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


Zimbabwe Considers Abolishing Death Penalty
Human Rights Watch |, February 15, 2024
Death penalty incompatible with right to life
OHCHR |, January 31, 2024
Debunking narratives for a return of the death penalty
WCADP |, November 13, 2023
Jury in Pittsburgh synagogue trial to begin deliberating death penalty
The New York Times |, July 31, 2023
Singapore executes a woman for first time in almost two decades
The Guardian |, July 28, 2023
Ghana votes to remove death penalty, calling it sign of ‘inhumane’ society
The Washington Post |, July 26, 2023
Comment by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk after Ghana’s Parliament votes to abolish death penalty
UN OHCHR |, July 26, 2023
Parents in South Korea who kill newborns now face death penalty after law passed
The Straits Times |, July 19, 2023
Capitol Hill Democrats introduce bill to end federal death penalty
Catholic News Agency |, July 19, 2023
North Koreans risk death penalty for using South Korean language
Scottish Legal News |, June 30, 2023
Arizona Man Is Freed After 28 Years on Death Row
New York Times |, June 16, 2023
Two Australians facing death penalty in Vietnam granted clemency
Al Jazeera |, June 06, 2023
Japanese Supreme Court upholds mans death sentence for Manila murders
The Japan Times |, June 05, 2023
Zimbabwe’s new bill that imposes death penalty for ‘unpatriotic acts’
Africa Feeds |, June 01, 2023
Iran hangs three on drug charges amid criticism
Al Jazeera |, May 21, 2023
Singapore: OHCHR calls on authorities to halt imminent trafficking execution
United Nation News |, April 25, 2023
Washington state eliminates death penalty from law
CNN |, April 21, 2023
HC: Death penalty should be abolished in the 21st century
UN OHCHR |, April 03, 2023
HC: Death penalty should be abolished in the 21st century
UN OHCHR |, April 03, 2023
HC: Death penalty should be abolished in the 21st century
UN OHCHR |, April 03, 2023
HC: Death penalty should be abolished in the 21st century
UN OHCHR |, April 03, 2023
Malaysia ends mandatory death penalty for serious crimes
BBC News |, April 03, 2023
Surge in executions of drug offenders in 2022, more on death row
Al Jazeera |, March 16, 2023
Pope condemns Irans use of death penalty against protesters
Reuters |, January 09, 2023
Pope Francis’ prayer intention for September: ‘Abolition of the death penalty’
CBCP News |, September 01, 2022
Singapore executes two drug traffickers despite pleas for clemency
CNN |, July 07, 2022
Malaysia to abolish mandatory death penalty
Al Jazeera |, June 10, 2022
Missionary priest praises Central African Republic for abolishing death penalty
Crux |, June 02, 2022
Saudi Arabia: Release Abdullah al-Howaiti, revoke death sentence
Un News |, May 31, 2022
Rights office welcomes Zambia’s pledge to abolish the death penalty
UN News |, May 22, 2022
Kazakhstan Finalizes Commitment to Abolishing Death Penalty, Submits Ratification of Protocol to UN
The Astana Times |, March 28, 2022
Papua New Guinea abolishes death penalty
JURIST |, January 24, 2022
‘Just Mercy’ author urges Utah Legislature to abolish death penalty
Deseret News |, January 20, 2022
Macron calls for worldwide end to death penalty on 40th anniversary of French abolition
France 24 |, September 10, 2021
Virginia Becomes First Southern State to Abolish the Death Penalty
The New York Times |, March 24, 2021
Death penalty debate reemerges in Nevada after past stalls
Fox 5 (Las Vegas) |, March 24, 2021
Virginia becomes first state in US south to abolish death penalty
ALJAZEERA |, March 24, 2021
Abolish the federal death penalty
Chicago Sun-times |, March 01, 2021
Family members of murder victims speak out against the death penalty
KPVI News 6 |, March 01, 2021
Bill To Repeal Death Penalty Filed In Wyoming Legislature
Kgab |, March 01, 2021
State Senate Votes to Abolish Death Penalty
Newsradio 1140 WRVA |, February 04, 2021
Trump administration carries out 13th, final federal execution
Aljazeera |, 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 |, January 12, 2021
Asian Nations Reject UN Vote Against Death Penalty
Human Rights Watch |, November 24, 2020
Holy See: ‘Death penalty the most shocking thing in the world
Vatican News |, October 10, 2020
Tunisia president calls for return of death penalty following brutal killing
The Guardian |, October 01, 2020
Kazakhstan takes important step towards abolishing death penalty
Amnesty Internatonal |, September 24, 2020
US Bishops stress opposition to death penalty
Independent Catholic News |, September 23, 2020
‘Travesty of justice’: Reaction to execution of Iranian wrestler
Aljazeera |, September 14, 2020
Unpacking public opinion on the death penalty
Asia Pacific Forum |, July 28, 2020
The Florida Supreme Court’s U-turn on the death penalty
Tampa Bay Times |, May 28, 2020
Man sentenced to death in Singapore via Zoom
BBC News |, May 20, 2020
Saudi Arabia ends death penalty for crimes committed by minors
The Guardian |, April 27, 2020
Catholic leaders praise abolition of death penalty in Colorado
CRUX |, March 25, 2020
Colorado Abolishes Death Penalty and Commutes Sentences of Death Row Inmates
The New York Times |, March 23, 2020
UK urged to act over men facing death in Egypt for alleged childhood crimes
The Guardian |, March 08, 2020
Berlin International Film Festival: Iranian film about executions wins top prize
BBC |, February 29, 2020
Trump condemned after claiming very powerful death penalty would reduce drug dealing
The Independent |, February 11, 2020
Outsourcing injustice: Guantanamo on the Euphrates
Al Jazeera News |, February 04, 2020
British Isis prisoners may end up in Iraq, where death sentences are handed down without due process
Independent |, February 02, 2020
Saudi Arabia executed record number of prisoners in 2019: Report
ABC News |, January 14, 2020
Death Sentence Overturned for Pervez Musharraf, Ex-Leader of Pakistan
The New York Times |, January 13, 2020
Japan executes foreigner for first time in a decade
Independent |, December 26, 2019
The Khashoggi verdict is exactly what impunity looks like. It must be denounced.
Agnes Callamard, Opinions, Washington Post |, December 24, 2019
5 foreigners in drug case could face death in Indonesia |, December 18, 2019
Pervez Musharraf: Pakistan ex-leader sentenced to death for treason
BBC News |, December 17, 2019
Botswana urged to abolish death penalty after latest execution
The Guardian |, December 09, 2019
I Oversaw Executions. We Cannot Resume the Federal Death Penalty
New York Times |, December 04, 2019
Americans Now Support Life in Prison Over Death Penalty
Gallup News |, November 25, 2019
UN criticizes Irans use of death penalty against minors
DW |, October 24, 2019
The Death Penalty for Drugs: What Public Opinion Surveys in Asia Teach Us
Giada Girelli, Filter Mag |, October 17, 2019
Malaysia: Unfair trials, secretive hangings and petty drug convictions reveal ‘cruel injustice’ of the death penalty
Amnesty International |, October 10, 2019
Against the death penalty: barrister Julian McMahon
ABC Radio |, July 25, 2019
Malaysia’s repeal of death penalty opens deep wounds, including that of Mongolian model murder
The Independent|, July 09, 2019
Why is Sri Lanka reinstating death penalty?
DW|, July 07, 2019
Debate on death penalty not very vigorous 1 year after Aum executions
Japan Today|, July 06, 2019
Prosecutor won’t seek death penalty in death of grandmother
News 4 Tucson|, July 06, 2019
SC issues Interim Order against death penalty
Daily FT|, July 06, 2019
Latter-day Saint Church defends involvement in death penalty case
Fox13 Salt Lake City|, July 06, 2019
Death penalty debate remains muted in Japan 1 year after AUM executions
Kyodo News|, July 05, 2019
Source: Govt will not table Bill to abolish death penalty this Parliament meeting
The Star|, July 05, 2019
The murder was caught on surveillance video. The accused now faces death if convicted
Miami Herald|, July 05, 2019
Sri Lanka- Supreme Court issues interim order against death penalty
MenaFN|, July 05, 2019
Jury to consider death penalty in Chinese scholar killing
Federal News Network|, July 05, 2019
As Malaysia eyes death penalty repeal, Al Jazeera documentary explores dilemma of capital punishment
Malay Mail|, July 04, 2019
Kentucky judge declares death penalty protocol unconstitutional
Crux Now|, July 04, 2019
Jose Martinez, The Hit Man Who Confessed To Killing Three Dozen People, Avoids The Death Penalty
BuzzFeed News|, July 03, 2019
Merced County DA is seeking the death penalty. And it could get costly, experts say
The Merced Sunstar|, July 03, 2019
Activists Hold Annual Fast Outside Supreme Court to Protest Death Penalty
Spektrum News|, July 02, 2019
Kentucky judge declares states death penalty protocol unconstitutional
The Courier Journal|, July 02, 2019
Lawmakers vote to substantially limit Oregon’s death penalty
Oregon Live|, June 29, 2019
Abolish the Death Penalty?
New York Times|, June 22, 2019
The Intercept|, June 18, 2019
In Los Angeles, only people of color are sentenced to death
The Guardian|, June 18, 2019
Poll finds Californians support the death penalty — and Newsom’s moratorium on executions
The LA Times|, June 17, 2019
Debunking the Court’s Latest Death-Penalty Obsession
The Atlantic|, June 17, 2019
Using Saudi death penalty vs. children is barbaric
CNN|, June 17, 2019
Reader reluctantly accepts governor’s death penalty moratorium
The LA Times|, June 14, 2019
Saudi Teenager Faces Death Sentence for Acts When He Was 10
New York Times|, June 09, 2019
GOP Lawmakers Are Quietly Turning Against the Death Penalty
The Atlantic|, June 07, 2019
Death knell: taking a stand to abolish capital punishment
Monash University |, February 26, 2019
Germany abolishes death penalty in public vote
Independent |, November 21, 2018
Pope Francis: ‘death penalty inadmissable’
Vatican News |, August 02, 2018
One Test Could Exonerate Him. Why Wont California Do It?
The New York Times|, May 17, 2018

World News

Outsourcing injustice: Guantanamo on the Euphrates

February 04, 2020, Al Jazeera News

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has completed a study of prosecutions of alleged ISIL (ISIS) members in Iraq. Thousands of men, women and children have been processed through the Iraqi courts in the past two years and there may be thousands to come.

Published last month, the OHCHR report has a convoluted title promising a critique of the "Administration of Justice in Iraq". While there is some useful information in the report, it is most notable for what it does not say.

Nowhere is there any reference to the role that Europe or the United States have played in the degradation of every human rights principle the world has developed in the last 75 years. Indeed, the Iraqi story ultimately reflects how the West is now outsourcing the torture and abuse that the US formerly inflicted in Dark Prisons from Kabul to Guantanamo Bay.

In Afghanistan, after the US-led invasion of October 2001, we Americans systematically abused prisoners ourselves. We subjected thousands of Muslim men to torture in Bagram Air Force Base and other secretive prisons. Something similar took place after the invasion of Iraq, making names like Abu Ghraib, Camp Cropper and Camp Bucca synonyms for the medieval mistreatment of detainees.

This dark history diminished America's reputation around the world. However, it did not deter some in the government from continuing their war on human rights - partly inspired by revenge and partly by the extraordinary belief that torture would somehow produce valuable intelligence in the so-called "war on terror".

"Today, rather than get American hands dirty, the US thinks it better to outsource the mistreatment to other regimes across the globe." - Clive Stafford Smith

Today, rather than get American hands dirty, the US thinks it better to outsource the mistreatment to other regimes across the globe.

The current story begins in what was largely Syrian territory taken over by ISIL where, today, more than 70,000 prisoners languish in prisons and camps run by the Kurds and their allies who comprise the semi-autonomous area of northeast Syria, before they are sent to Iraq for trial.

An estimated 56,000 of these prisoners are from Syria or Iraq, while 14,000 (deemed "foreigners") hail from more than 40 countries around the world. (Given that many of these prisoners seem destined for the Iraqi courts, it is surprising that Syria is not mentioned in the 30 pages of the OHCHR report.)

The American involvement in prisoner mistreatment is, sadly, not news. The big change in Syria and Iraq involves the Europeans, who issued pious criticism of some US actions after 9/11.

In 2020, however, fuelled by their own populist Islamophobia, Western European countries are now tragically joining this flight from human rights.

So what does the OHCHR report actually tell us?

The organisation studied a fairly small group among the thousands of cases - just 619, of whom 23 were women and 44 were children at the time of their alleged offences. This is not a dissimilar sample to the 780 detainees who ended up in Guantanamo Bay, themselves drawn from the thousands the US processed in the wake of 9/11.

The OHCHR tells us that 42 percent of prisoners brought to an Iraqi courtroom claim they have been tortured ("men, women and children", according to the authors). This will prove to be an underestimate, since a victim of torture has to be brave to make such a claim in front of his abusers. In Guantanamo, there was not a single prisoner who did not face abuse.

The OHCHR condemns the widespread use of the death penalty by the Iraqi courts. A death sentence has apparently been imposed in at least one-third of cases, often on the charge of "membership of ISIS" alone, without even an allegation of a crime, let alone proof. One reason I got involved in defending the Guantanamo detainees, after years of work on capital punishment cases in America's Deep South, was that the US military commission system, created in April 2003, made the death penalty available in all the cases in Guantanamo - even for something as innocuous as "aiding the enemy".

The OHCHR reports that Iraqi courts rely on secret, anonymous witnesses whose evidence cannot be tested and involuntary statements extracted through torture. Confessions were presented in 436 cases, and in 366 of them (84 percent) the accused claimed it was involuntary. The Iraqi courts nonetheless rely on this as evidence.

Unfortunately, they are merely replicating what happened at Guantanamo where detainees were not allowed to know the secret evidence against them and where Ahmed Rabbani - one of my clients who is still held there - faces detention without trial based on statements coerced out of him after 540 days of brutal torture in the Dark Prison in Kabul.

"This week, an Iraqi judge told British newspaper the Independent that he likes to follow the media to learn about the people he will be sentencing to death." - Clive Stafford Smith

This week, an Iraqi judge told British newspaper the Independent that he likes to follow the media to learn about the people he will be sentencing to death. It is outrageous that nonsense in a tabloid paper could be relied on as the basis for a hanging, yet we see similar materials being used as "evidence" in every case we have seen in Guantanamo Bay. Much of this I cannot describe because, for equally incomprehensible reasons, it is deemed "classified". But in one instance, where the material was ultimately released into the public domain, the detainee was held on the basis of newspaper articles and informants of ludicrous unreliability - one of whom had informed on many detainees in the hope that the US would provide him with "penis enlargement" surgery.

The OHCHR decries how the Iraqis have only allowed court-appointed counsel for three-quarters of prisoners - and even then the lawyer normally meets the client only at the start of the hearing and cannot hope to present a meaningful case. This is, of course, ludicrous. In the many death penalty cases I have defended in the US, we have averaged three years, not three minutes, of preparation prior to trial and, even then, we make plenty of mistakes.

Indeed, the report reflects that one in five of the children tried on terrorism charges in Iraq did not even have lawyers. This is reprehensible, yet the US fought tooth and nail to prevent lawyers from getting into Guantanamo at all. I got in there only after two-and-a-half years of litigation but I, along with everyone else, had to promise to do all the work for nothing and pay all my own costs. None of my 88 clients has ever been allowed a trial. The $6bn the US has spent so far on the Guantanamo prison has resulted in one conviction among 780 prisoners; that was what must surely be the most expensive guilty plea in history.

Thus, without mentioning it, the OHCHR unwittingly details how many of America's recent bad practices have spread like a coronavirus around the world - now to Iraq.

At least the detainees held in Cuba were all men who might plausibly have been involved in violence against the US and its allies - although 745 of the 780 (over 95 percent) have since been cleared and released. But with what is happening in "Guantanamo on the Euphrates" - the camps in northeast Syria - the overwhelming majority of the "foreign terrorists" (some 9,000 out of 14,000) are children and most of the rest are women. Western European policy is to either let them die in the rudimentary camps or pass them over to the Iraqis for trial.

"The notion that sacrificing our liberties will make us safer is simply obscene. And yet sacrifice them we do." - Clive Stafford Smith

The notion that sacrificing our liberties will make us safer is simply obscene. And yet sacrifice them we do. Pandering to the fear of terrorism, the British "secretly" abandoned the long-standing requirement, imposed years ago by the European Court of Human Rights that they should demand assurances that the death penalty will not be imposed in any case, even if it were a serial killer like Ted Bundy.

The New York Times reports that at least seven French men, transferred to Iraq from Syria, were sentenced to die by hanging for alleged affiliation with ISIL without even a suggestion, let alone evidence, that any of them had committed any act of violence. The Times says that France "turned its citizens" over for death penalty trials that last only a few minutes, in apparent contravention of rules set by the European Court of Human Rights.

It is hardly novel to suggest that Iraq has a dreadful legal system. But it is big news - a tragedy in truth - that Western European governments are jettisoning the bedrock principles that provide the foundation for their societies.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial stance.

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