"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed, but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Saudi Arabia upholds death sentence for deaf, tortured protester

Saudi Arabia has upheld a protest-related death sentence for a protester who was tortured so badly that he was rendered completely deaf in one ear. The judgment marks the first such move for several months, and comes days after President Trump visited the Kingdom.

Munir Adam (23), who has impaired sight and hearing, was arrested in the wake of political protests in 2012. Despite medical records proving his disability, Saudi police tortured him until he lost all hearing in one ear, and forced him to sign a false confession. The forced statement was used as the sole piece of evidence against him in a secretive trial at the Specialised Criminal Court (SCC).

Today, the appellate division of the SCC is understood to have upheld Munir’s death sentence. He now has only one appeal left before the King signs his execution warrant – after which he could be executed at any time, without notification to this family.

The SCC’s latest death sentence appears to break a period of several months during which the court has not upheld any protest-related death sentences. It comes days after President Trump made his first visit to the Kingdom.

Reprieve had urged the President to use his visit to raise the cases of protesters – including juveniles – who face execution. However, the White House is understood not to have raised human rights issues during the trip. One Administration official – Treasury Secretary Wilbur Ross – faced criticism after telling journalists there was “not a single hint of a protester” during the visit.

Commenting, Maya Foa, Director of Reprieve said:

“Munir’s case is utterly shocking – the White House should be appalled that our Saudi allies tortured a disabled protester until he lost his hearing then sentenced him to death on the basis of a forced ‘confession.’ Today’s judgment shows that, by failing to raise human rights abuses in Saudi Arabia, President Trump has emboldened the Kingdom to continue the torture and execution of protesters. The Trump Administration must now urgently stand up for American values – they must call for the release of Munir, and all others who face execution for simply exercising freedom of expression.”

➤ To read more about the death penalty in Saudi Arabia click here

Source: Reprieve, May 25, 2017

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Gaza: Hamas executes 3 over commander's murder

The execution was filmed and broadcast live from a nearby building.
The execution was filmed and broadcast live from a nearby building.
The Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas executed 3 people in the Gaza Strip on Thursday over the assassination of 1 of its military leaders allegedly on behalf of Israel.

2 men were hanged to death in Gaza City over the killing of Mazen Faqha in March, while a 3rd was executed by firing squad, said an AFP correspondent who attended the executions.

Hundreds of people were allowed to watch the executions, though the streets around the site were closed to the public.

1 of those executed, Ashraf Abu Leila, was named as the alleged assassin while the other 2 men, who were not named, were convicted of assisting him.

The executions, which come only 2 weeks after the announcement of their arrests, were immediately condemned by human rights activists.

Human Rights Watch said the "rush" to kill the men "smacks of militia rule, not the rule of law".

Mazen Faqha was shot dead on March 24 near his house in Gaza City.

He had been in charge of forming cells for Hamas's military wing in the occupied West Bank.

Hamas immediately blamed its arch-enemy Israel, with which it has fought 3 wars since 2008, and implemented strict border restrictions on those seeking to leave the Palestinian enclave.

Source: al-monitor.com, May 25, 2017


Hams executes three over murder of Gaza commander


The Hamas-controlled Interior Ministry in Gaza on Thursday said it executed the suspected killer of Mazen Fuqaha, along with his two alleged accomplices.

The Interior Ministry said the the suspected killer and one of the alleged accomplices were hanged, while the second alleged accomplice was shot to death.

Grainy images of what a Gaza-based news organization said were the executions were broadcast on Facebook Live. The images appeared to be shot from a distant building.

Following the executions, Hamas warned Gazans against publishing images of the executions.

The suspected killer and alleged accomplices were sentenced to death by a Hamas military court on Sunday, which said they took part in the killing of Fuqaha.

Fuqaha, formerly a senior leader of Hamas’s armed wing, was mysteriously assassinated on March 24 in front of his house in the Tel al-Hawa neighborhood of Gaza.

Human rights groups criticized the haste in which the three men were sentenced.

“Rushing to put men to death based on an unreviewable decision of a special military court days after announcing their arrests… smacks of militia rule, not the rule of law,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the Middle East division of Human Rights Watch.

Hamas formed a special court to try the suspected killer and two alleged accomplices, which quickly reached a verdict.

Hamas military prosecutor Fadl al-Jadeili has dismissed human rights groups’ criticism of the special court, saying they do not have all the details of Fuqaha’s assassination.

Since taking over the Gaza Strip in an armed coup in 2007, Hamas has executed 28 people sentenced to death by its courts, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

Source: Jerusalem Post, May 25, 2017


Hamas kills three men in execution partially streamed on Facebook


Three men executed by hanging and firing squad were convicted of involvement in killing senior military figure Mazen Faqha

Hamas has killed three men in Gaza accused of assassinating one of its senior members, in executions that appear to have been partially streamed live on Facebook.

The broadcast on the page of Gaza Now, a local news outlet, raises further questions over Facebook’s ability to moderate violent content at a time when its moderation procedures are under scrutiny following leaks of files on how the company deals with controversial and offensive material.

The shaky handheld footage, which appeared to have been filmed on a balcony, was described in Arabic as showing the executions. The Guardian could not verify its authenticity.

Hamas’ interior ministry said two men were hanged on Thursday and one was killed by firing squad for their part in the killing of Mazen Faqha, a senior figure in the military wing of the Islamist group.

In the footage, only distant people, moving vehicles and what appears to be a gallows covered in black cloth are visible. The video appeared to show the same screened gallows structure seen in still photographs taken during its construction.

A recording of the live broadcast, which lasted about 30 minutes, was later taken down.

Since taking over the Gaza Strip in an armed coup in 2007, Hamas has executed 28 people who were sentenced to death by its courts, according to the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.

Faqha, 38, was killed in a garage in his apartment building in March after dropping off his family. Hamas said the attacker used a weapon with a silencer, allowing him to escape undetected.

Hamas accused Israel of killing Faqha through collaborators and launched a manhunt.

Ashraf Abu Leila, Hisham al-Aloul and Abdallah al-Nashar were quickly tried, sentenced on 16 May and executed just over a week later, raising questions about the judicial process.

The killings were condemned by the UN office of the high commissioner for human rights, which said the special field military court that issued the sentences “was constituted solely for this trial, the first such instance since the Hamas takeover of Gaza”.

Human Rights Watch questioned the speed of the trial process and its reliability, and the use of the death penalty by Hamas.

Sarah Leah Whitson, the executive director of HRW’s Middle East division, said: “Rushing to put men to death based on an unreviewable decision of a special military court, days after announcing their arrests and airing videoed confessions, smacks of militia rule, not the rule of law.

“Reliance on confessions in a system where coercion, torture and deprivation of detainee’s rights are prevalent, and [there are] other apparent due process violations, further taint[s] the court’s verdicts. Death as government-sanctioned punishment is inherently cruel and always wrong, no matter the circumstance.”

Speaking before the executions, Amnesty International said the court “utterly disregarded international fair trial standards”.

Source: The Guardian, May 25, 2017

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Stop executions and abolish the death penalty - Malaysian Bar

The Malaysian Bar is deeply troubled that 2 persons - Yong Kar Mun, aged 48, and an individual whose identity has not been reported - were executed by hanging at Sungai Buloh Prison yesterday morning. The prison authorities there had written to the family of Yong Kar Mun on May 19, 2017 to inform them that he would be hanged to death soon, and that they could pay him a final visit on May 23, 2017.

Yong Kar Mun had been convicted under Section 3 of the Firearms (Increased Penalties) Act 1971 for discharging a firearm when committing a robbery, and the mandatory death penalty was meted out.

The Malaysian Bar is appalled that the 2 executions yesterday bring the total of reported executions this year to 4: Rames Batumalai, aged 44, and his brother Suthar Batumalai, aged 39, were reportedly executed at Kajang Prison on March 15, 2017.

Every individual has an inherent right to life - as enshrined in Article 5(1) of the Federal Constitution - which is absolute, universal and inalienable, irrespective of any crimes that have been committed.

We do not condone or excuse any crimes that have been committed. There is no denying that guilty persons ought to receive punishment, and justice must be served. However, to be just and effective, punishment must always be proportionate to the gravity of offences committed, and the State must never resort to taking a human life. Furthermore, studies have shown that there is no conclusive evidence of the deterrent value of the death penalty.

The death penalty is an extreme, abhorrent and inhumane punishment, and must not be taken lightly, as it is irreversible.

The Malaysian Bar calls upon the Government to act swiftly to abolish the death penalty for all crimes, stop executions, and commute each death sentence to one of life imprisonment.

Source: themalaymailonline.com, May 25, 2017. This statement is submitted by George Varughese, president of the Malaysian Bar.

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Iran: Mass Executions Immediately After Election Farce

Nine executions on May 23

The mullahs’ regime in Iran has immediately relaunched its domestic crackdown machine after the election farce, especially through executions and torture in prisons across the country. 

Ten inmates in the prisons of Tabriz, Zahedan, Ardebil, Kermanshah and Isfahan, and Karaj Central Prison were hanged on May 22 and 23. Nine of these cases were carried out on May 23 alone.

Authorities in Zahedan executed 30-year-old Abdulkarim Shahnavazi and placed a noose on another prisoner. 

After witnessing Shahnavazi’s death, the latter was brought down from the gallows and told his execution will be carried in 40 days.

Seeking to rein in increasing protests and the abhorrence of the younger generation in cities across the country, the mullahs’ regime has yet again resorted to mass executions.

While referring to the huge numbers of intelligence and security agents deployed on Friday, May 19, Iranian Interior Minister Rahmani Fazli said, “All youths were in the streets during the last four nights. The situation was very concerning. Our state has enemies.”

Source: Secretariat of the National Council of Resistance of Iran, May 24, 2017

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Execution of man arrested at 16 exposes Iran’s disregard for child rights

Iran has demonstrated its utter disregard for children’s rights by executing a man arrested for a crime committed while he was 16 years old in a brazen violation of international human rights law, said Amnesty International.

The man, who has been identified in state media only by the name “Asqar”, was sentenced to death by public hanging nearly 30 years ago. He was executed at Karaj’s Central Prison near Tehran on 23 May 2017.

“With this execution, the Iranian authorities’ repeated claims to the UN and EU that they are moving away from the use of death penalty against juvenile offenders ring horrifically hollow. 

It is absolutely appalling that two decades after it ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, Iran continues to display such a chilling disregard for children’s rights,” said Philip Luther, Amnesty International’s Research and Advocacy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“This is the third execution this year of someone arrested as a child in Iran, demonstrating the authorities’ clear determination to continue flouting international human rights law. The authorities should halt any further plans for executions and amend Iran’s Islamic Penal Code to abolish the use of the death penalty against juvenile offenders once and for all.”

“Asqar” was originally sentenced to death in 1988 after being convicted of the fatal stabbing of his 12-year-old neighbour, according to state media. The sentence was later upheld by the Supreme Court. He was due to be executed at the age of 18 but escaped from prison shortly before the scheduled execution date; he was on the run until his re-arrest in April 2015.

Iran is one of the last few countries in the world that still executes juvenile offenders. International human rights law strictly prohibits the use of the death penalty against a person who was under 18 at the time of the crime.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty at all times – regardless of who is accused, the crime, guilt or innocence or method of execution. The organization has consistently called on all countries that still use the death penalty to establish an official moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the punishment.

Source: Amnesty International, May 25, 2016


Iran: Juvenile offender hanged


IRAN HUMAN RIGHTS (24. MAY 2017): A juvenile offender was hanged in the Central Prison of Karaj yesterday morning. 

The prisoner who is identified by a state run website as Asghar, was charged with a murder 30 years ago. At that time Asghar was 16 years old.

According to the Iranian news website Namnak, Asghar had managed to escape 18 months after his arrest in late 1980's, but was again arrested one year ago.

Iran Human Rights (IHR) calls for international condemnation of Iranian authorities' execution of juvenile offenders. Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, the spokesperson of IHR said: "Asghar is the third juvenile offender being executed in 2017. This is a clear violation of Iran's international obligations and must be condemned by the international community. We especially call on the European Union to resume their pressure on the Iranian authorities in order to stop juvenile executions".

Source: Iran Human Rights, May 25, 2017

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Homosexuality: from the death penalty to gay marriage

Taiwan's top court ruled government must recognise same-sex unions within two years
Taiwan's top court ruled government must recognise same-sex unions within 2 years.
Same-sex marriage, which Taiwan's top court ruled in favour of Wednesday, is currently legal in around 20 countries around the world, 13 of which are in pioneering Europe.

Such unions are, however, still illegal in most parts of Africa and in the Middle East, where homosexuality is in some cases punishable by the death penalty.

European pioneers


The Netherlands in April 2001 became the first country in the world to allow gay and lesbian couples to marry in a civil ceremony.

Twelve European countries followed: Belgium, Britain (except Northern Ireland), Denmark, Finland, France, Iceland, Ireland, Luxembourg, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden.

Some European countries only allow homosexuals to enter into civil partnerships, including Austria, Croatia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy and the Czech Republic.

Estonia became in October 2014 the first former Soviet republic to authorise this kind of civil union.

Many eastern European countries -- including Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania and Slovakia -- still deny homosexuals the right to marry or enter into unions.

Slovenians in December 2015 voted in a referendum against efforts by their national parliament to legalise gay marriage.

Some 15 western European countries allow same-sex couples to adopt children, whether within marriage or civil partnership. They include Belgium, Britain, Denmark, France, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden. Others like Finland, Germany and Slovenia allow gay people to adopt the child of their partner.

Ten countries allow lesbian couples to conceive children with the help of assisted reproductive technologies (ART): Austria, Belgium, Britain, the Netherlands, Spain and the Nordic countries.

Surrogacy remains restricted across most of the continent.

Belgium, Britain and the Netherlands allow for volunteer surrogacy and in Greece, women can be reimbursed for the costs of carrying a child for someone else.

Progress in America


Canada led the way in North America, authorising same-sex marriage and adoptions in June 2005. ART and surrogacy are also allowed.

In the United States, with gay marriages still banned in 14 of the 50 states, a historic Supreme Court decision in June 2015 legalised gay marriage nationwide.

Mexico's federal capital led the way in Latin America towards civil unions in 2007 and full marriages in 2009.

Same sex marriages are also legal in Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil and Colombia.


A crime in Africa


On a continent where around 30 countries ban homosexuality, only in South Africa can gays legally marry, adopt or have children by ART and surrogacy.

In Sudan, Somalia and Mauritania homosexuals face the death penalty, while only a handful of countries -- Gabon, Ivory Coast, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Mali, and Mozambique -- have decriminalised the practice.


Hostility in Middle East, Asia


Israel leads the Middle East in terms of respect for homosexual rights, and recognizes gay marriages performed elsewhere, though such marriages are not performed in Israel itself. Gay couples can jointly adopt children.

Homosexuality is theoretically punishable by death in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, while Lebanon is more tolerant than other Arab countries.

In Asia, after Taiwan, the taboo surrounding homosexuality is slowly eroding in Vietnam and Nepal.


Asia Pacific


The only country in the region that allows gays to marry is New Zealand, which passed a law in April 2013, 27 years after homosexuality was decriminalised.

The most recent attempt to legalise gay marriage in Australia hinged on a planned referendum that was blocked in November 2016.

Source: Agence France-Presse, May 24, 2017

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'It's mind over matter': Alabama prisoner faces execution date for the eighth time

Tommy Arthur
Tommy Arthur
7 times in 16 years Tommy Arthur has had his execution delayed. As he prepares for what could be his final appointment with the death chamber, he tells Ed Pilkington about a grisly - and traumatic - cycle

Tommy Arthur is caught in a ghoulish production of Groundhog Day. 7 times over the past 16 years he has been scheduled to be put to death in Alabama, and 7 times the courts have delayed the execution, most recently in November just minutes before he was strapped to the gurney.

Now Arthur, 75, finds himself once again caught in this grisly cycle, with only hours to go before his 8th and possibly final appointment with the death chamber. At 6pm on Thursday, barring intervention by Alabama's governor or the courts, he will be pumped with medical drugs until he dies.

To come so close to being killed by the state is extraordinary on any occasion, but 8 times? How has he endured repeated execution dates in 2001, 2007, 2008, 2012, 2015, 2016 and now 25 May 2017?

"It's a question of mind over matter," Arthur said in a phone interview from death row in Alabama's Holman correctional facility. "You can either let a stressful situation break you so you can't breathe, or you hold on to hope and use your every waking moment to fight."

By this late point in the process, most condemned inmates would be ordering their final meal. Not Arthur. "I don't believe in that last meal baloney - I never have the appetite. When they're trying to kill you, you're not hungry."

Other condemned prisoners at this stage would also be consoling themselves with a stream of visits from their loved ones. Not Arthur. He gave up having visitors after the sixth scheduled execution as the stress on both him and them was too much.

"It almost killed my eldest daughter, Sherrie," he said. "She came to 6 execution dates, and the stress of her father about to be killed was so traumatic it damaged her heart, she almost lost her business and home. So I told her to disconnect, I didn't want her coming any more. She didn't come to the 7th, and she won't be coming to this one."

Tommy Arthur has spent the past 34 years on death row.

Tommy Arthur is one of the longest serving capital prisoners in the US. He has spent the past 34 years on death row, 25 of those in the same 5ft x 8ft cell from which he emerges only briefly every other day to take a shower. He has a vivid way of describing his living conditions: "You couldn't put a baboon in this cell, they'd shut the zoo down."

Arthur was sentenced to death for the 1982 murder of Troy Wicker. The state accused him of carrying out a contract killing at the behest of Wicker's wife Judy, with whom Arthur had been having an affair; Judy Wicker was prosecuted separately and given life imprisonment.

At the time of the murder, Arthur was out of prison on work release, having served 5 years of a life sentence for the 2nd-degree murder of Eloise West, the sister of his common-law wife. He pleaded guilty to that unpremeditated killing, though he insisted it was an accident fueled by alcohol.

By contrast, he has always claimed innocence in the murder of Troy Wicker. Over the years he has been deeply involved in pursuing his legal appeals, and speaks of his own case with striking fluency and command of detail.

He points out that at her own trial Judy Wicker testified that the murderer was a burglar in her home who had beaten her up and raped her before killing her husband. It was only 5 years later, after she had been offered a deal to change her evidence that would see her get out of prison after serving only 10 years, that she pointed the finger at Arthur.

His lawyer, Suhana Han, emphasised the weakness of the prosecution case against him. "Neither a fingerprint or a weapon, nor any other physical evidence connects Arthur to the murder of Troy Wicker," she told the Guardian.

The prisoner and his legal team have been pushing for the latest DNA testing technology to be applied to crime scene materials, though the courts have rebuffed their requests and crucial evidence has gone missing. A rape kit taken from Judy Wicker at the time of the murder was lost or destroyed years ago, the state claims, while hairs found near the victim's body and in a wig presumed to have been used by the killer have not been subjected to the most sophisticated forensic techniques.

Arthur has sent a handwritten letter to Alabama's governor, Kay Ivey, pleading with her, so far without reply: "Please Governor Ivey, don't kill me with this evidence never being DNA-tested," he wrote.

Perhaps the best remaining hope for the condemned man is that the US supreme court will once again step in and postpone the execution. His lawyers have an emergency motion before the 11th circuit court of appeals relating to the sedative midazolam that has been used in several botched executions in modern times.

Midazolam was deployed in the most recent Alabama execution of Ron Smith in December, when the inmate heaved and coughed for 13 minutes. The motion argues that were the state to go ahead and use midazolam again on Thursday, despite what happened to Smith, it would be guilty of intentionally inflicting cruel and unusual punishment on Arthur, banned under the US constitution.

As Thursday's deadline approaches, Tommy Arthur's room for manoeuvre closes. Asked how he was preparing for the possibility that this time he might actually be executed, he said.

He had only 1 wish: to be allowed to issue a public apology to his children. "I failed them as a father, and I'm so sorry for that," he said.

As it happens, he will be able to deliver that message in person to Sherrie. A few hours after the phone interview with Arthur had ended, a member of his legal team contacted the Guardian to say that there had been a change of plan: his eldest daughter had decided that despite the trauma she wanted to be present - she will be by his side should his 8th summons to the death chamber turn out to be his last.

Source: The Guardian, May 24, 2017

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Suspected assassins of Mazen Fuqahaa to be executed in Gaza on Thursday

Execution in Gaza City
GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- After a field military court in the Gaza Strip rapidly issued death sentences to the suspected assassin and two suspected accomplices for the murder of Hamas leader Mazen Fuqahaa in March, the attorney general of the Hamas-run government in the besieged coastal enclave announced that the three men will be executed on Thursday.

Attorney General Fadel al-Jdeili said in a statement Wednesday that the three "convicts" would be executed in a closed yard, in the presence of "officials, representatives of human rights groups, dignitaries, and clan leaders."

After Fuqahaa was shot dead in front of his house on March 25, authorities in Gaza imposed an unprecedented security crackdown and sealed the land and sea borders of the small Palestinian territory in search for the killer, who Hamas authorities immediately claimed assassinated the Hamas leader in collaboration with Israel.

Less than two months later, on May 16, Gaza authorities announced the investigation concluded and said that the "direct executioner" and two accomplices were in custody, and had confessed to collaborating with Israeli intelligence to commit the killing.

The death sentences were issued two days ago, with the field military court ruling that the sentences were not subject to appeal, raising alarm among international and local human rights organizations that called on the de facto Hamas government to retry the suspects in compliance with international fair trial standards.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the occupied territory released a statement Tuesday condemning the death penalty, and said that the “special field military court" that issued the sentences "was constituted solely for this trial, the first such instance since the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007."

“International law sets very stringent conditions for the application of the death penalty, including meticulous compliance with international fair trial standards. These trials do not appear to meet these minimum standards,” OHCHR wrote.

The Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC) denounced the “quickly issued” sentences for being based on the “unconstitutional” Palestinian Revolutionary Law of 1979 -- which was never presented to or approved by the Palestinian parliament.

“The council fears that the sentence was handed down to take revenge for the killing of Hamas leader Mazen Fuqahaa and to please public opinion in the Gaza Strip and inside the (Hamas) movement,” the statement continued.

The European Union and Norwegian missions in Jerusalem and Ramallah urged Gaza authorities to “refrain” from carrying out the death penalties, reiterating their “firm opposition under all circumstances to the use of capital punishment.”

Meanwhile, Amnesty International said in a statement that “if carried out, these cruel executions will constitute an appalling breach of international human rights law.”

“It is not too late to save these men’s lives. We are urging the Hamas authorities to immediately halt these executions and ensure that the men are given a fair retrial,” the international NGO added. “The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment which should never be used in any circumstances.”

According to Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem, since Hamas took control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, its courts have imposed 85 death sentences and 22 people have been executed through legal proceedings, while the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, has “summarily executed at least 31 others, including against whom legal proceedings were still underway.”

Under Palestinian law, willful, premeditated murder and treason as well as collaboration with the enemy -- usually Israel -- are punishable by death. However, all death sentences must be ratified by the Palestinian president before they can be carried out.

Since taking office in January 2005, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to approve executions and no one has been executed in the West Bank since then, though West Bank courts have continued to issue death sentences.

However, the Hamas de facto administration in Gaza has carried out executions periodically without receiving approval from Abbas since 2010 when Hamas renewed the practice, claiming that Abbas’ term in office had expired.

According to B’Tselem, “There are currently at least 55 death row inmates in the West Bank and Gaza living with uncertainty as to their fate.”

Source: Ma'an News Agency, May 24, 2017


Human rights organizations demand retrial for 3 Gazans sentenced to death


BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- After a military court in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip issued three death sentences against the suspected assassin and two suspected accomplices in the March murder of Hamas leader Mazen Fuqahaa, human rights organizations continued to voice their staunch objection to the death penalty.

Joining the European Union Heads of Mission and the Head of Mission of Norway in Jerusalem and Ramallah, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in the occupied territory released a statement Tuesday condemning the sentences.

“Carrying out these sentences would amount to an arbitrary deprivation of life in violation of international law,” the UN agency said.

According to the statement, the “special field military court" that issued the sentences "was constituted solely for this trial, the first such instance since the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007,” adding that the sentences were final and not subject to appeal or plea for clemency.

“International law sets very stringent conditions for the application of the death penalty, including meticulous compliance with international fair trial standards. These trials do not appear to meet these minimum standards,” OHCHR wrote, and urged Gaza authorities not to carry out the death sentences of the three men and to abolish using the death penalty completely.

In a statement published Tuesday, the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council (PHROC) said it “considers the decision to form this court a dangerous precedent,” and denounced the “quickly issued” sentences for being based on the “unconstitutional” Palestinian Revolutionary Law of 1979 -- which was never presented to or approved by the Palestinian parliament.

“The council fears that the sentence was handed down to take revenge for the killing of Hamas leader Mazen Fuqahaa and to please public opinion in the Gaza Strip and inside the (Hamas) movement,” the statement continued, and demanded all three suspects be retried and guaranteed a fair trial.

PHROC affirmed its position that non irrevocable death sentences are “not a deterrent but a form of punishment that is shameful for humanity.”

Responding to the executions carried out against three Palestinians in April, who were also accused of collaborating with Israel, Israeli human rights organization B'Tselem stressed in a statement last week that “Executions -- whether they follow a real trial, a show trial or no trial at all -- are prohibited. A regime that takes lives as a punitive or deterrent measure is committing an immoral act that constitutes an intolerable violation of human rights.”

According to B’Tselem, since Hamas took control of the Gaza Striup in 2007, its courts have imposed 85 death sentence and 22 people have been executed through legal proceedings, while the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, has “summarily executed at least 31 others, including against whom legal proceedings were still underway.”

Under Palestinian law, willful, premeditated murder and treason as well as collaboration with the enemy -- usually Israel -- are punishable by death. However, all death sentences must be ratified by the Palestinian president before they can be carried out.

Since taking office in January 2005, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has refused to approve executions and no one has been executed in the West Bank since then, though West Bank courts have continued to issue death sentences.

Meanwhile, the Hamas de facto administration in Gaza has carried out executions periodically without receiving approval from Abbas since 2010 when Hamas renewed the practice, claiming that Abbas’ term in office had expired.

According to B’Tselem, “There are currently at least 55 death row inmates in the West Bank and Gaza living with uncertainty as to their fate.”

Source: Ma'an News Agency, May 23, 2017

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Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Alabama Inmate Hopes to Dodge Death for an Eighth Time

Tommy Arthur
Tommy Arthur
Tommy Arthur, who was first sentenced to death in 1983, has long imagined what could be his end: time in a so-called death cell, a choice of a last meal, the final telephone calls and then a lethal injection.

That end could come Thursday, his eighth execution date in a case that has spanned the tenures of eight Alabama governors, starting with George Wallace. If it does, it will conclude a legal odyssey that quietly became, for death penalty supporters and critics alike, a symbol of the troubles of the capital punishment system in the United States.

“It’s one of those cases in which nobody is happy,” said Robert Dunham, the executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, a research group that has voiced concerns about the application of capital punishment.

“People who simply want the execution are unhappy because of the passage of time,” he said. “People who oppose the death penalty are unhappy because they don’t want Tommy Arthur executed. People who want fairness are unhappy because, despite the length of time this case has been in the courts, the process has never been fair.”

In Alabama, where 58 people have been put to death since Mr. Arthur was sentenced for the 1982 murder of Troy Wicker, the most pressing issue these days seems to be how long it takes to carry out capital sentences. If Mr. Arthur, 75, is executed on Thursday, his death will come one week after the Legislature gave final approval to a plan to reduce the length of appeals in capital cases.

“Men don’t cry, but I have,” Mr. Arthur, whose case was unaffected by the measure, said in a telephone interview from the prison that houses Alabama’s execution chamber. “I’m scared to death right now.”

Mr. Arthur confessed to one murder but was given a death sentence for a second that he insists he did not commit. In regards to the latter, the state authorities contend that Mr. Wicker’s wife, Judy, hired Mr. Arthur, her lover, to carry out the killing so she could collect an insurance payout. Ms. Wicker, who was found guilty and spent about a decade in prison before being released on parole, ultimately testified against Mr. Arthur, who was on work release from a life sentence for another killing when Mr. Wicker was murdered.

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Source: The New York Times, Alan Binder, May 24, 2017

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6 Prisoners Executed in Northeastern Iran, 3 Scheduled For Execution

Public hanging in Iran
6 prisoners were executed in 2 different Iranian prisons early (...) morning, May 24

According to the Kurdish Human Rights Network 5 prisoners were hanged in the prison of Tabriz. 

Three of the prisoners were identified as "Kazem Hajaji", "Seyed Ali Mousavi" and "Jaber Fakhri". All the 5 prisoners were convicted of murder and sentenced to qisas (retribution in kind).

The website "No to prison, no to death penalty" reported about the execution of one prisoner in the prison of Ardebil. 

The prisoner is identified as "Davoud Hamdard" and was charged with drug offences. Iran Human Rights (IHR) has confirmed the execution of Mr. Hamdard.

None of the above mentioned executions were announced by official Iranian sources.

IHR sources have reported about the scheduled execution of 1 prisoner from Rajaishahr prison of Karaj (west of Tehran). According to these sources the prisoner scheduled to be executed publicly in the coming days.

2 other prisoners identified as "Abdolkarim Shahnavazi" and "Saeed Hood" were transferred to solitary confinement in the prison of Zahedan Monday morning in preparation for execution. Both the prisoners were charged with drug offences.

It seems that the Iranian authorities have resumed the executions after a short break on the occasion of the presidential elections.

Source: iranhr.net, May 24, 2017

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Pakistan hangs 2 terrorists involved in Peshawar school massacre

Pakistan today hanged 2 hard core Taliban terrorists convicted by the military courts of their involvement in the 2014 Peshawar school massacre which left over 150 people dead, mostly students.

Pakistan Army said Atta Ullah and Taj Muhammad were active members of the proscribed Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and had facilitated the terrorists who attacked the Army-run school in Peshawar in December 2014.

"These terrorists were involved in committing heinous offences relating to terrorism, including attack on Army Public School Peshawar, killing of innocent civilians, attacking Armed Forces of Pakistan and Law Enforcement Agencies," army said.

The terrorists had been tried by military courts and had confessed to their crimes before a magistrate and trial court, it said.

Earlier in December 2015, 4 terrorists involved in the Peshawar school attack were executed in Kohat jail in the restive Khyber-Pakhtunkwa province.

Military courts, which were restored in March for another 2 years after their initial 2-year term expired in January, work in secrecy due to fear of attacks by militants.

The courts were set up after a constitutional amendment following the Peshawar terror attack.

Human rights group Justice Project Pakistan says over 440 people have been executed since the Peshawar attack.

Pakistan has been fighting various extremist groups for over a decade. Militant attacks have killed tens of thousands of people.

The military courts have handed down the death penalty to more than 170 militants.

Source: Press Trust of India, May 24, 2107

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Two hanged in Malaysia: "Highly immoral and inhumane to continue with executions"

Highly immoral and inhumane to continue with executions

In the wee hours of this morning, May 24, 2017, two men had been executed at Sungai Buloh Prison - a Chinese Malaysian and Yong Kar Mun, 48 who was sentenced to death in 2009 for armed robbery.

The double execution this morning comes as a grave shock to Members of Parliament, the Malaysian Bar, Amnesty International, the Human Rights Commission of Malaysia (Suhakam) and other human rights bodies, but most importantly, the unconsolable grief of the two families who had not been notified on the exact date and time of the secretive nature of the executions of these two men.

Time and time again, lawmakers have been questioning the government in the Malaysian Parliament on the status of the abolition of the death penalty in Malaysia and stressing on an immediate moratorium on the death penalty pending possible amendments to laws that warrant the death sentence as a method of punishment and revenge.

On Sept 5, 2016 a Special Task force had been formed on the abolition of the death penalty attended by MP for Ipoh Barat M Kulasegaran, Suhakam, Amnesty International, the Attorney-General’s Chambers, academicians, the Malaysian Bar Council, Home Ministry and also the National Security Council.

On March 1 this year, the cabinet was presented with the findings of a research by Roger Hood and the International Centre for Law and Legal Studies (I-CeLLS) by the attorney-general himself whereby the cabinet had decided and agreed that provisional amendments to Section 39B of the Dangerous Drugs Act 1952 (DDA) by including that discretionary powers be given to courts to mete out the punishment befitting the crime.

In the last Parliament sitting in April, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Azalina Othman Said cemented the fact that a memorandum from the cabinet together with the proposed amendments to the DDA 1952 will be brought again to the cabinet for further consideration. Azalina also stressed that the mandatory death penalty has proven that it is NOT a deterrent to crime.

The government has committed countless times over the years, to amend provisions in the law to grant discretionary powers to the courts on drug related offences that carry the mandatory death penalty and yet appears apprehensive in committing to see it through.

Why then the chest thump on transforming Malaysia into a nation that upholds and respects human rights when it is not serious on imposing a moratorium on all death row cases, across the board until discussions, meetings and even amendments are made?

While the attorney-general prepares the documents on the amendments of the law on the mandatory death penalty, executions are still going on in Malaysian prisons and in this year alone, Malaysia executed four people in five months.

‘Persistent lack of transparency’


The Najib Abdul Razak administration has violated international human rights standards and laws in its persistent lack of transparency in carrying out executions.

It appears that the Malaysian government is keener on executing prisoners than making just, reformist, progressive, positive changes in the law to uphold, promote, protect and defend human rights.

Until and unless Prime Minister Najib pull the brakes and halt ALL executions and impose a moratorium until law reforms have been made to safeguard the sanctity and the spirit of the right to life and human rights in Malaysia, Vision TN50 will be merely a hollow meaningless effort to transform Malaysia into a developed, progressive nation.

I urge the attorney-general, Prime Minister Najib and the PM’s Department to present the findings on the research to abolish the death penalty in the next cabinet meeting and in the same vein to propose and to impose a moratorium on ALL death row prisoners until the matter is brought to Parliament, debated and passed.

It is highly immoral, inhumane and a gross misconduct on the part of the Najib administration under the Barisan Nasional government to continue with executions on prisoners on death row when the attorney-general has not presented recommendations to the cabinet to amend laws on the mandatory death penalty.

Source: Malaysia Kini, K. Patto, May 24, 2017. The author is Member of Parliament for Batu Kawan, publicity secretary of Wanita DAP, member of the Parliamentarians for Global Action (PGA) for the Abolition of the Death Penalty, Democratic Action Party.

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Editorial: In step with the Nazis?

'A grotesque display of medieval torture.'
On Tuesday, a gay couple in Aceh was punished with 85 strokes of the cane — despite protests from human rights advocates — for violating the province’s Islamic bylaw that bans homosexuality. (See YouTube video below.)

In North Jakarta on Monday, police arrested 141 men for allegedly violating the 2008 Pornography Law, which bans, among others, the provision of porn or making people “objects or models” of porn — clauses that respectively carry a maximum penalty of six and 10 years imprisonment.

For the people of Aceh, the sharia option was allowed in its 2005 international peace agreement with the government, though its bylaws remain controversial, even in the province. But the latter incident, a raid on a gym, clearly shows strong support for authorities barging in on the private realm, even without Aceh’s moral police.

The Jakarta Police were backed up by the Pornography Law, itself the product of a war between secular- and religious groups, the latter of which won the war with the tacit approval of the administration of then president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

Critics’ fears materialized as the law, however vague, has been used by authorities and conservative parties to interfere in the private sphere, including sexuality. Sexual minorities are among the expected victims, with few sympathizers among our homophobic society — including those who recently joined shouts of, “Uphold the Pancasila,” referring to Indonesia’s state ideology, which promotes “a just and civilized humanity.”

Raids and arrests of allegedly gay people bring to mind past and present persecutions and criminalizations of sexual minorities. The most extreme example is perhaps the reportedly large portion of homosexuals among victims of the Nazi gas chambers.

Many of us think we are beyond such cruelty. Yet, the instant circulation of images of the mostly undressed men arrested in North Jakarta — being herded to police headquarters with some of their faces clearly visible — shows that Indonesians share similar homophobic sentiments with Nazi rulers. The leaked images were shared with exclamations of horror and support for the police, whom people praised for attempting to safeguard the youth and society from such “sinful” same-sex relations.

Continuous moral boosts for authorities to “protect” citizens’ morality will only endanger us as we virtually hand them a blank check to do so — just because police actions against gays are justified by the Pornography Law.

And like the Blasphemy Law, it further stigmatizes minorities, who, due to being “different,” find few effective channels to raise their voices. Religious groups claim that Indonesians, as God-fearing people, can in no way accept homosexuality. But, as Indonesia is not a religious state, authorities must keep out of the private realm, and limit religious issues to religious forums.

Following Monday’s raid, the police will need to, at least, clearly give proof of their allegations, including against the parties who allegedly made “objects of porn” out of the men. But by failing to protect the detainees’ privacy, the police are obviously riding on popularity based on widespread bigotry. Meaning, the National Police, under Gen. Tito Karnavian, have yet to safeguard the constitutional guarantee of our citizens’ basic human rights.





Source: The Jakarta Post, Editorial, May 24, 2017


Denunciations, arrests and convictions: The Nazi persecution of homosexuals


Before the storm: A gay couple photographed in Berlin in 1926. Source: Schwules Museum, Berlin.
Before the storm: A gay couple photographed in
Berlin in 1926. Source: Schwules Museum, Berlin.
The police work of tracking down suspected homosexuals depended largely on denunciations from ordinary citizens. Nazi propaganda that labeled homosexuals "antisocial parasites" and "enemies of the state" inflamed already existing prejudices. Citizens turned in men, often on the flimsiest evidence, for as many reasons as there were denunciations.

Reflecting on the dramatic rise of legal proceedings against homosexuals since 1933, Josef Meisinger of the Reich Central Office for Combating Homosexuality and Abortion proudly remarked in April 1937: "We must naturally also take into account the greater public readiness to report [homosexuality] as a result of National Socialist education."

Acting on the basis of these informants, the Gestapo and Criminal Police arbitrarily seized and questioned suspects as well as possible corroborating witnesses. Those denounced were often forced to give up names of friends and acquaintances, thereby becoming informants themselves. Where criminal proceedings once required a proved act, now a suggestive accusation sufficed.

During the Nazi era, some 100,000 men were arrested on violations of Paragraph 175 [criminalizing homosexuality]. Of these, nearly 78,000 were arrested during the three years between Heinrich Himmler's appointment as chief of German police in 1936 and the outbreak of World War II in 1939. The Gestapo and Criminal Police worked in tandem, occasionally in massive sweeps but more often as follow–up to individual denunciations.

Most victims were from the working class. Less able to afford private apartments or homes, they found partners in semi–public places that put them at greater risk of discovery, including by police entrapment.

As reports of the massive arrests spread, mostly by word of mouth, a pervasive atmosphere of fear enveloped Germany's homosexuals. Just as the state desired, the physical repression of a minority of homosexual men served to limit activities of the vast majority.

Of the estimated 100,000 men arrested under Paragraph 175 between 1933 and 1945, half were convicted of violating the law. Just as arrests rose precipitously after the 1935 revision of Paragraph 175, so, too, did conviction rates, reaching more than ten times those of the last years of the Weimar Republic and peaking at more than 8,500 in 1938. Prison sentences, the most common punishment in the Nazi persecution of homosexuals, varied with the sexual act involved and the individual's prior history.

For many, imprisonment meant hard labor, part of the Nazi "re–education" program. Conditions in German prisons, penitentiaries, and penal camps were notoriously wretched, and those incarcerated under Paragraph 175 faced both the brutality of the guards and the hatred of their fellow inmates.

In a small number of cases, medical experts testified that some homosexuality constituted a serious mental illness and danger to society. Under Paragraph 42b of the Reich Criminal Code, some men were institutionalized, a fate that could have disastrous consequences (including death) during the war.



New Police Taskforce to Target Indonesian Gays


Police in Indonesia’s most populous province plan to deploy a taskforce to investigate lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activity, a move likely to fuel concerns of a widening crackdown on the community in the Muslim-majority country.

West Java police chief Anton Charliyan disclosed the plan on Tuesday as two gay men in the province of Aceh were publicly flogged, and days after police raided a gay club in Jakarta and distributed photos of suspects to the media.

With the exception of Aceh, homosexuality is legal in Indonesia. Activists say, however, that police targeting of consensual gay sex has shone a light on discrimination and harassment in the world’s third-largest democracy.

Indonesia’s reputation for tolerance is already under scrutiny after Jakarta Governor Basuki Tjahaja Purnama, a Christian, was sentenced this month to two years in prison for blasphemy.

Responding to Sunday’s Jakarta raid, Charliyan told reporters in Bandung, the capital of West Java, a province with a population of about 47 million, that LGBT people suffered a “disease of the body and soul”.

He called on the public to report their activities.

“I hope there are no followers in West Java, no gay or LGBT lifestyle or tradition, Charliyan said. “If there’s anyone following it, they will face the law and heavy social sanctions. They will not be accepted in society.”

‘MORALS POLICE’


A leading LGBT activist slammed his remarks, which were confirmed in a recording provided to Reuters by journalists present when Charliyan spoke on Tuesday.

“Police have a mandate to follow the law. They are not the morals police,” said Yuli Rustinawati, chairperson of Arus Pelangi, an Indonesian LGBT activist organization.

In remarks on Wednesday, Charliyan said the police “taskforce” would include intelligence specialists and was particularly concerned with disrupting “secret parties”, the Detik news portal reported.

A national spokesman for the police, Setyo Wasisto, said the approach in West Java did not reflect a national strategy.

“It is enough for us to handle it as we do regularly,” he said.

Charliyan’s comments follow a spate of high-profile police actions against gay clubs and parties just as the country’s Constitutional Court is due to rule on a petition to outlaw homosexuality and adultery.

On Sunday, police detained 141 men and released photos of some of them in varying states of undress to the media, revealing many of their identities. Only 10 of the men have been declared suspects, five remain under investigation and 126 were released.

The police said the photos were released due to “procedural errors”, the Jakarta Post reported.

Rustinawati at Arus Pelangi said, however, the release of the images was part of a police pattern of publicly shaming of gay people.

NAMED AND SHAMED


The two Acehnese men, caned 82 times each on Tuesday, were punished in front of a crowd of more than 1,000. Semi-autonomous Aceh province is governed by sharia Islamic law.

Earlier, a video of the men, naked and distressed as they were apprehended by sharia police, was released and viewed widely on social media.

In Indonesia’s second-largest city of Surabaya in East Java, 14 gay men were arrested, tested for HIV and the results made public, Indonesian media reported.

“The police also release data – names and addresses,” said Rustinawati. “It’s humiliating and it puts LGBT people in danger.”

On Tuesday, North Jakarta police chief Dwiyono, who like many Indonesians has only one name, took journalists through the gay club raided on Sunday. As they climbed three floors, he pointed out a gym, a communal jacuzzi used for “striptease” and a cluster of cubicles for sex.

“This door can only be opened if you pay 185,000 rupiah ($14) to the receptionist,” he said. “In here, there’s no change room, you just tear off your clothes and use a towel.”

PUBLIC DISAPPROVAL


Indonesian President Joko Widodo last year gave qualified support for the gay community, telling the BBC that “there should be no discrimination against anyone”, before noting that homosexuality is not popular in his country.

However, his defense minister, Ryamizard Ryacudu, suggested that homosexuality was a national security threat and part of a “proxy war” waged against Indonesia by foreign states.

A Pew Research Center poll in 2013 found 93 percent of respondents in Indonesia disagreed that “society should accept homosexuality”.

Indonesia’s Islamist groups have long called for the criminalisation of gay sex. The Islamic Defenders Front (FPI), the vigilante group that led huge rallies against the now-convicted Jakarta governor, has cooperated with police in curbing alleged vice for more than a decade.

Source: coconuts.co, Tom Allard and Stefanno Reinard, May 24, 2017


Aceh promotes tourism at 2017 Bali Arts Festival and Buleleng Expo


After a successful tourism event in Yogyakarta last month, residents of Nanggroe Aceh Darussalam province traveled to Bali to take part in the 2017 Bali Arts Festival and Buleleng Expo that was held from May 17 to 21 in Singaraja, Bali.

“We are promoting Aceh as a halal tourist destination, or what is now called family-friendly,” said Aceh Tourism Agency head Reza Pahlevi.

Members of the Cut Nyak Dhien Meuligo studio under the mentorship of Niazah A. Hamid traveled to Bali to showcase some of Aceh’s most famous traditional dances, such as the Prang Sabil and Saman dances.

The Saman Dance was recognized by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. It was also briefly featured in British band Coldplay’s Amazing Day Global Film Project video.

The Aceh Tourism Agency also set up a booth at the Buleleng Expo involving two travel agencies: Aceh Great Wall Tour and Asoe Nanggroe Wisata. The two of them sold tourist packages and local products such as coffee, traditional costumes and souvenirs.

Tourism Minister Arief Yahya said that the halal tourism market has experienced growth since 2014. Of the estimated global population of 7.5 billion people, around 1.6 billion are Muslim and 60 percent of them are below 30 years old.

“The total spending of Muslim tourists in the world is US$143 billion, almost equal to the spending of Chinese tourists of $160 billion,” said Arief Yahya.

Source: Jakarta Post, May 22, 2017

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