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

Malaysia: Unfair trials, secretive hangings and petty drug convictions reveal ‘cruel injustice’ of the death penalty

October 10, 2019, Amnesty International

Malaysia must start to fulfil its promise to abolish the death penalty in forthcoming legislation by ending its use for drug-related offences and eliminating the mandatory death sentence, Amnesty International said today, as it launches a new report to mark the World Day Against the Death Penalty.

The report, Fatally flawed: Why Malaysia must abolish the death penalty, reveals the use of torture and other ill-treatment to obtain “confessions”, inadequate access to legal assistance, an opaque pardons process and other serious violations of the right to a fair trial that have put people at risk of execution.

The report also highlights how 73% of those on death row – 930 people – have been sentenced to death for drug-related offences in contravention of international human rights law. More than half of them (478) are foreign nationals.

"Malaysia has a golden chance to break with decades of cruelty and injustice, disproportionately inflicted on some of the most marginalized," said Shamini Darshni Kaliemuthu, Executive Director of Amnesty International Malaysia.

"Our research found a pattern of unfair trials and secretive hangings that itself spoke volumes. From allegations of torture and other ill-treatment to an opaque pardons process, it's clear the death penalty is a stain on Malaysia's criminal justice system."

The death penalty is currently retained as the punishment for 33 offences in Malaysia and is mandatory for 12 of these. In recent years, it has mostly been used for murder and drug trafficking convictions.

A year ago, the newly-elected Malaysian government announced it would repeal the death penalty for all crimes, having already established a moratorium on executions in July 2018. But in a new parliamentary session starting this month, the government is expected to table legislation that will remove the mandatory death penalty only, and for just 11 offences – way short of full abolition.

Amnesty International is calling on the authorities to continue to observe the moratorium on executions until the death penalty is fully abolished and use the anticipated legislation to repeal the mandatory death penalty for all crimes – including drug trafficking.

Death row for the most marginalized

Of the 1,281 people reported to be on death row in Malaysia as of February 2019, 568 (44%) are foreign nationals, who face serious obstacles to access adequate consular assistance and interpretation.

Amnesty International has also found that some of Malaysia's ethnic minorities are over-represented on death row, and data seen by the organization points to a large proportion of people from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Amnesty International found that most people (73%) on death row were convicted of drug trafficking, more than half of them foreigners. Many of them claimed they were coerced or manipulated into bringing small amounts of drugs into the country and had not used any violence. Under international law, countries that have not yet abolished the death penalty must limit its use to the “most serious crimes,” such as murder.

The cases of many women on death row show the devastating impact of Malaysia’s draconian anti-drugs law combined with the mandatory death penalty. Nearly nine out of 10 women facing the gallows are foreigners convicted of drug trafficking. In some cases, women said they were in financial trouble or were coerced into carrying the drugs. However, the mandatory death penalty means judges have no opportunity to give any consideration to these circumstances.

Unfair trials

Lawyers and relatives told Amnesty International that it was common for defendants who could not afford a lawyer to go without any legal assistance until charges were brought before a court. They also described a critically under-resourced legal aid system that left many defendants without legal assistance for long periods, often until the very start of their trial.

Suspects in death penalty cases can be detained up to 14 days, and interviewees told Amnesty International that it was common for defendants to “get beaten up” to extract “confessions”. The practice continues to this day, despite ongoing outcry from Malaysian NGOs. A UN working group’s 2011 investigation already found that “virtually all detainees” had suffered torture or other ill-treatment during their interrogations.

Despite the very high rate of foreigners sentenced to death, as well as the numerous languages spoken inside the country, Malaysian law does not provide for any interpretation services to support defendants who do not speak Malay other than in courtroom proceedings. Amnesty International heard cases of people being asked to sign documents in Malay despite not understanding the language.

Hoo Yew Wah, a Malaysian national of Chinese ethnicity, was arrested aged 20 in 2005 with methamphetamine and convicted based on a statement he made in Mandarin, his mother tongue, but which police recorded in Malay. He says the statement they made him sign is inaccurate, that police broke his finger during the interrogation, and further threatened to beat his girlfriend if he refused to sign it. He did not have the assistance of a lawyer during the period in question. Hoo Yew Wah has been on death row since 2011.

An opaque and secretive system – and a chance for change

Malaysian law does not define the pardon process in any detail, nor does it set out the criteria for a pardon or how prisoners or their families are notified of a decision.

Defendants are not guaranteed a lawyer when they apply for a pardon, and many go without. Others fail to apply for a pardon altogether, either out of despair or because they do not want to admit guilt for a crime they say they did not commit.

While some pro-bono initiatives exist, access to these services is controlled by prison officials, and there is no transparency over how access is granted or not. While the criteria used are not known, they appear to affect foreign nationals: half of them have not filed a pardon application.

“A system this secretive denies Malaysians the full picture,” said Shamini Darshni.

“Amnesty International’s research shows why this government must now honour its pledge to abolish this ultimate cruel and inhumane punishment without delay.”



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