Posts Tagged ‘Death penalty’


Belarus

Belarus remains the only country in the whole of Europe and the former Soviet Union which still carries out death sentences.  Only days ago, news emerged from Belarus that another death row prisoner had been executed.  This was not officially confirmed as the Belarusian authorities do not publicly confirm executions or even tell families of death-row prisoners that their loved ones have been executed until weeks after it has happened.

Join Amnesty and international activists on 8 July for a discussion, exhibition and short film regarding the brutal reality of Europe’s last executioner.

Details: deathpenalty@amnesty.org.uk or on Facebook


While a lot of attention – quite rightly – has been focused on the plight of Zaghari-Ratcliffe, there are other things going in that country including the execution of minors.  Below are details of an urgent action which if you have time, we would be grateful if you could send a message of some kind.  There is an option to tweet.

Danial Zeinolabedini, an 18-year-old imprisoned in Mahabad prison, West Azerbaijan province, is at risk of execution. He was sentenced to death in June 2018 after an unfair trial in which he was convicted of a murder that took place when he was 17 years old. His execution would be a grave violation of international law.

Further details from an Iran human rights group.

Urgent action


If you live in the Salisbury, South Wilts area and would like to join us, you would be very welcome.  The best thing is to keep an eye on this site and come along to an event and make yourself known.  It is free to join locally.

 


Attached is the latest monthly death penalty report thanks to group member Lesley for the work in compiling it.  It is a little longer than usual as there seems to be a lot of activity on the DP front.  Please note that there is no reporting from China which executes more of its citizens than the rest of the world combined but the details are a state secret.

May – mid June (Word)


In our links at the bottom of the site page, we have just added Human Rights Connected https://humanrightsconnected.org/ a Washington DC based organisation


Asia Bibi leaves Pakistan for Canada a free woman

Many people were outraged at the treatment Asia Bibi received in Pakistan and have written letters in support of her.  We have today (12 June 2019) heard that she has been acquitted.

Asia Bibi is a Christian farm worker, who was sentenced to death for blasphemy in 2010. After an eight-year ordeal, Pakistan’s Supreme Court acquitted her of all charges and released her in October 2018.  Following the decision by the Supreme Court to uphold her acquittal on 29 January 2019, it was confirmed by the Pakistani Foreign Office on 9 May that she had left Pakistan and safely arrived in Canada to be reunited with her family.

We are extremely grateful to supporters who wrote appeals to not only acquit Asia Bibi but to also ensure her safe passage out of Pakistan.  Her wrongful death sentence has also helped bring more nuance into the discourse around the blasphemy laws and their rampant misuse.  Offered asylum in Canada, Asia Bibi can begin to live her life as a free woman.

We thank you, for standing with Asia Bibi during her ordeal. It’s a great relief that Asia Bibi and her family are safe. She should never have been imprisoned in the first place, let alone faced the death penalty.   Omar Waraich, Deputy South Asia Director at Amnesty International.

Source: Amnesty press release

 


Saudi Arabia: boy arrested aged 13 at risk of execution

Murtaja Qureiris was held in solitary confinement and subjected to beatings during his interrogation.  Murtaja Qureiris faces possible execution for offences which date back to when he was just ten years old.  CNN footage shows him taking part in bike protest with other young boys in Shi’a Eastern Province in 2011.

Amnesty International is calling for the Saudi Arabian authorities to rule out the use of the death penalty against a teenager arrested at the age of 13 for participating in anti-government protests.  CNN this week revealed he was facing the death penalty and published video footage showing Murtaja Qureiris participating in bike protests in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province as a young boy in 2011.

Amnesty has confirmed that Saudi Arabia’s Public Prosecution sought the death penalty for Murtaja Qureiris last August for a series of offences, some of which date back to when the teenager was just ten years old.  Qureiris, now aged 18, was arrested in September 2014 and detained in a juvenile detention centre in al-Dammam city.  He was held in solitary confinement for a month, and subjected to beatings and intimidation during his interrogation.  His interrogators promised to release him if he confessed to charges against him.  In May 2017, he was moved to al-Mabaheth prison in al-Dammam, an adult facility, even though he was still only 16.

Throughout his detention, Qureiris was denied access to a lawyer until after his first court session in August 2018. This was held at the country’s notorious Specialised Criminal Court, an anti-terrorism court set up in 2008 and increasingly used for cases involving human rights activists and protesters.

The charges against Murtaja Qureiris include participating in anti-government protests; attending the funeral of his brother Ali Qureiris who was killed in a protest in 2011; joining a “terrorist organisation;” throwing Molotov cocktails at a police station, and firing at security forces.  He is currently awaiting his next trial session.  Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director, said:

It is appalling that Murtaja Qureiris is facing execution for offences that include taking part in protests while he was just ten years old.
The Saudi Arabian authorities have a chilling track record of using the death penalty as a weapon to crush political dissent and punish anti-government protesters – including children – from the country’s persecuted Shi’a minority.
Instead of stepping up their use of the death penalty to silence critics.
There should be no doubt that the Saudi Arabian authorities are ready to go to any length to crack down on dissent against their own citizens, including by resorting to the death penalty for men who were merely boys at the time of their arrest.”

Persecution of Shi’as in the Eastern Province

Since 2011, the authorities have cracked down on successive waves of protests by the Shi’a minority in the country’s Eastern Province.  In April this year, Amnesty confirmed the execution of Abdulkareem al-Hawaj, a young Shi’a man arrested aged 16 and convicted of offences related to his involvement in anti-government protests.  He was among 37 men put to death in one day as part of a gruesome execution spree.  Three other Shi’a men – Ali al-Nimr, Abdullah al-Zaher and Dawood al-Marhoon, who were arrested in 2012 aged 17, 16 and 17 respectively in connection with their involvement in anti-government protests – are at risk of being executed at any time.

Since 2014, more than 100 Shi’a Saudis have been tried before the Specialised Criminal Court on vague and wide-ranging charges arising from their opposition to the government, including peaceful criticism of the authorities.  Amnesty has documented that a number of these have involved grossly unfair trials, with defendants convicted and – in many cases – sentenced to death on vague charges that criminalise peaceful opposition, and on the basis of “confessions” extracted through torture or other coercive means.

Appalling record
Saudi Arabia has an appalling record of using the death penalty – including against children – after grossly unfair trials that rely on confessions extracted through torture. The use of the death penalty for offences allegedly committed by people under 18 is strictly prohibited by international law. Amnesty opposes the death penalty in all circumstances without exception.


Source: Amnesty press release.

Amnesty is hosting a talk by Paul Mason on 24th June.  If you want to join us, this would be a good time to make yourself known.  UPDATE: We regret to say this event has been cancelled.


The minutes of the group’s May meeting are attached and thanks to group member Fiona for preparing them.  There is a full programme of activities.

May minutes (Word)


Amnesty International South-West Regional Conference in Exeter 11 May 2019

These are some notes of the recent regional conference made by Salisbury group member Fiona. They are not an official record.

The keynote speaker was Emel Kurma, a Human Rights defender from Turkey, currently hosted by the University of York’s Protective Fellowship Scheme. She outlined for us how a Citizens’ Assembly works. Inspired by the Helsinki Final Act, these are low-profile bodies (no smart headquarters or logos) that aim to stimulate social and political discussion towards a peaceful and inclusive society, valuing democratic and environmental principles. The best response to a state’s limitation of individual freedom is to strengthen civil society at all levels, allowing ethical thinking to penetrate even closed structures. For example a liberal academic offered an opportunity to go to a conference abroad might instead hand it to a member of a state institution in order to broaden that individual’s understanding of human rights as practised beyond their country’s borders.

Emel Kurma is a brave individual and her stoical acceptance of probable interrogation and possible imprisonment on her return to Turkey is both shocking and inspiring.

Israel Palestine 

Two other reports (also by women) focused on Palestine and Eastern Europe respectively.
Penny Wilcox has for several years worked with the intriguingly-titled Ecumenical Accompaniment Programme in Israel and the Occupied Territories.  Again in an unobtrusive fashion, they accompany vulnerable Palestinians at checkpoints (adults going to work, children to school, traders etc.) and, simply by acting as protective witnesses, aim to reduce the levels of conflict or anxiety so often experienced by this oppressed population.  This approach is also practised by various Israeli humanitarian groups who wish to offer support to trapped and threatened Palestinian communities.  Even simply to witness and record the bulldozing of ‘illegal” Palestinian structures (cow byres, olive trees) is an act of silent protest and solidarity.  One of the many ironies of this absurd and tragic occupation is that when sometimes belligerent Israeli settlers have gone into Palestinian villages to cause trouble, the Israeli army itself has been called in to defend the Palestinians residents.

The third report came from Central Europe co-ordinator Ulricke Schmidt, who traced worrying trends in the rise of racism and anti-Semitism in Hungary and, to a lesser degree, in Poland.

Hungary

In Hungary the usual targets are the Roma, but the influx of refugees has now made them the focus of anger.  This in spite of the warm reception originally given to those fleeing war, who were perceived as ‘passing through’ Hungary and in manageable numbers.  However attitudes have hardened and Ulriche quoted an acquaintance who got 6 months imprisonment for giving a lift to a refugee while NGOs risk being criminalised for helping them.  Additionally, resentment against global capitalism has contributed to a revival of anti-Semitism.  Huge posters crudely stereo-type George Soros as ‘an enemy of the people’ with his ‘army of leftist terrorists’.

Ulricke defines some of the underlying causes of xenophobia as relating to globalisation – seen as benefiting the few – and to a drift to the cities which has left a frustrated and impoverished rural population to grasp at the promises of the Right to restore Hungary’s romanticised past (sounds familiar, does it not?).

Poland 

Poland reflects some of these trends, but fortunately to a lesser degree. Some liberal teachers have been disciplined and protesters have had their personal data published.  But Poland has had a more recent history of resistance to authoritarian rule.  When an outright ban was placed on abortion thousands of women marched in protest to overturn it.  When a recent Independence Day march was joined by racist demonstrators, fourteen brave women entered the throng and unfurled a Stop Fascism banner.  They were beaten by some marchers, and subsequently charged and fined by the courts for ‘disrupting a lawful demonstration.’  But a recently published video has now prompted an Appeal Court investigation into the attack..

The European Union has triggered Article 7 against Hungary for imperilling European values and has also expressed concern that the judiciary in Poland is being politicised.  On a more positive note, 26 EU countries have recently seen powerful demonstrations against fascism, racism and anti-Semitism.

Death penalty

The Death Penalty workshop confirmed that our group is very well informed on relevant data thanks to the regular updates from group member Lesley. The new network now has two and a half thousand members.  An interesting recent survey estimated that it was actually more expensive to execute a prisoner than to simply keep them in prison.  The campaign is currently now focusing on Singapore and Iran, the latter for its practice of deferring punishment until a sentenced juvenile is old enough to receive the death penalty.  On a positive note – more and more countries are abolishing the death penalty – 106 in total by the end of 2018.

Many thanks to the regional representative Chris Ramsay for organising this meeting.


The most recent death penalty report on the use of the death penalty around the world is now available thanks to group member Lesley for compiling it.

Report (Word)


The next monthly meeting is on May 9th at Victoria Road as usual starting at 7:30.  Supporters are very welcome to attend.


Shocking news of a beheading spree in Saudi Arabia.  Allegations of a crucifixion

It has been widely reported that Saudi Arabia executed 37 individuals on Tuesday 23 April 2019 in what was the biggest mass execution since 2016.  The executions have been widely condemned around the world and mark an alarming increase in the use of the death penalty by the regime.  Any hope that the rise to power of Mohammad bin Salman (pictured) marked a more liberal regime seem well and truly to be finished.

The UK government is usually quite reticent in these matters claiming to make its views known behind the scenes.  However, in this instance, diplomatic language seems to be set to one side following an urgent statement in the House of Commons:

The Foreign Office minister Sir Alan Duncan, answering an urgent question in the Commons, spurned the usual diplomatic niceties, saying the mass executions were “a deeply backward step which we deplore”. He added it was “deplorable and totally unacceptable” that at least one of those executed had been a minor at the time of the arrest.
He highlighted reports that one of those executed was displayed on a cross, saying that anyone in the House, just two days after Easter, would find “more repulsive than anything we could picture.  Parliament site [accessed 24 April 2019]

In response, Sir Vince Cable said:

We are in urgent need of a reappraisal of our relationship with Saudi Arabia given that the continued medieval barbarism of the regime does not constitute the basis for a friendly alliance, and indeed makes it an enemy of our values and our human rights.  Ibid

The executions follow sham trials and according to Amnesty International, involve confessions achieved through the use of torture.  The families of those executed were not told of the executions in advance.  It has been reported that one head was displayed on a pole and that one man was crucified.

Juvenile

One individual, Abdulkareem al-Hawaj was arrested at the age of 16 and the execution of people under the age of 18 at the time of their arrest is against international law.

So far this year, Saudi has executed 104 people and if the current rate continues, will exceed last year’s total of 149 for the whole year.

Saudi Arabia is a major customer for our arms industry and our weapons are among those being used in the devastating war currently being waged in Yemen

Sources:  Parliament site; CNN; Guardian