Philippine Standard Time
Monday, June 10, 2019, 2:18:54AM

In Defense of the Right to Life: International Law and Death Penalty in the Philippines

A study by the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines and Dr. Christopher Ward, SC, Australian Bar, Adjunct Professor, Australian National University

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Virginia Becomes First Southern State to Abolish the Death Penalty
The New York Times | https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/24/us/politics/virginia-death-penalty.html, March 24, 2021
Death penalty debate reemerges in Nevada after past stalls
Fox 5 (Las Vegas) | https://www.fox5vegas.com/election_hq/death-penalty-debate-reemerges-in-nevada-after-past-stalls/article_0688f6c2-8cf7-11eb-92c9-87b29a7fff72.html, March 24, 2021
Virginia becomes first state in US south to abolish death penalty
ALJAZEERA | https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/3/24/virginia-becomes-first-southern-state-to-end-death-penalty, March 24, 2021
Abolish the federal death penalty
Chicago Sun-times | https://chicago.suntimes.com/2021/3/1/22308151/federal-death-penalty-abolish-illinois-editorial, March 01, 2021
Family members of murder victims speak out against the death penalty
KPVI News 6 | https://www.kpvi.com/news/local_news/family-members-of-murder-victims-speak-out-against-the-death-penalty/article_a277f95a-7b0b-11eb-b0db-e71c026bc980.html, March 01, 2021
Bill To Repeal Death Penalty Filed In Wyoming Legislature
Kgab | https://kgab.com/bill-to-repeal-death-penalty-filed-in-wyoming-legislature/, March 01, 2021
State Senate Votes to Abolish Death Penalty
Newsradio 1140 WRVA | https://www.radio.com/newsradiowrva/articles/local/state-senate-votes-to-abolish-death-penalty, February 04, 2021
Trump administration carries out 13th, final federal execution
Aljazeera | https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/1/16/trump-administration-carries-out-13th-final-federal-execution, January 16, 2021
A federal judge has granted a stay of execution for the only woman on federal death row pending a competency hearing
CNN | https://edition.cnn.com/2021/01/12/us/lisa-montgomery-execution-stayed/index.html, January 12, 2021
Asian Nations Reject UN Vote Against Death Penalty
Human Rights Watch | https://www.hrw.org/news/2020/11/25/asian-nations-reject-un-vote-against-death-penalty, November 24, 2020
Holy See: ‘Death penalty the most shocking thing in the world
Vatican News | https://www.vaticannews.va/en.html, October 10, 2020
Tunisia president calls for return of death penalty following brutal killing
The Guardian | https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/oct/01/tunisia-president-calls-for-return-of-death-penalty-following-brutal-killing, October 01, 2020
Kazakhstan takes important step towards abolishing death penalty
Amnesty Internatonal | https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/09/kazakhstan-takes-important-step-towards-abolishing-death-penalty/, September 24, 2020
US Bishops stress opposition to death penalty
Independent Catholic News | https://www.indcatholicnews.com/news/40518, September 23, 2020
‘Travesty of justice’: Reaction to execution of Iranian wrestler
Aljazeera | https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/9/14/travesty-of-justice-reaction-to-execution-of-iranian-wrestler, September 14, 2020
Unpacking public opinion on the death penalty
Asia Pacific Forum | https://www.asiapacificforum.net/news/unpacking-public-opinion-death-penalty/?fbclid=IwAR1nZrobPsNYhxX0OPAMarJzD5XNqcgpYDWN26O7NXkr4ZomfUPk5jiGhvI, July 28, 2020
The Florida Supreme Court’s U-turn on the death penalty
Tampa Bay Times | https://www.tampabay.com/opinion/2020/05/27/the-florida-supreme-courts-u-turn-on-the-death-penalty-editorial/, May 28, 2020
Man sentenced to death in Singapore via Zoom
BBC News | https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-52739676, May 20, 2020
Saudi Arabia ends death penalty for crimes committed by minors
The Guardian | https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/apr/27/saudi-arabia-ends-death-penalty-for-minors, April 27, 2020
Catholic leaders praise abolition of death penalty in Colorado
CRUX | https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-usa/2020/03/catholic-leaders-praise-abolition-of-death-penalty-in-colorado/, March 25, 2020
Colorado Abolishes Death Penalty and Commutes Sentences of Death Row Inmates
The New York Times | https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/23/us/colorado-death-penalty-repeal.html, March 23, 2020
UK urged to act over men facing death in Egypt for alleged childhood crimes
The Guardian | https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/mar/08/uk-urged-to-act-over-men-facing-death-in-egypt-for-alleged-childhood-crimes, March 08, 2020
Berlin International Film Festival: Iranian film about executions wins top prize
BBC | https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-51693417, February 29, 2020
Trump condemned after claiming very powerful death penalty would reduce drug dealing
The Independent | https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-drug-death-penalty-china-crime-white-house-a9328356.html, February 11, 2020
Outsourcing injustice: Guantanamo on the Euphrates
Al Jazeera News | https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/outsourcing-injustice-guantanamo-euphrates-200203105251830.html, February 04, 2020
British Isis prisoners may end up in Iraq, where death sentences are handed down without due process
Independent | https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-iraq-international-law-prisoner-deaths-trial-a9311556.html, February 02, 2020
Saudi Arabia executed record number of prisoners in 2019: Report
ABC News | https://abcnews.go.com/International/saudi-arabia-executed-record-number-prisoners-2019-report/story?id=68250502, January 14, 2020
Death Sentence Overturned for Pervez Musharraf, Ex-Leader of Pakistan
The New York Times | https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/13/world/asia/pervez-musharraf-pakistan-death-sentence.html, January 13, 2020
Japan executes foreigner for first time in a decade
Independent | https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/asia/first-foreigner-execution-decade-japan-wei-wei-china-a9260671.html, December 26, 2019
The Khashoggi verdict is exactly what impunity looks like. It must be denounced.
Agnes Callamard, Opinions, Washington Post | https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-khashoggi-verdict-is-exactly-what-impunity-looks-like-it-must-be-denounced/2019/12/23/60b5226c-25cc-11ea-ad73-2, December 24, 2019
5 foreigners in drug case could face death in Indonesia
Inquirer.net | https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1202995/5-foreigners-in-drug-case-could-face-death-in-indonesia?utm_medium=Social&utm_source=Facebook#Echobox=1576715552, December 18, 2019
Pervez Musharraf: Pakistan ex-leader sentenced to death for treason
BBC News | https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-50819772, December 17, 2019
Botswana urged to abolish death penalty after latest execution
The Guardian | https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2019/dec/09/botswana-urged-to-abolish-death-penalty-after-latest-execution, December 09, 2019
I Oversaw Executions. We Cannot Resume the Federal Death Penalty
New York Times | https://www.nytimes.com/2019/12/04/opinion/federal-death-penalty-execution.html, December 04, 2019
Americans Now Support Life in Prison Over Death Penalty
Gallup News | https://news.gallup.com/poll/268514/americans-support-life-prison-death-penalty.aspx, November 25, 2019
UN criticizes Irans use of death penalty against minors
DW | https://www.dw.com/en/un-criticizes-irans-use-of-death-penalty-against-minors/a-50959211, October 24, 2019
The Death Penalty for Drugs: What Public Opinion Surveys in Asia Teach Us
Giada Girelli, Filter Mag | https://filtermag.org/death-penalty-drugs-public-opinion-asia/, October 17, 2019
Malaysia: Unfair trials, secretive hangings and petty drug convictions reveal ‘cruel injustice’ of the death penalty
Amnesty International | https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/10/malaysia-unfair-trials-secretive-hangings-petty-drug-convictions-cruel-injustice-death-penalty/, October 10, 2019
Against the death penalty: barrister Julian McMahon
ABC Radio | https://www.abc.net.au/radio/programs/conversations/julian-mcmahon-against-capital-punishment/11323694, July 25, 2019
Malaysia’s repeal of death penalty opens deep wounds, including that of Mongolian model murder
The Independent|http://theindependent.sg/malaysias-repeal-of-death-penalty-opens-deep-wounds-including-that-of-mongolian-model-murder/, July 09, 2019
Why is Sri Lanka reinstating death penalty?
DW|https://www.dw.com/en/why-is-sri-lanka-reinstating-death-penalty/a-49469184, July 07, 2019
Debate on death penalty not very vigorous 1 year after Aum executions
Japan Today|https://japantoday.com/category/crime/Debate-on-death-penalty-not-very-vigorous-1-year-after-AUM-executions, July 06, 2019
Prosecutor won’t seek death penalty in death of grandmother
News 4 Tucson|https://kvoa.com/news/2019/07/06/prosecutor-wont-seek-death-penalty-in-death-of-grandmother-2/, July 06, 2019
SC issues Interim Order against death penalty
Daily FT|http://www.ft.lk/top-story/SC-issues-Interim-Order-against-death-penalty/26-681423, July 06, 2019
Latter-day Saint Church defends involvement in death penalty case
Fox13 Salt Lake City|https://fox13now.com/2019/07/06/latter-day-saint-church-defends-involvement-in-death-penalty-case/, July 06, 2019
Death penalty debate remains muted in Japan 1 year after AUM executions
Kyodo News|https://english.kyodonews.net/news/2019/07/ac82c329cc50-debate-on-death-penalty-not-spirited-1-year-after-aum-executions.html, July 05, 2019
Source: Govt will not table Bill to abolish death penalty this Parliament meeting
The Star|https://www.thestar.com.my/news/nation/2019/07/05/source-govt-will-not-table-bill-to-abolish-death-penalty-this-parliament-meeting/#AutEm2wGijJmcWeJ.99, July 05, 2019
The murder was caught on surveillance video. The accused now faces death if convicted
Miami Herald|https://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/crime/article232314222.html, July 05, 2019
Sri Lanka- Supreme Court issues interim order against death penalty
MenaFN|https://menafn.com/1098726786/Sri-Lanka-Supreme-Court-issues-interim-order-against-death-penalty, July 05, 2019
Jury to consider death penalty in Chinese scholar killing
Federal News Network|https://federalnewsnetwork.com/u-s-news/2019/07/jury-to-consider-death-penalty-in-chinese-scholar-killing/, July 05, 2019
As Malaysia eyes death penalty repeal, Al Jazeera documentary explores dilemma of capital punishment
Malay Mail|https://www.malaymail.com/news/malaysia/2019/07/04/as-malaysia-eyes-death-penalty-repeal-al-jazeera-documentary-explores-dilem/1768271, July 04, 2019
Kentucky judge declares death penalty protocol unconstitutional
Crux Now|https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-usa/2019/07/04/kentucky-judge-declares-death-penalty-protocol-unconstitutional/, July 04, 2019
Jose Martinez, The Hit Man Who Confessed To Killing Three Dozen People, Avoids The Death Penalty
BuzzFeed News|https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/jessicagarrison/jose-martinez-the-hitman-who-confessed-to-killing-three, July 03, 2019
Merced County DA is seeking the death penalty. And it could get costly, experts say
The Merced Sunstar|https://www.mercedsunstar.com/news/local/crime/article232240867.html, July 03, 2019
Activists Hold Annual Fast Outside Supreme Court to Protest Death Penalty
Spektrum News|https://spectrumnews1.com/ky/lexington/news/2019/07/02/death-penalty-protest-in-washington, July 02, 2019
Kentucky judge declares states death penalty protocol unconstitutional
The Courier Journal|https://www.courier-journal.com/story/news/2019/07/02/death-penalty-protocol-struck-down-kentucky-judge/1634299001/, July 02, 2019
Lawmakers vote to substantially limit Oregon’s death penalty
Oregon Live|https://www.oregonlive.com/politics/2019/06/lawmakers-vote-to-substantially-limit-oregons-death-penalty.html, June 29, 2019
Abolish the Death Penalty?
New York Times|https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/22/opinion/letters/death-penalty.html, June 22, 2019
GEORGIA PREPARES TO CARRY OUT THE 1,500TH EXECUTION IN THE U.S. SINCE 1976
The Intercept|https://theintercept.com/2019/06/18/georgia-execution-death-row/, June 18, 2019
In Los Angeles, only people of color are sentenced to death
The Guardian|https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/jun/18/los-angeles-death-penalty-sentences-jackie-lacey, June 18, 2019
Debunking the Court’s Latest Death-Penalty Obsession
The Atlantic|https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/06/supreme-court-defends-death-penalty-again/591682/, June 17, 2019
Poll finds Californians support the death penalty — and Newsom’s moratorium on executions
The LA Times|https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-california-death-penalty-poll-20190617-story.html, June 17, 2019
Using Saudi death penalty vs. children is barbaric
CNN|https://edition.cnn.com/2019/06/17/opinions/saudi-death-penalty-children-murtaja-qureiris-coogle/index.html, June 17, 2019
Reader reluctantly accepts governor’s death penalty moratorium
The LA Times|https://www.latimes.com/socal/burbank-leader/opinion/tn-blr-me-letters-to-the-editor-20190614-story.html, June 14, 2019
Saudi Teenager Faces Death Sentence for Acts When He Was 10
New York Times|https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/09/world/middleeast/saudi-teenager-death-sentence.html, June 09, 2019
GOP Lawmakers Are Quietly Turning Against the Death Penalty
The Atlantic|https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2019/06/new-hampshire-helped-abolish-death-penalty/590803/, June 07, 2019
Death knell: taking a stand to abolish capital punishment
Monash University | https://lens.monash.edu/@politics-society/2019/02/26/1373504/fighting-to-abolish-capital-punishment, February 26, 2019
Germany abolishes death penalty in public vote
Independent | https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/germany-abolishes-death-penalty-hesse-state-capital-punishment-vote-referendum-a8645036.html, November 21, 2018
Pope Francis: ‘death penalty inadmissable’
Vatican News | https://www.vaticannews.va/en/pope/news/2018-08/pope-francis-cdf-ccc-death-penalty-revision-ladaria.html, August 02, 2018
One Test Could Exonerate Him. Why Wont California Do It?
The New York Times|https://www.nytimes.com/2019/06/14/opinion/sunday/death-penalty.html, May 17, 2018

World News

British Isis prisoners may end up in Iraq, where death sentences are handed down without due process

February 02, 2020, Independent

On a busy day, Judge Ahmed might send several men to their deaths before lunchtime. 

At the Baghdad court where he works, he has presided over more than a thousand trials of suspected Isis members. 

Prisoners accused of belonging to one of the world’s most brutal terror organisations shuffle through the hallways wearing bright orange jumpsuits. They wait silently outside his courtroom and listen to those who go before them.

The judge, who declined to give his name for security reasons, has seen before him unrepentant radicals and hardened killers, liars and psychopaths. He has also heard from defendants who say they joined the group just to survive. 

He has seen young men from Europe, who travelled thousands of miles to join the jihadi group at the height of its power and survived long enough to see its fall. And for some time now, he has been readying himself to deal with the small number of British prisoners currently held in Syria, whose fate has been the subject of controversy.

There have been talks, he said, between Iraq and the UK government, about what to do with them. 

“I am following their cases in the media, in case they are sent here. That way I know who they are,” he added during an interview with The Independent in June.  

The judge listed some of the names from among the roughly 10 British men and 30 women currently being detained in Syria by Kurdish forces. Most of them were captured there in the final days of the caliphate, which fell in March last year.

The British government, fearing that the alleged Isis members pose a serious security threat, do not want their citizens to return to the UK. But the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a mostly Kurdish militia that fought alongside the US and UK in the battle against Isis, says it cannot hold them forever.   

One solution being pursued behind closed doors by the government and other European states is to allow for the prisoners to be sent to face trial in Iraq. In May last year, seven French citizens were sentenced to death in Baghdad after being transferred from Syria. 

This solution is being pursued despite legal and human rights concerns that arise from sending prisoners to a country where they are likely to face the death penalty or be tortured. 

A new report released by the United Nations last week found further evidence of major flaws in the trials of suspected Isis members in Iraq.

The Iraqi justice system has been overburdened by the sheer number of Isis-linked cases in the past few years. From January 2018 to October 2019 alone, the judiciary processed more than 20,000 terrorism-related cases, with thousands more pending as of today.

The UN investigation found evidence of an “overreliance on confessions, with frequent allegations of torture that were inadequately addressed”. 

After monitoring nearly 800 trials between 1 May 2018 and 31 October last year, it said that violations of fair trial standards “placed defendants at a serious disadvantage compared to the prosecution – with ineffective legal representation and limited possibilities to present or challenge evidence”. Detainees made allegations of torture in nearly half of the terrorism cases that were monitored. And in some 59 percent of cases, defendants withdrew confessions they had made during questioning.  

The report further alleged that prosecutions focused on “membership of a terrorist organisation”, without distinguishing between those who participated in violence, committed international crimes, and those who joined Isis for survival or through coercion.

The UK government has, according to some sources, sought to protect itself from the legal problems that might arise should its citizens be sent to these courts, probably in order to avoid a repeat of previous War on Terror-era cases in which it faced legal issues for alleged complicity in the torture of British citizens.  

In 2010, Britain paid millions of pounds in an out-of-court settlement to former detainees of Guantanamo Bay, the US military prison in Cuba, after being accused of complicity in their torture. 

In negotiations with Iraqi officials, the UK and European allies have sought assurances from Iraq’s president, Barham Salih, that he would not sign the death warrants of its citizens, according to an Iraq analyst with knowledge of the talks, and who asked not to be named. Such an agreement, it is hoped, would mean UK prisoners could be sent to Iraq without the risk of facing the death penalty. 

Those negotiations have stalled in the wake of mass protests that have paralysed Iraq, and amid a harsh crackdown by security forces, the analyst said. 

A government spokesperson declined to comment on the meetings, but told The Independent: “Our priority is the safety and security of the UK and the people who live here. We continue to work closely with international partners to address issues associated with foreign terrorist fighters, including the pursuit of justice against participants in terrorism overseas.

“Those who have fought for or supported Daesh [Isis] should wherever possible face justice for their crimes in the most appropriate jurisdiction, which will often be in the region where their offences have been committed.” 

The spokesperson added that UK “has been clear that any justice mechanism must respect human rights and the rule of law as well as ensure fair trials and due process”.

But these talks were ongoing while serious concerns were being raised over how the Iraqi judicial system was handling the Isis trials. 

A number of trials of Isis members witnessed by The Independent in June lasted for no longer than 10 minutes. 

In one, a 24-year-old Iraqi named Mustafa Khalaf stood before the judge to proclaim his innocence. The court heard how he was arrested by the SDF in Baghouz, Syria, where Isis made its last stand. 

The prosecution produced a report from Iraq’s intelligence service that said he was from an extremist family, and had been an active member of Isis. His name, they said, was in a central database which noted the salaries of Isis members – he was listed as a fighter.   

The prosecution also presented a confession from the accused, which Khalaf denied giving. He claimed that he was trapped in Isis territory and that he had handed himself into authorities. 

He was sentenced to death by hanging. 

Belkis Wille, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch who authored several major reports on the Isis trials, found the same pattern of problems that the UN discovered.

“These trials haven’t been about accountability, they have been about revenge,” she says. “They simply do not comply with any fair trial standards.”

If they are sent to these courts, British prisoners could expect much of the same. The trials of the French citizens transferred from Syria offered some clues of how things might proceed. 

“Broadly speaking, the French raised the same concerns that Iraqis were raising. What these proceedings taught us is that just because you’re a foreigner, you’re not going to get better treatment in Iraq’s system.”

For now, while discussions between the Iraqi and British government have been put on hold, European diplomats are said to be exploring the possibility of allowing the Isis prisoners to fall into the hands of the Syrian government. 

Another option is the formation of an international tribunal in Syria – a solution favoured by the SDF. This faces significant roadblocks, however, due to the Russian government’s unwillingness to allow the ceding of any authority from its ally in Damascus. 

The final option, advocated by rights groups and the UN, is for European countries to bring home their citizens to face justice. This is not something the British government is believed to be considering.

At a jail in northeast Syria in December, The Independent interviewed a number of British Isis prisoners who said they had not had any contact with the British authorities. 

Aseel Muthana, 22, and Ishak Mostefaoui, 27, are currently being held at a jail for Isis suspects in Hasakah. Neither were aware that they had been stripped of their citizenship, and were unaware of what would happen to them. 

Muthana, who was 17 when he joined Isis, said he believed he should be allowed to face justice in the UK. 

“Honestly, I understand. Looking from their perspective, them not seeing what was happening inside Syria, I can understand why anybody wouldn’t want us to come back. Me, for example, being in Syria for six years, coming back, you don’t know what I’m gonna come back with, what he’s been taught, what he’s capable of,” he said. 

“But then, they should be understanding too. When it comes to rapists or murderers or people who commit major crimes that the UK is more than happy to help them rehabilitate or reconcile their lives, fix things, make things better again, give them a second chance.”

It is more likely, still, that he will find himself before Judge Ahmed than in a British court. 



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