Posts Tagged ‘Death penalty’


Solemn promises by Saudi authorities about ending the death penalty for minors may not be true

Reprieve reports that a promise by the Saudi authorities to end the death penalty for minors does not look it is going to happen.  A juvenile sentenced to death for trivial offences could still take place.  See the full story published by Reprieve.


Report on Amnesty Death penalty discussion

On 10 October 2020, the 18th World Day Against the Death Penalty, Amnesty hosted a discussion with three people who are closely connected with the campaign to end the practice.  They were Kim Manning Cooper; Dr Bharat Malkani and Chiara Sangiorgio.  It was chaired by Paul Bridges.  It was a fascinating talk in which they discussed different aspects of how the death penalty works in the USA.  Amnesty has maintained a consistent policy of condemning the use of the death penalty in all circumstances.  It is fundamentally about human dignity.

Amnesty is also opposed to life sentences without the chance of parole.

USA

Much of the discussion focused on the miscarriages of justice in the USA.  The death penalty does not do what its proponents claim it does.  It does not deter violent crime.  States who do not use the penalty have some of the lowest murder rates in the Union.  It is expensive, with 724 people on death row in California alone, which has cost the state $4bn since 1978.  Mistakes are common and of course cannot be put right.  Since 1973, 170 prisoners on death row have been exonerated, a quite staggering level of error.  The One for Ten movement was referred to, which notes that for every ten people executed in the US, one has been exonerated and released, having spent, on average, ten years on death row.

Dr Malkani’s talk explored the effects on innocent people.  Following arrest for a crime they did not commit, there is a feeling of a sheer sense of disbelief.  Their first concern is for their loved ones.  How would they cope without them and if they have children, how will they handle school when everyone will know that their parent has been arrested for murder?  He mentioned the ‘ripple effect’ which results in trauma being felt among a wide community of individuals, not just the immediate family.

There follows a sense of hopelessness, realising that the might of the State is trying to kill you.  Next comes anger when you know you are innocent.  (No reference was made to the fact that that the US does not have the equivalent of PACE,  which requires evidence indicating innocence to be disclosed to the defence.  This evidence is often not disclosed with the aim of  a securing a conviction.)

Release

Dr Malkani went on to discuss the effects on people released after a long period of captivity.  Understandably, they want to return to their previous life, but they find this impossible as so much has changed both in society and in their families.  Their children have grown up without knowing them. It is also difficult to achieve a personal identity having spent the many years in captivity as just a number.  Now free, they are always described as someone who was on death row.

Because they were on death row, they received no training or attempts at rehabilitation since they were destined for execution.  The pace of modern technology meant the world was a completely different place.  There were no support systems in place.  There was also relationship breakdown after such long periods of separation.  Sadly, many die quite soon after their release.

Troy Davis

Kim Manning-Cooper spoke of the infamous Troy Davis case.  An off-duty policeman was murdered and a witness came forward claiming that Troy was the killer.  It now appears possible that the witness himself may have been the culprit.  There are too many irregularities to list but include witnesses who were threatened with being charged themselves, police statements signed by people who could not read or write, some witnesses were threatened by the police, no forensic or DNA evidence was submitted, and no gun was ever found.  An evidentiary hearing was held by the Supreme Court but ,despite the multiple failings in the prosecution case and some misgivings, the appeal failed and Davis was executed in September 2011.  His sister had campaigned tirelessly in his support.  Amnesty International campaigned for justice in the Davis case, a cause the Salisbury group took part in.

Kim said people often say ‘the system is failing black men but in reality, the failure is in the way the system was designed’.

‘the system is failing black men but in reality, the failure is in the way the system was designed’

This theme was developed by Dr Malkani.  The issue of race was built into the legal system in the USA he said.  It

Screenshot: Dr Bharat Malkani

dates back to the 13th amendment of the US Constitution which abolished slavery ‘except as a punishment for a crime’.  When lynchings ended in the 1920’s, executions skyrocketed, as evidenced by the  Death Penalty Information Center.  The bias extended to the prosecution process, with district attorneys unwilling to prosecute a black person murdered by a white but all too willing to prosecute the other way around.   Some members of juries in the state of Georgia are quoted as saying ‘black people have no souls’.  Many murders of black people remain unsolved.  Only 21 white people have been executed for killing a black person but 296 black people for killing a white person.

Finally, he said the effects on wardens and prison guards can also be profound as was shown in the award winning film Clemency.

Forensic evidence

The question was posed ‘could the justice system ever be error proof?’  This was related to things like the use of DNA.  The answer was that no system could be error proof, DNA was not infallible and was not a silver bullet, although sometimes evidence is found years later.  The justice system could not be used to solve issues of bad housing, drug addiction and social problems generally.  We needed to advocate for prison reform as well as ending the death penalty and life sentences without the prospect of parole.

Campaigning

In addition to Amnesty International’s Death Penalty Urgent Actions, the work of Reprieve was highlighted, and writing to people on death row organised by Lifelines.

Comment

This was a most interesting discussion.  There is a slow decline in the number of executions and Americans themselves are increasingly wanting the practice ended.  The role of Black Lives Matter is likely to have an effect.  There are other countries in the world with far worse records –  Saudi Arabia, and Iran – but especially China.  The numbers executed in China run into thousands but details are a state secret.

For American readers: PACE – the Police and Criminal Evidence Act provides a range of protections to people arrested in the UK one of which is the defense must see all the evidence collected by the police, not just that which indicates possible guilt. 


A 20 year old man scheduled to be executed in Malaysia

We are asking you to spend a few moments to put your name to a petition being run by Amnesty Australia on behalf of a 20 year old man, Hew Yew Wah, in Malaysia who is condemned to death.  We are against the death penalty in all cases and this sentence is disproportionate for the crime he admits he committed.

Petition.


Today (10 October 2020) is the 18th World and European Day Against the Death Penalty

Amnesty is opposed to the use of the death penalty in all circumstances and we have campaigned for many years against the practice.  There has been a gradual decline but still there are too many countries which continue the barbaric practice.  It is neither humane nor effective.  It does not deter violent crime or murder and studies in America have shown that there is no difference in murder rates between those states which retain the penalty and those that don’t.

While working towards the total and complete abolition of the death penalty worldwide for all crimes, it is crucial to alert civil society and the international community to the necessity that, at all stages of the legal proceedings, those facing the cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment of execution should at least have access to effective legal representation.  Such legal aid can provide the basic protection of either avoiding the sentence or appealing the verdict.

Statement by the Secretary General of the EU.

 


We are pleased to attach our monthly death penalty report for the current month thanks to group member Lesley for the work in compiling it.  Note that China – the world’s largest executioner – does not feature in this report because details are a state secret. 

Report (Word)

 


Pope issues encyclical against the use of the death penalty

Amnesty International has longed campaigned against the use of the death penalty and so the recent encyclical by the Pope is to be welcomed. Fratelli Tutti issued on 3 October 2020, takes an uncompromising line against this penalty and against imprisonment for life.

The local group has campaigned for many years against this barbaric punishment and we produce a monthly report on developments around the world.  The country which is believed to execute more of its citizens than the rest of the world – China – does not feature as details are a state secret.

It will be interesting to see how this fares in the US, the only country in the Americas which retains the penalty. Despite evidence of its ineffectiveness as a deterrent, the impossibility of correcting mistakes of which there are plenty, and the fact it is the poorest in society who are disproportionately executed, some states retain it. Catholicism is strongly represented so it is likely they will make their feelings felt.

Sources: Crux, BBC


Our latest monthly death penalty report is available thanks to group member Lesley for the work in compiling it.  Note that China is the world’s largest executioner but the details are a state secret.

Report, August- September (Word)


Good news from Sudan
Amnesty’s Urgent Action successful

Following the South Sudan Court of Appeal’s decision on 14 July to quash the death sentence imposed on Magai Matiop Ngong because he was a child at the time of the crime, and to send his case back to the High Court to rule on an appropriate sentence, and his removal from death row on 29 July, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa, Deprose Muchena said:

We welcome the Court of Appeal’s decision to quash Magai Matiop Ngong’s death sentence because under South Sudan and international law a child cannot be sentenced to death. Magai is one of the lucky ones.

At least two other people, who were children at the time of the crime, have been executed in the country since May 2018; their lives extinguished as well as all the hopes their families had for them.

The South Sudanese government must fully comply with national and international laws which prohibit the use of the death penalty against anyone below 18 years of age at the time the crime was committed. The authorities must abolish this cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Background
In its annual letter writing campaign, Write for Rights, Amnesty International prioritized the case of Magai mobilizing its global membership to write to President Salva Kiir to commute the death sentence. More than 765,000 people around the world took action, calling on President Salva Kiir to commute Magai’s death sentence, and expressing their solidarity with Magai.

South Sudan is one of four countries in Sub-Saharan Africa that carried out executions in 2018 and 2019.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to carry out the execution.

Amnesty International post 27 July 2020.  Thanks to all those who wrote letters or sent emails for this action.  See our monthly death penalty update.


Juvenile under sentence of death

[This is a post from Reprieve]

Mohammed al-Faraj was 15 when he was arrested while leaving a bowling alley in Medina, Saudi Arabia.  He was tortured into confessing to ‘crimes’ linked to non-violent protesting, including attending a funeral at the age of 9.
By any measure he was a child when these so-called ‘crimes’ took place.

He should not have been arrested and he certainly should not be facing a death sentence today.  On April 26, Saudi Arabia announced a royal decree that would end the use of death sentences for children like Mohammed.  Yet, a loophole in this decree means that the judge in Mohammed’s case will still be able to sentence him to death. [1]
Reprieve has just taken on Mohammed’s case.  We are going to need to build up his campaign for justice quickly.

Reprieve needs your help to make sure the international spotlight is on Saudi Arabia.  We know they are sensitive to their public image right now, and we can use that to make sure they do not sentence Mohammed to death.

Please share Mohammed’s story today Facebook link or Twitter link

Together, the Reprieve community brings hope to people like Mohammed who have no one else to turn to.  Thank you for being a part of this community.

[1] “Saudi Arabia Says It Will Stop Executing Children. But Read the Small Print | Opinion,” Newsweek (May 18, 2020).  See below:

Newsweek link

See our monthly death penalty report


There is a majority of people in the UK who, for certain crimes, would like to see a return of the death penalty according to YouGov.  The current home secretary, Priti Patel, has said the same on Question time although she now resiles from this.  People in favour of the penalty should watch this film.

It concerns a female warden (governor in UK parlance) who is in charge of a prison where people are executed.  Directed by a woman, Chinonye Chukwu and starring Alfre Woodard it illustrates the tension of those in charge of actually carrying out the gruesome task.  At the start of the film, the execution process is botched and it takes quite a while for the prisoner to die, painfully.

The film charts the tension the warden experiences: on the one hand the desire to be professional and to do a good job and on the other, the doubts about the process itself.  This tension is reflected in her marriage where her husband leaves her for a while.

In Hollywood terms, it is quite unusual.  Firstly, because women feature a lot in the making of it.  Secondly, no background music which allows the natural tension to build.  The camera is allowed to linger on certain scenes and there is no frantic scene changes which are so irritating in much drama these days.  Lastly, the drama is carried along by Woodard’s expressions and face rather than just dialogue.

It is truly a powerful and quite unique film and makes the fundamental point that the process of executions damages all who are involved in it.

Amnesty is opposed to the death penalty in all circumstances.  It does not deter and levels in violence in US states with the penalty is little different to those with it.  Mistakes, which are frequent, cannot afterwards be rectified.  The process, with appeals lasting years – the average in the US is 10 years – is expensive.  It is applied unfairly with a disproportionate number of black people on death row.  An examination of the trial of Kris Maharaj in Florida is also worth a read.

The group publishes a monthly report on the penalty around the world.

Meanwhile, the pace of executions in America continues with the Justice Dept. executing three people in four days, matching the total number the US government had conducted in the previous 3 decades (Washington Post).   This is part of the ‘law and order’ promise by the President despite serious misgivings by many Americans about the fairness of the process and think it needs a complete overhaul.

The film is available on streaming services.

19 July 2020