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Iran: The death penalty is an inhumane punishment for death row prisoners, their families and society as a whole

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"Whether guilty or not, the outcome of the death penalty is the same. In Iran, the death penalty is by hanging, and it takes from several agonising seconds to several harrowing minutes for death to occur and for everything to be over."

Every year several hundred people are executed by the Iranian authorities.
According to reports by Iran Human Rights (IHR) and other human rights groups, death row prisoners have often no access to a defence lawyer after their arrest and are sentenced to death following unfair trials and based on confessions extracted from them under torture. 
These are issues which have been addressed in IHR’s previous reports. The current report is based on first-hand accounts of several inmates held in Iran's prisons and their families. The report seeks to illustrate other aspects of how the death penalty affects the inmate, their families and, as a consequence, society.
How does a death row inmate experience his final hours?
Speaking about the final ho…

Saudi Arabia: Executions for Drug Crimes

Public beheading of Burmese woman in Saudi Arabia
Crown Prince Signals Possible Limit on Non-Murder Executions

Saudi Arabia has executed 48 people since the beginning of 2018, 1/2 of them for nonviolent drug crimes, Human Rights Watch said today. Many more people convicted of drug crimes remain on death row following convictions by Saudi Arabia's notoriously unfair criminal justice system.

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman said in an interview with Time magazine on April 5, that the Saudi authorities have a plan to decrease the number of executions, but that they would not limit executions to people convicted of murder. Nearly all executions in Saudi Arabia that are not for murder are for non-violent drug crimes. The prince said the country would consider changing the penalty from death to life in prison in some cases, but not in murder cases.

It's bad enough that Saudi Arabia executes so many people, but many of them have not committed a violent crime," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Any plan to limit drug executions needs to include improvements to a justice system that doesn't provide for fair trials."

Saudi Arabia has carried out nearly 600 executions since the beginning of 2014, over 200 of them in drug cases. The vast majority of the remainder were for murder, but other offenses included rape, incest, terrorism, and "sorcery."

In Saudi Arabia, death sentences for murder are usually based on the Islamic law principle qisas, or eye-for-an-eye retributive punishment, while judges hand down death sentences for drugs at their own discretion (the Islamic law principle ta'zir). Judges rely on a 1987 fatwa by the country's Council of Senior Religious Scholars prescribing the death penalty for any "drug smuggler" who brings drugs into the country, as well as provisions of the 2005 Law on Combatting Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances, which prescribes the death penalty for drug smuggling. The law allows for mitigated sentences in limited circumstances.

International standards, including the Arab Charter on Human Rights, ratified by Saudi Arabia, require countries that retain the death penalty to use it only for the "most serious crimes," and in exceptional circumstances. In 2012, the United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions stated that where used, the death penalty should be limited to cases in which a person is intentionally killed and not used to punish drug-related offenses.

Human Rights Watch has documented numerous cases in which Saudi courts sentenced defendants to death following unfair trials. In one such case, a Saudi court sentenced a Jordanian man, Waleed al-Saqqar, to death in December 2014 for smuggling drugs across the Saudi border from Jordan in his truck.

The judgment following al-Saqqar's trial reveals that the trial lasted only 1 day, and a source with direct knowledge of the case told Human Rights Watch that the entire trial lasted about 5 minutes. The source said that a judge asked al-Saqqar to confirm his identity and state whether the truck belonged to him, then issued the death sentence. Al-Saqqar did not have a defense lawyer.

The source said that the judge did not allow al-Saqqar a chance to explain the circumstances, which he viewed as a mitigating factor. The source said that in April 2013 al-Saqqar met a Saudi man at the Jordanian Free Zone near Zarqa city who offered to pay him 300,000 Saudi Riyals (US$80,000) to smuggle several bags of agricultural hormones to Saudi Arabia. The Saudi man said that his workers were urgently waiting for them and would need them before he could get permission from the Saudi Heath and Agricultural Ministries to legally import them. Al-Saqqar agreed to the arrangement.

On April 11, 2013, Saudi authorities stopped al-Saqqar after he entered Saudi Arabia from Jordan at the al-Haditha border crossing and searched the truck. According to the trial judgment, the authorities discovered 144,000 pills identified as captagon (fenethylline), a banned substance in Saudi Arabia. According to the official judgment al-Saqqar assisted Saudi authorities in an attempt to locate and apprehend the person inside Saudi Arabia responsible for receiving the drugs, but authorities were not able to apprehend him.

The source said that the case remains on appeal. The appeals court, the Saudi Supreme Court, and the Saudi royal court must approve the judgment before the sentence can be carried out. Al-Saqqar primarily is in Al-Qarrayat General Prison in northern Saudi Arabia.

Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman
In another case, a Pakistani man, Safdar Iqbal, told Justice Project Pakistan in December 2015 that men affiliated with the Pakistani agency that gave him his Saudi visa invaded his Karachi hotel room. He said the men forced him to swallow heroin capsules to smuggle into Saudi Arabia, beating him with guns and threatening to kill him and his family.

Saudi authorities apprehended him in February 2011 when he landed at Dammam's King Fahd International Airport. He said that a court convicted him after 4 hearings, and that he did not dispute a 15-year sentence because it was better than the death penalty. Later, however, officials informed him that an appeals court had increased his sentence to death. Iqbal did not have a defense lawyer and said that the judges did not attempt to investigate his claim that he was coerced to smuggle the pills. He was held in Dammam prison and executed on October 18, 2017.

Human Rights Watch has documented longstanding due process violations in Saudi Arabia's criminal justice system that makes it difficult for a defendant to get a fair trial even in capital cases. In cases Human Rights Watch has analyzed, authorities did not always inform suspects of the charges against them or allow them access to evidence, even after trial sessions began.

Authorities generally did not allow lawyers to assist suspects during interrogation and often impeded them from examining witnesses and presenting evidence at trial. The problems were compounded for non-Arabic speaking foreigners, who in the absence of a lawyer face overwhelming obstacles to understanding court procedures and submitting defense documents.

The Death Penalty Worldwide Database, which collects information on executions across the globe, shows that Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world and applies the death penalty to a range of offenses that do not constitute "most serious crimes," including drug offenses, adultery, sorcery, and apostasy. Saudi Arabia trails only Iran in the Middle East in the number of its executions.

Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all countries and under all circumstances. Capital punishment is unique in its cruelty and finality, and it is inevitably and universally plagued with arbitrariness, prejudice, and error.

In 2013, following similar resolutions in 2007, 2008, and 2010, the UN General Assembly called on countries to establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, progressively restrict the practice, and reduce the offenses for which it might be imposed, all with the view toward its eventual abolition. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has also called on countries to abolish the death penalty.

Source: Human Rights Watch, April 27, 2018


Saudi Arabia executed 48 people in 3 months


Medieval: Public beheading in Saudi Arabia
Human Rights Watch said Saudi Arabia has executed 48 people so far in 2018, half of them for non-violent drug crimes.

Many more people convicted of drug crimes remain on death row following convictions by Saudi Arabia's notoriously unfair criminal justice system.

The Death Penalty Worldwide Database, which collects information on executions across the globe, shows that Saudi Arabia has one of the highest execution rates in the world and applies the death penalty to a range of offences that do not constitute "most serious crimes," including drug offences, adultery, sorcery, and apostasy.

Saudi Arabia trails only Iran in the Middle East in in the number of its executions.

Human Rights Watch opposes capital punishment in all countries and under all circumstances. Capital punishment is unique in its cruelty and finality, and it is inevitably and universally plagued with arbitrariness, prejudice, and error.

In 2013, following similar resolutions in 2007, 2008, and 2010, the UN General Assembly called on countries to establish a moratorium on the use of the death penalty, progressively restrict the practice, and reduce the offences for which it might be imposed, all with the view toward its eventual abolition. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has also called on countries to abolish the death penalty

In an interview with Time Magazine last month, reformist Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said in a few areas Saudi laws can be changed to life in prison sentences instead of executions.

"We are working for 2 years through the government and also the Saudi parliament to build new laws in that area. And we believe it will take 1 year, maybe a little bit more, to have it finished," he told Time Magazine.

Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at HRW, said: "Any plan to limit drug executions needs to include improvements to a justice system that doesn't provide for fair trials."

Saudi Arabia has gone through a series of reforms in the last year, but international human rights groups urge the kingdom to make changes to its treatment of human rights advocates, to stop executions and cancel its pervasive system of male guardianship.

Saudi Arabia has carried out nearly 600 executions since the beginning of 2014, over 200 of them in drug cases, HRW said.

Source: tvcnews.tv, April 27, 2018


Nepali on death row in Saudi Arabia: Pakistani family agrees to grant clemency


Medieval: Public beheading in Saudi Arabia
A Nepali man convicted in Saudi Arabia for a murder of a Pakistani national has been given clemency by the victim's family. Umesh Yadav, of Dhanusha district, has been doing time in Saudi Arabian Jail.

The victim's family agreed to grant clemency to Yadav after Saroj Raya, who went to Faisalabad in Pakistan to seek pardon on behalf of Umesh, reached a settlement to pay blood money following amicable talks. It has been learnt that the assailant's side agreed to pay the blood money. However, the amount of blood money has not been disclosed.

Yadav was accused of murdering Pakistani man Mohammad Lucky Asif 11 years ago. 6 years ago a local court of Saudi Arabian had sentenced Yadav to death.

Mohammad's elder brother Safik said they decided to pardon Yadav despite the agony of his brother's death. "We are suffering our brother's loss, and it was really bad for us. But we still granted pardon in the name of Allah," he said.

Pakistani lawyer Mohamed Nawas, who play a role in the reconciliation between the 2 families, said the victim's family have shown their big heart. "We Pakistanis are people with big heart. This has been proven by the victim's family," he said.

Saroj Raya, who reached Faisalabad in Pakistan to negotiate a settlement with the victim's family, expressed his joy, saying that his mission has been accomplished.

"Finally, we have been able to save Umesh from death penalty. The victim's family has accepted blood money," he said. "I express my gratitude to all the friends who helped in this endeavour."

Source: Kathmandu Post, April 27, 2018


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

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