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Death Penalty: Support Abolition

    March 26, 2014

    Released  00:01am GMT THURSDAY 27 MARCH

    Iran and Iraq caused a sharp global spike in the number of executions carried out in 2013, bucking the global trend towards abolition of the death penalty, Amnesty International found in its annual review of the death penalty worldwide.

    Alarming levels of executions in an isolated group of countries in 2013 - mainly the two Middle Eastern states - saw close to 100 more people put to death around the world compared to the previous year, a jump of almost 15 per cent.

    March 26, 2014

    by Aubrey Harris, Coordinator, Campaign to Abolish the Death Penalty @AmnestyCanadaDP Even Canadians are at risk while the death penalty remains in this world

    This time last year, Toronto resident and Canadian citizen Hamid Ghassemi-Shall, was in an Iranian prison, facing the prospect of execution by a regime that is notorious for use of the death penalty. Hamid was eventually one of the lucky ones. The tireless efforts of his wife Antonella and worldwide appeals by Amnesty International and other human rights organisations and governments making direct appeals to the Iranian government managed to save him from execution and overturn an unjust and fabricated case that could easily have cost him his life.

    On 10 October, World Day Against the Death Penalty coincidentally, Hamid returned home to Canada where his wife and supporters gathered at Toronto Pearson Airport to welcome him.

    March 26, 2014
    GLOBAL FIGURES

    At least 778 people were executed in 22 countries in 2013. In 2012, Amnesty International reported at least 682 executions in 21 countries worldwide.

    Most executions took place in China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, USA and Somalia – in that order.

    China executed more people than the rest of the world put together – but the true extent of the use of the death penalty in China is unknown as data is considered a state secret, and the figure of 778 excludes the thousands of executions carried out in China.

    There were stark rises in executions in Iran and Iraq. Iraq put at least 169 people to death, a 30% increase on 2012 (129). In Iran, officially acknowledged executions rose to at least 369 in 2013 – from at least 314 in 2012. But credible sources reported at least another 335 executions, bringing 2013’s total to at least 704.

    March 26, 2014

    In advance of the release of our 2014 Global Death Penalty Report tomorrow, here are 5 of the most common misconceptions about the death penalty.

    MYTH #1

    The death penalty deters violent crime and makes society safer.

    FACT
    There is no convincing evidence that the death penalty has a unique deterrent effect.  

    More than three decades after abolishing the death penalty, Canada’s murder rate remains over one third lower than it was in 1976.

    A 35-year study compared murder rates between Hong Kong, where there is no death penalty, and Singapore, which has a similar size population and executed regularly. The death penalty had little impact on crime rates.

    MYTH #2
    The threat of execution is an effective strategy in preventing terrorist attacks.

    FACT
    The prospect of execution is unlikely to act as a deterrent to people prepared to kill and injure for the sake of a political or other ideology.

    March 24, 2014

    Today’s mass death sentences handed down by an Egyptian court are a grotesque example of the shortcomings and the selective nature of Egypt's justice system, Amnesty International said.

    According to state media reports, in a single hearing this morning, the Minya Criminal Court sentenced 529 supporters of former President Mohamed Morsi to be executed for their alleged role in violence following his ousting in July last year.

    “This is injustice writ large and these death sentences must be quashed. Imposing death sentences of this magnitude in a single case makes Egypt surpass most other countries’ use of capital punishment in a year,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Deputy Middle East and North Africa Program Director at Amnesty International.

    "This is the largest single batch of simultaneous death sentences we’ve seen in recent years, not just in Egypt but anywhere in the world.

    March 13, 2014

    Malaysia’s authorities must immediately halt the execution of a Nigerian national suffering from mental health problems, convicted of a murder committed around 18 years ago, said Amnesty International.

    Osariakhi Ernest Obayangbon is due to be executed on Friday 14 March at 6am local time (Thursday 13 March at 10pm GMT). He was diagnosed as suffering from schizophrenia before his appeal in 2007 and has been receiving treatment for his mental health condition since then. He is currently being detained in Kajang Prison in Selangor state.

    “Malaysia’s authorities must immediately stop the execution of Osariakhi Ernest Obayangbon. According to international standards, the death penalty should not be imposed against people with mental disability,” said Hazel Galang-Folli, Amnesty International’s Malaysia researcher.

    “Defying international standards to execute a person suffering from mental health problems is just shameful. What makes this case even more shocking is that there has actually been some progress on the death penalty in Malaysia in recent years, with moves to review mandatory death sentencing.”

    February 07, 2014

    The Malaysian government’s move to halt an execution scheduled for today is positive but the lives of hundreds of others on death row are still at risk, Amnesty International said.

    Malaysian authorities had planned to execute murder convict Chandran Paskaran today, but after an outcry from human rights groups announced a stay on the execution today.

    “We are glad that Chandran Paskaran will not be put to death today, but his life is still at risk – his death sentence must be commuted immediately,” said Isabelle Arradon, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    “It is shocking that it took an outcry from human rights groups for this postponement to happen. What about the other secretive executions Malaysia is planning to carry out, that do not get the same attention?”

    In breach of international law, Chandran’s death sentence had been imposed mandatorily, giving the judge no chance to consider mitigating circumstances in the case. A review of Malaysia’s mandatory laws was announced in 2012.  

    February 06, 2014

    Malaysian authorities must immediately halt plans to carry out yet another “secretive execution” this Friday, Amnesty International said.

    Amnesty International has learned that the Malaysian authorities plan to execute death row prisoner Chandran on Friday 7 February who has been imprisoned for murder for 11 years. 

    “The execution of Chandran would be an enormous step backwards on human rights for Malaysia – the authorities must put a stop to these plans immediately,” said Hazel Galang-Folli, Malaysia Researcher with Amnesty International.

    “For Malaysia to try to carry out executions in near-total secrecy is shameful – the government is essentially trying to hide its human rights violations from the world. Chandran’s family was informed only yesterday, and they are at a complete loss as to what they can do.” 

    Against international law, Chandran’s death sentence was imposed mandatorily, giving the judge no chance to consider mitigating circumstances of the case. A review of Malaysia’s mandatory laws was announced in 2012. 

    January 24, 2014

    Pakistan must immediately and unconditionally release a man sentenced to death under the country’s blasphemy laws today, Amnesty International said.

    Mohammad Asghar, a UK citizen with a mental illness, living in Pakistan, was first arrested in 2010 after allegedly sending letters to various officials claiming he was a prophet.

    “Mohammad Asghar is now facing the gallows simply for writing a series of letters. He does not deserve punishment. No one should be charged on the basis of this sort of conduct,” said Polly Truscott, Amnesty International’s Deputy Asia Pacific Director.

    Pakistan’s blasphemy laws are used indiscriminately against both Muslims and non-Muslims, and violate the basic human rights of freedom of religion and thought.

    “The blasphemy laws undermine the rule of law, and people facing charges risk death and other harm in detention. Pakistan must immediately release Mohammed Ashgar and reform its blasphemy laws to ensure that this will not happen again,” said Polly Truscott.

    January 22, 2014

    The Governor of Texas must stop the execution of Edgar Arias Tamayo, a Mexican national scheduled to be put to death this evening in violation of international law and despite a new finding that he was denied a fair trial, Amnesty International said.

    “Under Texas law, the state governor can stop this execution right up until the last minute, even though the clemency board has voted against mercy,” said Rob Freer, US researcher for Amnesty International.

    “Governor Rick Perry should promptly announce that he is calling off this execution and that he will ensure Texas meets its obligations under international law.”

    Edgar Arias Tamayo was sentenced to death for the murder of a Houston police officer in January 1994.

    He was not informed of his right to seek consular advice after his arrest. This assistance could have provided pivotal evidence in the case. Edgar Tamayo’s claim that he was prejudiced by this violation of international law has to this day never been reviewed by any court.

    January 22, 2014

    Reports have emerged today of 12 secret executions carried out by the Iraqi authorities, bringing the number of prisoners put to death since Sunday to 38, Amnesty International said.

    “The increasing use of the death penalty in Iraq will only fuel more violence as many of those executed are often convicted after grossly unfair trials,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme.

    “The only way to deal effectively with the security threats faced by the country is for the Iraqi authorities to address their deeply flawed justice system, in which ‘confessions’ extracted under torture are used as evidence in court and the execution of prisoners is routine.”

    On 21 January the Iraqi Ministry of Justice issued a statement confirming that the authorities had executed 26 men on Sunday, two days earlier. One of these was Adel al-Mashehadani, known to have carried out a number of sectarian attacks, according to the Justice Ministry.  

    Amnesty International has confirmed through independent sources that at least 12 further men were also executed.

    January 21, 2014

    A historic decision by India’s Supreme Court commuting the death sentences of 15 prisoners and setting out guidelines to safeguard the rights of prisoners on death row and their families is a positive step for human rights in the country, Amnesty International India said today.

    The Supreme Court commuted the death sentences of Suresh, Ramji, Bilavendran, Simon, Gnanprakasham, Meesekar Madaiah, Praveen Kumar, Gurmeet Singh, Sonia Chaudhury, Sanjeev Chaudhury, Jafar Ali, Shivu and Jadeswamy, on the ground of delay in the disposal of their mercy petitions by the President ranging between 5 and 12 years.  

    The Court commuted the death sentences of Sundar Singh and Magan Lal Barela on the ground that they suffer from mental illness.

    “While acknowledging the need to strike a balance between the rights of the accused as well as the victims, this momentous decision reaffirms the rights guaranteed to death row prisoners under the Constitution of India and international law and standards” said G Ananthapadmanabhan, Chief Executive, Amnesty International India.

    January 17, 2014

    The Texas authorities must halt the execution of Mexican national Edgar Arias Tamayo, set to take place on 22 January, which would violate an international court order, Amnesty International said today.

    “Texas has been shamefully insistent in scheduling this execution in the full knowledge that to carry it out will violate international law,” said Rob Freer, Amnesty International’s researcher on the USA.

    Edgar Arias Tamayo was sentenced to death for the murder of a Houston police officer in January 1994. The execution is set to go ahead despite an order of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in 2004.

    Last September, US Secretary of State John Kerry wrote to the Texas Governor, Rick Perry, urging that an execution date not be set for Edgar Tamayo. The letter reiterated that the ICJ’s ruling “is binding on the United States under international law”.

    “The federal authorities, and officials around the country, should not let up on Texas. A Texas execution is a US execution. Even if Texas officials don’t care about this, those in the rest of the country should,” said Rob Freer.

    January 16, 2014

    Iran has carried out a total of 40 executions since the beginning of 2014, with at least 33 carried out in the past week alone, said Amnesty International today.

    “The spike in the number of executions carried out so far this month in Iran is alarming. The Iranian authorities’ attempts to change their international image are meaningless if at the same time executions continue to increase”, said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

    The death penalty is a violation of every human being’s right to life and is a cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

    “The Iranian authorities must urgently take steps to abolish the death penalty, which has been shown again and again not to have any special deterrent effect on crime,” Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said.

    Since the beginning of 2014, Amnesty International has recorded 21 executions which were officially acknowledged by the Iranian authorities, as well as 19 additional executions reported through reliable sources.

    December 12, 2013

    Today’s hanging of Islamist leader Abdul Quader Mollah is a disgrace, and Bangladeshi authorities must now ensure that people are protected against reprisal attacks, said Amnesty International.

    “The execution of Abdul Quader Mollah should never have happened. The death penalty is a human rights violation and should not be used to punish other alleged human rights violations,” said Abbas Faiz, Amnesty International’s Bangladesh Researcher.

    “The country is on a razor’s edge at the moment with pre-election tensions running high and almost non-stop street protests. Mollah’s execution could trigger more violence, with the Hindu community bearing the brunt.”

    Mollah, a key figure in the Islamist opposition party Jamaat-e-Islami, was executed in Dhaka today. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in February for crimes against humanity by the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), a court investigating Bangladesh’s 1971 independence war.

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