Salisbury; Mid Glos and Ringwood groups met on Sunday 17 April to view the tapestry in the Cathedral and to take part in a video being put together by the Salisbury group, further details of which can be found in the minutes.  The group is grateful for the two groups taking the time to come all the way to Salisbury for this.

In front of the tapestry

Group 5

Queen Elizabeth Gardens

 

 


Tapestry in the Playhouse

Tapestry in the Playhouse

Minutes of our last meeting in April are now available thanks to group member Lesley for doing them.  We discussed the death penalty report; social media statistics; filming of Fiona Bruce MP and Clare Moody MEP for the North Korean video; Arts Centre film; future events including the stall in June, and the HRA

April minutes (pdf)


Notice of extension received concerning administration of lethal injections in California

A previous urgent action was sent out concerning proposed changes to the California Code of Corrections concerning the use of lethal injections.  The date for responses has now passed but we have today received a message to say this has been extended to 15 May 2016.  Executions have been put on hold since 2006.

URGENT ACTION

Executions could resume if regulation adopted

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation has launched a public consultation on its proposed new lethal injection protocol. The public has until 22 January (but see above) to submit comments on the regulation, the adoption of which would allow for the resumption of executions in the US state with the highest death row population.

The California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) began a public consultation on 6 November on its new lethal injection protocol. Among other changes, the proposed new regulation introduces a single-drug lethal injection protocol which means that any one of four barbiturates listed in the regulations may be selected as the chemical to be used in the execution. It also establishes criteria for the selection, recruitment and training of lethal injection team members; and establishes procedures and timeframes for the movement and observation of prisoners once the execution warrant has been served.

Members of the public have until 22 January 2016 (see above – date extended to 15 May) to submit comments on the proposed new regulation, after which the CDCR will have the opportunity to amend its proposal.  Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime; guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual; or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.

California is the US state with the highest number of prisoners under sentence of death: 745 as of December 2015. The last execution was carried out in 2006 and the implementation of the death penalty has been on hold since then, as legal challenges on the state’s lethal injection procedures resulted in the invalidation of lethal injection procedures. In order to be able to resume executions, the California authorities need to put in place new operational regulations on executions.

Please write immediately in English or your own language:

ν    Urging the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation to immediately halt its plans to adopt the new lethal injection regulation and work with other state authorities to abolish the death penalty;

ν    Urging the California authorities to establish an official moratorium on all executions as a first step towards abolition of the death penalty, in line with the international and national trend and five UN General Assembly resolutions adopted since 2007;

ν    Reminding them that the USA is among the minority of countries that still executes, and that there is no humane way to kill.

PLEASE SEND APPEALS BEFORE 15 MAY 2016 TO:

Chief, Regulation and Policy Management Branch

Timothy M. Lockwood

California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation – Regulation and Policy Management Branch

P.O. 942883 Sacramento, CA

94283-0001, USA

Fax: +1 916 324 6075

Email: LI.comments@cdcr.ca.gov

Salutation: Dear Mr. Lockwood

Governor of California

Edmund G. Brown Jr.

c/o State Capitol

Suite 1173

Sacramento, CA

95814, USA

Fax: +1 916 5583160

Email: governor@governor.ca.gov

Salutation: Dear Governor

Also send copies to diplomatic representatives accredited to your country. 

HIS EXCELLENCY THE HONOURABLE MATTHEW BARZUN American Embassy, 24 Grosvenor Square, London W1A 6AE, tel: 020 7499 9000.  Salutation: Your Excellency       Please check with your section office if sending appeals after the above date.

URGENT ACTION

Additional Information

In order to be able to resume executions, the authorities of California, USA, need to put in place new operational regulations on executions. To this aim, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) issued the notice of public consultation 15-10 on 6 November 2015, providing details of proposed changes to Section 3349 and the adoption of Sections 3349.1, 3349.2, 3349.3, 3349.4, 3349.5, 3349.6, 3349.7, 3349.8, and 3349.9 of the California Code of Regulations (CCR), Title 15, Crime Prevention and Corrections (hereafter, the proposed new regulation).

Executions in California have been on hold since 2006. Legal challenges resulted in the invalidation of previously adopted execution procedures and were followed by a referendum in 2012 seeking to abolish the death penalty in the state. In addition to this, challenges in the sourcing of substances to be used in executions by lethal injections led to a nationwide reduction in the number of executions and increased debates on the use of the death penalty.

The US Supreme Court overturned the USA’s death penalty laws in 1972, but upheld revised laws in 1976, in Gregg v. Georgia. In a dissent from a ruling on lethal injection on 29 June 2015, Justice Stephen Breyer argued that the time had come to revisit the constitutionality of the death penalty, given the evidence of its arbitrariness and unreliability.  Joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, he wrote that:

Unlike 40 years ago, we now have plausible evidence of unreliability… In sum, there is significantly more research-based evidence today indicating that courts sentence to death individuals who may well be actually innocent or whose convictions (in the law’s view) do not warrant the death penalty’s application.

Since 1976, more than 140 wrongful convictions in capital cases have been uncovered in the USA, a period that has seen 1,414 executions.  Since 2007, five US states have abolished the death penalty and a further three have established official moratoriums on executions, including most recently Pennsylvania in February 2015.

Today, 140 countries are abolitionist in law or practice. In 2015 three more countries – Fiji, Madagascar and Suriname – abolished the death penalty for all crimes and Mongolia adopted a new Criminal Code that bans the use of the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment in the country. The USA is among the small minority of countries – ten on average – for which Amnesty International has recorded executions every year in the past five years.

 

 

 

 

UA: 287/15 Index: AMR 51/3065/2015 Issue Date: 14 December 2015

 

 


Young man arrested in his teens near to execution

Increasing world attention is being focused on Iran and its practice of executing individuals who were teenagers at the time of their alleged offences.  This is one such case and if you can spare the time to read the case notes and write that would be appreciated.  His name is Himan Uraminejad. 

Iran Himan april 16


Text of letter sent to Salisbury Journal

The following letter was sent to the Journal in Salisbury but regrettably for space or other reasons it was not published (14th April).  We do not know at present what the current situation is with the promised bill to abolish the Human rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights (or whatever it is to be called).  It is a manifesto promise and a draft was to be published in the Autumn but has not yet appeared.  It is possible that the arrival of Michael Gove into the Justice Dept. had something to do with it.

Now that we are in full swing with the debate about leaving the European Union, it is possible that this has been shelved for the moment.  Mr Gove is a leading proponent for the Brexit camp who – if current polls are to be believed – are doing well at the moment.  The calculation may therefore be that if they win then the scene is set to dump the HRA as well.

On the other hand, there will be a heavy workload in managing our exit and carrying out the negotiations to secure access to the European market once we leave, so there will be limited civil service and parliamentary time to spend on a new Bill of Rights.

But back to the letter and our local MP John Glen is keen to abolish the HRA and it would be a pity if he is given space in the Journal again to put forward his views and the opportunity is not given to those who disagree with him.  The unpublished letter:

Britain has had a proud history of leading the charge on human rights progress from the aftermath of the Second World War when we were key drafters of the European Convention of Human Rights, to the suffragette movement, to gay rights and other equality legislation. We have often been champions of progress.
What a shame, then, that this year the UK was singled out for criticism in Amnesty International’s annual report on the state of the world’s human rights.  Amnesty is warning that the government’s plan to tear up the Human Rights Act is a gift to dictators all over the world.  Russia recently drafted legislation which allows it to ignore human rights rulings it doesn’t agree with. Far from being able to condemn that action and call on Putin to uphold basic human rights, the UK is actually talking about following suit.  Music to the Kremlin’s ears, no doubt.
Here in Salisbury, the local Amnesty group is campaigning to save the Human Rights Act.  Britain should be a world leader on human rights.  The Human Rights Act protects ordinary people – from the elderly to hospital patients, to domestic violence victims – and we want to see those protections spoken about with pride by our politicians.  We should be redoubling our commitment to enduring human rights principles in these troubling times, not undermining them.
Let’s hope next year’s annual report on the UK reads: “much improved”.

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March/April report now available

STOP PRESS

Since this item was posted we have received notification that Californian Dept. of Corrections and Rehabilitation has extended its written public comment period to 15 MayFull details can be found on another post.

The death penalty report for March/April 2016 is now available thanks to group member Lesley for compiling it.  It has been a grim period with rises in executions in Iran and Pakistan and several executions in USA following dubious trials.  Iran is coming under increasing scrutiny worldwide for its practice of executing people who were juveniles at the time of their alleged offences.

China continues to lead the world with more executions than all other countries put together.

March – April report

No to the death penalty

 


WE are sad to report that on 12th April, Kenneth Fults was executed by lethal injection in Georgia texas executionUSA.  The United States is the only country in the Americas which still has the death penalty.  The case revealed the usual catalogue of dubious legal practice that is so common in these cases: a black defendant poorly represented by lawyers one of whom was allegedly asleep during part of the proceedings; a plea bargain and a juror who made derogatory racial remarks about Fults.  Other factors are set out in a previous blog.

Amnesty International’s senior death penalty campaigner Jason Clark said:

Those troubling factors are typical of Georgia’s use of the death penalty.

Virtually every execution that’s happened in Georgia has been emblematic of problems with the death penalty.

He noted that the 28 executions in the U.S. last year were carried out by just six states.

In states like Georgia that are still carrying on a lot of executions, it’s because they’re not implementing issues of fairness.

Amnesty is opposed to the death penalty in all cases.

A sad day…

No to the death penalty