Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Final Declaration 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty Oslo, 23 June 2016

Final Declaration
6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty
Oslo, 23 June 2016


The participants in the 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty, organised in Oslo (Norway) from 21 to 23 June 2016 by the organisation Ensemble Contre la Peine de Mort(ECPM) under the sponsorship of Norway, Australia and France, and in partnership with the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, hereby

ADOPT the present Declaration following three days of intense debates, exchanges of experiences, testimonies, films;

- that the abolitionist movement is expanding in a world where almost 3/4 of countries have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice; - that many abolitionist states and intergovernmental organisations joined the international abolitionist movement and that retentionist states at the congress also expressed their interest in the movement;

- that since the Madrid World Congress in 2013, 6 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes Madagascar, Mongolia, Nauru, Fiji, the Republic of Congo, and Surinam; that the trend toward abolition in the USA continues;

- that the abolitionist movement continues to grow and diversify, with the 158 ,member-strong World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, and states, regional and national coalitions, uniting organisations and actors from civil society, parliamentarian networks, academic networks, national human rights institutions, businesses and unions, and journalists, all joining forces to promote the abolition of the death penalty;

- that some abolitionist states are integrating the question of universal abolition into their international relations policies;

- that ties are being strengthened among actors from civil society and intergovernmental, regional, and international organisations with the aim of establishing or reinforcing the state of law;

- that major economic international actors such as Pfizer or Richard Branson (founder of the Virgin group) are taking a public stance against the death penalty;

- that there are positive announcements like those of the Vice-Ministers of Justice of the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mongolia that they will vote for the moratorium at the United Nations next December;

- that the realisation of the scope and the seriousness of the damage caused by the death penalty to the families and loved ones of the condemned, of the victims, and of other members of society.

- that the re-emergence of terrorist violence on a global scale is used as a pretext by certain governments such as Egypt, to justify the retention of the death penalty to supress opposition movements;

- that according to Amnesty International; 58 countries and territories retain the death penalty, and often apply it in an arbitrary manner;

- that in 2015, 1634 persons were executed in the world, notably in Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, the United States, although these statistics do not include the unknown number of people executed in China;

- that the retention of the death penalty for drug trafficking is in total contradiction to UNODC recommendations and to findings established during the UNGASS in April 2016 in New York. Indeed, UN member states agreed on the failure of “war on drugs” policies, founded solely on a repressive vision;

- that certain countries have resumed executions after lengthy moratoriums, such as Indonesia, Pakistan or Chad;

- that the death penalty is still applied to juvenile offenders and people with intellectual disabilities; that it is applied in a discriminatory manner according to ethnic, social, national or religious origin, skin colour, and sexual orientation;

- that more often than not, as a direct consequence of their status, death row prisoners often suffer deplorable incarceration conditions which violate human dignity and often represent an inhuman and degrading treatment,.



Intergovernmental Organisations and International Organisations:
- to continue and intensify their cooperation with states and civil society to promote the universal abolition of the death penalty;

- to integrate issues relating to the retention of the death penalty in the discussions between UNODC and all stakeholders;

- to systematically integrate, whenever relevant, the death penalty in the work done by UN special rapporteurs, especially on terrorism, extrajudicial executions, torture, migrants, and extreme poverty;

- to adopt; as soon as possible, regional instruments, such as the Additional Protocol to the African Charter of Human and People’s Rights on abolition of the death penalty;

States present at the Oslo Congress:
- to stand by the commitments made during the congress especially the commitment of Guinea to promulgate a Penal Code without the death penalty on 1 July 2016;

Retentionist states to commit:
- to drastically reduce the scope of crimes punishable by death in their legislation and, in the immediate future, to abolish the mandatory death penalty where it exists and discuss alternative solutions which recognise each person’s ability to make amends;

-to respect the International Convention on the Rights of Children, and to renounce the use of the death penalty for minors and those who were minors at the time of the commission of the crime;

- to collect and publish regular and reliable and independent information on the manner in which they apply the death penalty and on the state of public opinion on the death penalty and on alternative punishments;

- to take the path toward the abolition of capital punishment by implementing a moratorium on death sentences and executions, in compliance with the resolution for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty voted by the General Assembly of the United Nations since 2007, and to follow the 81 countries that have already ratified the UN Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

- to guarantee competent counsel for indigent capital defendants Abolitionist states:

- to make guarantees, beyond speeches, regarding concrete and visible actions in favour of the universal abolition of the death penalty, specifically by imposing consequences for the violation of these guarantees upon the resumption or the continuation of their diplomatic and economic relations with retentionist countries;

- to sign and ratify the UN Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights;

- to make the financial aid they grant to the international war on drug trafficking conditional upon the non-application of capital punishment

- to promote and guarantee respect for fundamental human rights in the struggle against terrorism, including renunciation of the death penalty

- to support actors in civil society working in favour of abolition;

- vote in favour of the UNGASS resolution calling for a universal moratorium on capital punishment in 2016.

- from across the world to gather in regional, national, and international networks to carry the abolitionist debate into the heart of retentionist parliaments;

- from abolitionist states to help their colleagues from retentionist states to propose abolitionist bills.

National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs):
- to systematically add questions on the death penalty to their agendas and to encourage their states to abolish the death penalty vote in favour of the UNGASS resolution calling for a universal moratorium on capital punishment in 2016..

In retentionist countries,
- lawyers to seek further training in order to better defend clients facing the death penalty;

- prosecutors not to ask for imposition of the death penalty;

- judges to exercise their power of discretion to not impose any death sentences and to encourage non-professional juries to do the same.

Economic and cultural actors:
- to strengthen their commitment in order to vigorously proclaim that the application of an archaic and degrading punishment is harmful to the harmonious development of the economy, tourism, and cultural exchanges.

Abolitionist actors from civil society:
- to act in unison, by joining the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, to strengthen abolitionist collaborations, or other organisations such as the International Network of Universities Against the Death Penalty;

- carry out awareness-raising and educational campaigns on abolition for the public, political decision-makers, and students, joining the international network for education and participating in the annual World Day Against the Death Penalty on 10th October and for the “Cities for Life” on 30th November.


23 June 2016

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Kho Jabing v Attorney-General[2016] SGCA 37 (20/5/2016) - refusal of stay of execution?

# There was an application filed at the High Court - which had not been argued and decided by court. Kho Jabing's lawyers filed for a Stay of Execution - and this was just the appeal to Court of Appeal - so that the execution will be delayed until Kho Jabing's suit at the High Court could be heard and disposed off. But, the Court of Appeal decided to not grant the Stay - and Kho Jabing was executed speedily on the same day, 20/5/2016. 

His High Court case remained unheard - was this Justice? No, it was not - they stay should have been granted, and the High Court case should been heard. 

Now, even if Kho Jabing is successful, it will not matter. The case will be there until the lawyers can get instructions as to what to do - Kho Jabing cannot give instructions any more. So, they will have to wait until the Courts appoint and Executor or an Administrator of the Estate of Kho Jabing...

Kho Jabing v Attorney-General[2016] SGCA 37 
Court of Appeal — Civil Appeal No 73 of 2016
Chao Hick Tin JA, Andrew Phang Boon Leong JA, Woo Bih Li J, Lee Seiu Kin J and Chan Seng Onn J 
20 May 2016 

Chao Hick Tin JA (delivering the judgment of the court ex tempore):
1 We last saw the appellant yesterday. He had attended before us for the urgent hearing of his second application to set aside the sentence of death imposed on him. That application proceeded by way of a criminal motion to reopen a concluded criminal appeal and it had been filed on Wednesday evening. We heard his application and we dismissed it. After we delivered judgment in that matter, we learnt that yesterday morning – even before we had urgently convened to hear his second application – he had filed two separate originating summonses in the High Court seeking a series of declarations that various provisions in the Penal Code (Cap 224, 2008 Rev Ed) and the Penal Code (Amendment) Act 2012 (Act 32 of 2012) (“Amendment Act”) are unconstitutional. One originating summons was eventually withdrawn. We will come to the details shortly, but it suffices to say for now that he seeks these declarations in order that he might obtain a stay of execution of the sentence of death that is to be carried out today. Once again, an urgent hearing was convened and a Judicial Commissioner heard arguments late into the evening and at about 9.00pm last night, the Judicial Commissioner dismissed the application. An urgent appeal was filed at 10.19pm the same night. This is the appeal now before us. 

2 This case has been about many things. But today, it is about the abuse of the process of the court. In a 19th century decision of the House of Lords called The Rev. Oswald Joseph Reichel, Clerk (Pauper) v The Rev John Richard Magrath, Provost of Queen’s College, Oxford University (1889) 14 App Cas 665 at 688, Lord Halsbury LC said that

… it would be a scandal to the administration of justice if, the same question having been disposed of by one case, the litigant were to be permitted by changing the form of the proceedings to set up the same case again.

This is precisely what has happened here. The applicant has tried twice to obtain relief by engaging the criminal jurisdiction of this court. After his applications were dismissed, he has gone away and sought relief by means of a civil action. This cannot be allowed. Yesterday, we said that no court in the world would allow an applicant to prolong matters ad infinitum through the filing of multiple applications. This principle applies here. And it applies with greater force because what the appellant seeks to do is to use the civil jurisdiction of the court to mount a collateral attack on a decision made by the court in the exercise of its criminal jurisdiction. Indeed, what the appellant has tried to do is even worse, for he has come to this court presenting arguments which are largely the same as, if not identical with, the arguments he presented in his criminal motions.What the appellant has done today, if allowed, would throw the whole system of justice into disrepute. 

3 We will return to these points in a moment. But first, we propose to deal with a preliminary matter. When Mr Dodwell appeared before us, he sought to impress upon us that this appeal concerns only the decision of the Judicial Commissioner not to grant an interim stay. He therefore submits that there is no basis for us to consider the substantive merits of the application. We disagree. In the course of oral arguments, Mr Dodwell referred to the decision of the Privy Council in Thomas Reckley v Minister of Public Safety and Immigration and others [1995] 2 AC 491. There, the Privy Council was asked to grant a stay of a scheduled execution pending the determination of an eleventh hour constitutional challenge. The Privy Council said, and here we quote (at 496H- 497A):

Their Lordships accept that, if the constitutional motion raises  a real issue for determination, it must be right for the courts to grant a stay prohibiting the carrying out of a sentence of death  pending the determination of the constitutional motion. But it does not follow that there is an automatic right to a stay in all  cases. If it is demonstrated that the constitutional motion is plainly and obviously bound to fail, those proceedings will be  vexatious and could be struck out. If it can be demonstrated to the court from whom a stay of execution is sought that the  constitutional motion is vexatious as being plainly and obviously ill-founded, then in their Lordships' view it is right for  the court to refuse a stay even in death penalty cases.

4 We therefore hold that the merits of the present originating summons are clearly relevant to this appeal. We turn to summarise the appellant’s arguments. He has raised a number of arguments in support of his appeal but, so far as we understand it, he has put forward three principal contentions. These are: 

(a) One, the test set out by this court for determining when a sentence of death should be imposed is too vague and lacks that quality of certainty required for it to be considered “law” within the meaning of Art 9(1) of the Constitution of the Republic of Singapore (1985 Rev Ed, 1999 Reprint) (“the Constitution”). 

(b) Two, the re-sentencing regime is unconstitutional because it has: (i) denied the appellant the right to a fair trial in violation of Art 9(1) of the Constitution; (ii) subjected him to retrospective punishment contrary to Art 11 of the Constitution; and (iii) treated him unequally in violation of Art 12(1) the Constitution. 

(c) Three, he says that this court had acted without jurisdiction in hearing the Prosecution’s appeal against his sentence in 2015 because the Prosecution has no right of appeal against a sentence of life imprisonment and caning imposed by the High Court (in lieu of a sentence of death) in an application for re-sentencing. 

5 We begin with the argument on vagueness. There are three reasons why this argument must fail. First, this is the exact argument he brought before us previously, in his first criminal motion he filed last year (CM 24/2015”) and we rejected this submission at [87]–[90] of our judgment delivered this April (Kho Jabing v Public Prosecutor [2016] SGCA 21 (“Kho Jabing”). To this, Mr Dodwell could only say that we did not look at the matter through “constitutional goggles” and that this makes a difference. This was a constant refrain we heard throughout the hearing but we reject this submission as being wholly without merit. An estoppel arises when a court of competent jurisdiction has determined some question of fact or law in previous litigation between the same parties. The question raised by the appellant last year, and the question which he raises now, is whether the test was too vague. We said it was not. This is a matter which is res judicata.

6 Second, it is plainly wrong to say that the test is not sufficiently precise and hence is unconstitutional. In our decision in April this year, we explained that the inquiry is whether the offender has displayed so “blatant [a] disregard for human life” and whether his actions are so “grievous an affront to humanity and so abhorrent” that the death penalty should be imposed. To put it simply, the “outrage test” calls on the court to do what it always does in any sentencing exercise, which is to determine whether the punishment fits the crime. This test, like any test set out in the realm of sentencing, provides useful signposts and guidance to future courts. They are there to improve, rather than detract from, the principle of consistency in sentencing. 

7 Third, the vagueness of which the appellant complains is no more than the indeterminacy that is inherent in the sentencing exercise. In our judgment in April this year, we said that sentencing is an “intensely difficult exercise, and… reasonable persons can, and often do, disagree as to what the appropriate sentence ought to be” (see Kho Jabing at [102]). That should not be surprising, because sentencing is not a mathematical exercise. In fact, the appellant himself urged us to adopt an even vaguer test last year. He said we should hold that the death penalty should only be reserved for cases which are the “rarest of the rare” (see Kho Jabing at [87]). This formulation, in our judgment, is far worse than the outrage test we have advanced. It does not offer any guidance to lower courts or to accused persons. 

8 We now turn to the second main argument, which is the argument that the re-sentencing process has violated his constitutional rights. He says this is so for a number of reasons, and we propose to deal with them in sequence. First, he says it violates his right to a fair trial under Art 9 of the Constitution, for he was denied a right to lead evidence which might be relevant to the question of his sentence. This is plainly not true for one simple reason. As we explained at [95]–[97] of the judgment we delivered in April, the appellant had expressly declined to lead further evidence when he appeared before the High Court Judge who heard his re-sentencing application. When he appeared before us in the appeal in 2015, he could have made a fresh application to lead further evidence, but he did not. Having not done so, he cannot now say that he had been denied a right to a fair trial. 

9 Second, he says that his right under Art 11(1) of the Constitution has been infringed. However, we cannot see how Art 11 is at all relevant here. Article 11 embodies a central principle in the law, which is that no person may be punished for an act which was not a crime at the time he committed it nor may a person be subject to greater punishment for an offence than was prescribed by law at the time the offence was committed. What it does not prohibit is the retrospective lowering of a sentence. This was precisely what Parliament did when it passed the Amendment Act – it gave the appellant and other offenders in a similar situation a new lease on life. There is absolutely no basis for saying that Art 11 has been violated. 

10 Third, he says that his right to equal treatment under Art 12(1) has been violated. This argument, as far as we understand it, proceeds as follows. He says that he has been treated unfairly as compared to persons who were sentenced to death at first instance. Such persons, he contends, have the benefit of a review of a death sentence by the Court of Appeal, whether by way of an ordinary appeal or through a petition of confirmation under ss 394A and 394B of the Criminal Procedure Code (Cap 68, 2012 Rev Ed). The fact that he did not have such an opportunity, he submits, amounts to unfair treatment. In our judgment, this argument is wholly misconceived. 

11 The Criminal Procedure Code says that all sentences of death cannot be carried out on a convicted person until two tiers of courts have reviewed the matter of the person’s sentence. This is exactly what the appellant has received in this case. The appellant has been treated no differently from any accused person before or after the passage of the Amendment Act. He is eligible to one hearing in the High Court, in which the matter of his sentence will be considered, subject to an appeal to the Court of Appeal. The fact that he has been sentenced to death by the Court of Appeal rather than the High Court is not relevant. Indeed, there have been cases where the Court of Appeal has overturned an acquittal by the High Court and convicted the accused on appeal and imposed the death sentence. One such case is Public Prosecutor v Ilechukwu Uchechukwu Chukwudi [2015] SGCA 33. 

12 Finally, we turn to the third principal contention, which is that we lacked jurisdiction to hear the Prosecution’s appeal against his sentence in 2015. We note that this issue was not raised in oral argument. This is the exact argument which was raised in CM 24/2015 and which we rejected. This may be seen at [82]–[83] of the judgment we delivered in April. 

13 In conclusion, the arguments raised by the appellant before us are the same arguments raised in CM 24/2015, sometimes presented in new wineskins, sometimes not, but the substance of the arguments is entirely the same. This is merely, in the words of our judgment in CM 24/2015 (see Kho Jabing [78]), “an attempt to re-litigate a matter which had already been fully argued and thoroughly considered.” We consider that no real issues of any merit have been raised under the originating summons filed. For the reasons we have stated, the originating summons is plainly misconceived and obviously bound to fail. Accordingly, we dismiss the appeal.

14 Before we rise, we note that Mr Dodwell has brought our attention to a series of correspondence between the appellant’s solicitors and the President’s office. From the documents shown to us, it is clear that the President has taken the stand that the clemency process has been completed. We cannot see how further correspondence from the solicitors changes the position. 

Judges: - Chao Hick Tin(CA Judge), Andrew Phang Boon Leong(CA Judge),  Woo Bih Li, Lee Seiu Kin, Chan Seng Onn
Alfred Dodwell (Dodwell & Co LLC) (instructed), Chong Yean Yoong Jeannette-Florina (Archilex Law Corporation) for the applicant;
Francis Ng, Mohamed Faizal, and Zhuo Wenzhao (Attorney-General’s Chambers) for the respondent

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Abolish Death Penalty as it is an hope-less punishment - Pope Francis

A punishment for person who has committed a crime is for the purpose of getting the person's repentance and to rehabilitate him/her for reintroduction into society, and, as such the Death Penalty fails to satisfy the object of a punishment. Hence, another good reason why the death penalty needs to be abolished.

In the recent  Sixth World Congress Against the Death Penalty that was held in Oslo, Norway from 21-23 June 2016, one of the persons who gave an opening address was Pope Francis, and he did say some things that matter and deserve our consideration. His Message is found here..

“Rendering justice” does not mean seeking punishment for its own sake, but ensuring that the basic purpose of all punishment is the rehabilitation of the offender. The question must be dealt with within the larger framework of a system of penal justice open to the possibility of the guilty party’s reinsertion in society. There is no fitting punishment without hope! Punishment for its own sake, without room for hope, is a form of torture, not of punishment.

Message of His Holiness Pope Francis

Sixth World Congress Against the Death Penalty

Oslo, 21-23 June 2016
I greet the organizers of this World Congress against the death penalty, the group of countries supporting it, particularly Norway as its host country, and all those representatives of governments, international organizations and civil society taking part in it. I likewise express my personal appreciation, along with that of men and women of goodwill, for your commitment to a world free of the death penalty.
One sign of hope is that public opinion is manifesting a growing opposition to the death penalty, even as a means of legitimate social defence.  Indeed, nowadays the death penalty is unacceptable, however grave the crime of the convicted person. It is an offence to the inviolability of life and to the dignity of the human person; it likewise contradicts God’s plan for individuals and society, and his merciful justice.  Nor is it consonant with any just purpose of punishment. It does not render justice to victims, but instead fosters vengeance. The commandment “Thou shalt not kill” has absolute value and applies both to the innocent and to the guilty.
The Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy is an auspicious occasion for promoting worldwide ever more evolved forms of respect for the life and dignity of each person. It must not be forgotten that the inviolable and God-given right to life also belongs to the criminal.
Today I would encourage all to work not only for the abolition of the death penalty, but also for the improvement of prison conditions, so that they fully respect the human dignity of those incarcerated“Rendering justice” does not mean seeking punishment for its own sake, but ensuring that the basic purpose of all punishment is the rehabilitation of the offender. The question must be dealt with within the larger framework of a system of penal justice open to the possibility of the guilty party’s reinsertion in society. There is no fitting punishment without hope! Punishment for its own sake, without room for hope, is a form of torture, not of punishment.
I trust that this Congress can give new impulse to the effort to abolish capital punishment. For this reason, I encourage all taking part to carry on this great initiative and I assure them of my prayers.

Source: Vatican Radio website

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Malaysia one step closer to end of the death penalty?

Wednesday, 22 June 2016 | MYT 10:49 AM

Nancy: Malaysia one step closer to amending death penalty

KUCHING: Malaysia is one step closer to amending the mandatory death sentence, Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri (pic) said.

Nancy told the World Congress Against The Death Penalty in Oslo, Norway, recently that a government-backed study on the death penalty had been completed and a paper is being readied by the Attorney General’s Chambers.

“There are positive signs in Malaysia and a steady momentum towards possible change in the death penalty legislation,” Nancy said.

The study was conducted by the International Centre For Law and Legal Studies (I-CeLLS). The consultant was then Professor Dr Roger Hood, Professor of Criminology and Emeritus Fellow of All Souls College Oxford.

Currently, in Malaysia, the death penalty is mandatory for 12 offences while 20 other offences are punishable with discretionary death penalty.

Murder, drug trafficking, and offences related to security are instances of offences which are punishable with death.

However, Nancy said empirical studies showed that the death penalty had not led to “the deterring effect that such a penalty was created”.

“Although Malaysia is generally in compliance with international standards in so far as the relevant safeguards (on capital punishment) are concerned, Malaysia’s position on death penalty has always been subjected to national and international criticisms.”

The global anti-death congress was the sixth edition. Nancy expressed her “deepest appreciation to Norway” for inviting Malaysia to participate. - Star, 22/6/2016

Similar report also in Borneo Post below..

Malaysia one step closer to end of the death penalty

KUCHING: The country is a step closer towards amending its mandatory death sentence, said Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri.

When addressing the 6th World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Oslo, Norway, she mentioned that the Attorney General’s (AG) Chambers had completed a comprehensive study on the death penalty issue that will be prepared for the government’s consideration.

The study – a comprehensive review on the laws and practices of the death penalty in Malaysia – has been undertaken by the International Centre For law and Legal Studies (I-CeLLS). The consultant was world renowned expert on death penalty Dr Roger Hood, a Professor of Criminology and Emeritus Fellow of all Souls College Oxford.

“There are positive signs in Malaysia, and a steady momentum towards possible change in the death penalty legislation,” she said when delivering her intervention note at the congress recently.

The de-facto law minister added that at present, the death penalty in the country is mandatory for 12 offences whilst 20 other offences are punishable with discretionary death penalty. Murder, drug trafficking and offences relating to security are instances of offences which are punishable with mandatory death penalty.

“Malaysia does have some safeguards in law and practice to protect the rights of the accused facing the death penalty, inter alia, the right to be promptly informed of the nature of the charge preferred against him, right to legal representative of his own choice and also the right for hearing by a competent, independent, and impartial tribunal,” she continued.

Nancy pointed out that although Malaysia is generally in compliance with international standards insofar as the relevant safeguards (capital punishment) are concerned, its position on death penalty has always been subjected to national and international criticisms.

“Amongst the criticisms, although the death penalty has its place, it should be implemented in the most serious of crimes and where there is no reasonable doubt that the accused is guilty. Further, there had been no empirical studies to prove that the death penalty didn’t have the deterring effect that such a penalty was hoped to create,” she explained.

Malaysia was invited to participate in the sixth edition of the congress which takes place from June 21 till 23. - Borneo Post, 22/6/2016

Not Islamic for Malaysia to retain death penalty for drug trafficking?

Interesting read that really may make the execution of drug traffickers not consistent with Islam....this would really another reason why death penalty in Malaysia, especially from drug trafficking, should be abolished....

As stated, an opinion expressed in a publication....

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Questioning the death penalty in Malaysia - AI (Star)

Sunday, 19 June 2016 | MYT 8:10 AM

Questioning the death penalty

Most of what the punishment does is show that the government is tough. But it doesn’t make a difference. - Salil Shetty
Most of what the punishment does is show that the government is tough. But it doesn’t make a difference. - Salil Shetty
Amnesty International secretary-general Salil Shetty feels it’s time for Malaysia to join the abolitionists, saying there is no evidence the death penalty is an effective deterrent.

RIGHT now, more than 1,000 prisoners in Malaysia are waiting to know if they will be executed for their crimes or have their lives spared. 
These death row inmates, according to the Prisons Department, are yet to be sent to the gallows as their cases are pending appeals, with the court or state pardon boards. 

But as their fate continues to hang in the balance, Amnesty International (AI) is urging Malaysia to join the ranks of the growing number of countries that have put an end to the death penalty. 

Its secretary-general Salil Shetty is also calling on the Malaysian Government to impose a moratorium on all death row cases while it is deliberating whether to do away with the penalty for good. 

In fact, he even goes on to say that it is “fictional” that capital punishments can deter crimes, including terrorism. “There is no evidence in the world to show that the death penalty is a deterrent. 

Almost every study we have seen questions that. “Most of what the punishment does is show that the government is tough. But it doesn’t make a difference,” says the human rights activist. 

The 55-year-old adds that Canada’s crime rate had even dipped after it abolished the death sentence. Salil says the reason why AI is against the death penalty is because it is fundamentally against the right to life. “This is especially if a country’s criminal justice system is not up to mark and skewed against poorer people who cannot afford lawyers,” he says. 

The long-term activist on poverty and justice was in Malaysia as one of the co-chairpersons for the World Economic Forum for Asean in Kuala Lumpur recently.

In his frank and no-holds-barred manner, Salil says there is a need for more transparency on the number of executions in Malaysia. “We only get statistics when a question is asked in Parliament. 

According to the Government, there have been 33 prisoners executed between 1998 and 2015,” he says. 

Salil adds that the death penalty is not justified even if used to stem the growing threat of the Islamic State terrorist group. “I just came back from Iraq, which is one of the prolific users of the death penalty. 

Has it reduced terrorism there?” he questions. On whether life imprisonment is a more viable option, Salil says AI does not recommend punishments in the generic sense. “Punishments have to be proportional with the crime, and must be in line with international standards,” he says. 

Under Malaysian law, several crimes carry the death sentence including murder, drug trafficking, kidnapping or abducting to murder, abetting mutiny, waging war against the King, gang robbery with murder, among others. 

In 2003, amendments were made to the Penal Code, adding terrorism-related offences to the list of crimes punishable by death. With the amendments, anyone who commits a terrorist act that results in death, or aids terrorists can be sentenced to death, among others. 

According to AI’s Death Sentences and Executions 2015 report, a total of 1,634 people were put to death in 25 countries. 

As of Dec 31 last year, 102 countries have abolished the death penalty for all crimes. Malaysia is among 58 countries that retain the penalty for ordinary crimes. 

The remaining nations only execute prisoners for exceptional crimes or have not executed anyone in 10 years despite having provisions in place. 

Other retentionist countries include Japan, Nigeria, North Korea, Pakistan, Taiwan, Thailand and the United States. Last month, another retentionist country, Singapore executed Malaysian murder convict Kho Jabing for killing a construction worker in 2008. 

Minister in the Prime Minister’s Department Nancy Shukri recently said a total of 1,041 inmates are on death row in Malaysian prisons as of May 16. However, a decision has yet to be made on the Government’s policy on the death sentence as an in-depth study is still being carried out. 

The results of the study would be announced once it is completed. Until then, Salil says there are other matters to be addressed when it comes to upholding human rights here. 

For Malaysia, he singles out the limitations on freedom of expression as Malaysia’s immediate human rights concern. 

Noting that there have been 91 cases of usage of the Sedition Act last year, Salil adds that other laws including the Communications and Multimedia Act 1998 have also been used to silence criticisms against the Government. “Freedom of expression is number one. 

If you crush a person’s ability to speak up, injustice cannot be heard. “So it is a cross-cutting problem,” he says, calling on the Government to choose the inclusive route by engaging the people in more national dialogues. 

Quipping that Malaysians are “smart, articulate” people, Salil says Malaysia is also doing well economically, and is abiding by more international norms and standards when it comes to business. “But the same is not true on the human rights platform,” he says, adding that both matters are closely linked. 

Salil says without a strong foundation of human rights, a country becomes unstable and investors will turn away because they would favour more peaceful and harmonious nations. 

“There is this disjuncture between Malaysia’s development and its human rights reality now. It doesn’t quite add up,” he says. 

Salil, born in Bengaluru, India, says he remembers Malaysia to be a country that respects diversity and embraces pluralism in its multi- ethnic society. And this strength that should be leveraged upon to propel Malaysia to achieve an exemplary standard of human rights. 

He points out that Malaysia has yet to ratify major conventions including the United Nations Convention against Torture that aims to prevent inhumane treatment and International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to respect the political rights of individuals. 

Personally, for Salil, his work into human rights was spurred on by the influence of his parents – he is the only child of his journalist father and activist mother. 

A traumatic experience of watching his father being handcuffed and arrested over an article he wrote partly inspired Salil to champion human rights and he has not slowed down. “Across the world, AI sees a general regression of human rights. Our immediate concern now is the Middle East. 

So our plans for the future involves going back to basics – protecting human rights and growing the movement in Asia and Africa where violations are great,” he says. 

Salil also notes that there are also “new frontiers” where the human rights battle is fought, namely online. “Technology and social media are used to help people organise rallies and give them a voice on Facebook and Twitter. 

But now, it is also being monitored and tracked by governments. “The fight is online as much as it is offline,” he says. 

Salil says the first step ordinary people can do to improve the state of human rights is to understand issues and be informed. “You can’t be passive. Governments may come and go but the people remain,” he says. - Star, 19/6/2016

Monday, June 13, 2016

MADPET and 73 groups condemn retaliation against Thai HR Defenders for highlighting HR violations?

Joint Statement – 13/06/2016

Statement on the Reprisals against Human Rights Defenders, Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Ms. Anchana Heemmina, and Mr. Somchai Homlaor

We, the undersigned civil society groups, are gravely concerned about the legal action taken by the Royal Thai Army for criminal defamation and Computer Crimes Act violations against Woman Human Rights Defenders (WHRD) Ms. Pornpen Khongkachonkiet, Ms. Anchana Heemmina, and HRD Mr. Somchai Homlaor.  Ms. Pornpen, is the Director of the Cross Cultural Foundation – an organization which monitors and documents cases of torture and ill-treatment in Thailand. Mr. Somchai, is the President of the Cross Cultural Foundation, and Ms. Anchana is director of Duay JaiGroup (Hearty Support Group) – a local organization based in Thailand’s ‘Deep South’, which supports people who suffer from the justice system in national security cases. 

All three are co-editors of a report, Torture and ill treatment in The Deep South Documented in 2014-2015[1] documenting 54 cases of inhumane treatment in detention, launched on 10th February 2016. The research and report was partly funded by the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture, established under the General Assembly resolution 36/151 in 1981, thus under the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council Resolution 12/2 these HRDs and their colleagues are “individuals who cooperate with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of Human Rights.” 

Pornpen Khongkachonkiet

On 8th June 2016, Internal Security Operations Command Region 4 (ISOC 4) gave information to Ms. Pornpen through a phone conversation that ISOC 4 sought the power of attorney from the Royal Thai Army and submitted a complaint to Yala Mueang Police Station on 17th May 2016 for criminal defamation and computer-related violations by the three HRDs. The charges are for alleged criminal defamation under Article 328 of the Thai Criminal Code, and violation of the Computer Crimes Act (2007), Article 14(1)[2]. We are disturbed regarding information that authorities have already interrogated six witnesses. The Police case file is No. 704/2559. 
Anchana Heemmina
This judicial action has been taken despite the Human Rights Defenders’ best efforts to engage authorities on the evidence of torture and ill-treatment presented in the report. Namely, the report was sent to Army Lt Gen Wiwat Pathompak, Commander of the 4th Army Region, on 8th January 2016, one month before its publication. However, high-ranking military government officials have publicly dismissed the accuracy of the report and questioned the intentions of the civil society organisations who compiled the report. Furthermore, Ms. Anchana, WHRD working in Thailand’s ‘Deep South’, faced summons to an Army camp, lengthy questioning by Army officers, and close physical surveillance and intimidation by unidentified, uniformed men[3].
Somchai Homlaor
We deem this action by the Royal Thai Army to be a prompt reprisal against civil society groups seeking to bring to the authorities’ attention the continued abuse of power and ill-treatment of detainees in Thailand. The Royal Thai Army has taken these actions at a time when it the Thai military government has renewed the Thailand’s international commitments to abolishing the use of torture. On 11th May 2016, at the United Nation’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Thailand 12 UN member states issued recommendations directly relating to the prevention of torture and access to justice for survivors of torture. 

Furthermore, on 24th May 2016 the Thai military government issued a Cabinet Resolution stating that they will pass a Prevention of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act. It is troubling that the Royal Thai Army has ordered the legal pursuit of HRDs who have been supporting victims of torture as well as pushing at many levels for policy reform and state action to prevent torture and provide justice to survivors. 
We deem the Royal Thai Army’s action to be an unreasonable, arbitrary, and heavy-handed attempt to silence all complaints of allegations of torture against the authorities. By quashing Ms. Pornpen, Ms. Anchana, and Mr Somchai’s efforts to support torture victims to publicly complain about Human Rights violations by authorities, the Royal Thai Army is seeking to make it more than impossible for torture victims to voice their complaints. Moreover, this is a deplorable act by the Royal Thai Army as it aims to further intimidate existing and potential victims of human rights violations to not report these violations. 

Instead of suppressing the work of Human Rights Defenders, such as Ms. Pornpen, Ms. Anchana, and Mr. Somchai, the Royal Thai Army should, as New Zealand recommended at the UPR, “Promptly investigate and prosecute all allegations of torture and extrajudicial killings,” and as Canada recommended, “Create an independent body to investigate all torture allegations, including in Thailand’s Deep South, and bring perpetrators to justice.”

This judicial harassment constitutes a direct infringement of Ms. Pornpen, Ms. Anchana, and Mr. Somchai’s right to work as a Human Rights Defender in Thailand. As stated in Article 1 of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders “Everyone has the right to (individually and in association with others) promote and to strive for the realization of Human Rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international level.” We believe that the filing of this criminal legal case against Ms. Pornpen, Ms. Anchana, and Mr. Somchai was undertaken with the purpose of retaliation and that it is in response to the three HRDs peaceful and legitimate activities to hold authorities to account for cases of human rights violations, including torture, in Thailand’s ‘Deep South.’

We call on the Royal Thai Army to:
-   Immediately and unconditionally withdraw the legal action against Ms. Pornpen, Ms. Anchana, and Mr. Somchai. Such legal action against the legitimate work of HRDs is against the public interest.
-      Ensure that no further retaliation is carried out or allowed to happen in the future against HRDs, ill-treatment and torture victims, their colleagues and families. 

We call on the Thai military government to:
-      Respect the universally recognized rights, duties and obligations of everyone and organizations to highlight information about Human Rights violations and injustices to the public, as stated in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders; 
-     Ensure that all persons affected by torture and other human rights violations receive justice, including first and foremost the right to complain which must be respected at all times. 
-    Ensure the implementations of recommendations it accepted during the recent UPR with regard to HRDs.

Signed by:

Aanglumphong Conservation Groups and Archaeological Site กลุ่มอนุรักษ์สิ่งแวดล้อมอ่างลำพอกและโบราณสถาน สุรินทร์
Assembly of the Poor สมัชชาคนจน กรณีเขื่อนปากมูล
Centre for Community Rights to Manage Natural Resources, Chi Basin ศูนย์พิทักษ์สิทธิการจัดการทรัพยากรชุมชนลุ่มน้ำชี
Center to Study and Develop Law for Human Rights ศูนย์ศึกษาและพัฒนานักกฎหมายเพื่อสิทธิมนุษยนชน
Centre to Study and Ecology Habitation of Community Culture in Phetchabun ศูนย์ศึกษาและฟื้นฟูนิเวศวัฒนธรรมชุมชนเทือกเขาเพชรบูรณ์
Chi Basin Network, Yasothon เครือข่ายน้ำชี จังหวัดยโสธร
Community Resource Centre (CRC) มูลนิธิศูนย์ข้อมูลชุมชน
Campaign Committee for Human Rights (CCHR)คณะกรรมการรณรงค์เพื่อสิทธิมนุษยชน (ครส.)
Empower Foundation เอ็มพาวเวอร์
E-saan Human Rights and Peace Information Centre ศูนย์ข้อมูลสิทธิมุษยชนและสันติภาพ
E-saan Land Reform Network เครือข่ายปฎิรูปที่ดินภาคอีสาน
E-saan Network on Natural Resources and Environmental เครือข่ายทรัพยากรและสิ่งแวดล้อมภาคอีสาน
Foundation for Muslim Attorneys Center มูลนิธิเพื่อศูนย์ทนายความมุสลิม
Foundation for Women มูลนิธิผู้หญิง
Gender equality promoting foundation มูลนิธิส่งเสริมความเสมอภาคทางสังคม
Human Rights Lawyers’ Association (HRLA) สมาคมนักกฎหมายสิทธิมนษยชน
Land Watch Working Group กลุ่มจับตาปัญหาที่ดิน
Mplus Foundation
Namoon Environmental Conservation Group กลุ่มอนุรักษ์สิ่งแวดล้อมบ้านนามูล-ดูนสาด
Network of Indigenous Peoples in Thailand (NIPT) เครือข่ายชนเผ่าพื้นเมืองแห่งประเทศไทย (คชท.)
Network of Thaiban People Deprived of Rights เครือข่ายไทบ้านผู้ไร้สิทธิ์ สกลนคร
People’s Empowerment Foundation
Prorights Foundation มูลนิธิส่งเสริมและคุ้มครองสิทธิมนุษยชน
Southern Peasant Federation of Thailand (SPFT) สหพันธ์เกษตรกรภาคใต้สกต
Saiburi River Association สมาคมลุ่มน้ำสายบุรี
Thai Committee for Refugees Foundation (TCR)
Thai Development Support Center (TDSC) ศูนย์เผยแพร่และส่งเสริมงานพัฒนา(ผสพ)
Thai Working Group for ASEAN Human Rights Mechanism คณะทำงานไทยเพื่อกลไกสิทธิมนุษยชนอาเซียน
Togetherness for Equality and Action (TEA) โรงน้ำชา
Udonthani Environmental Conservation Group กลุ่มอนุรักษ์สิ่งแวดล้อมอุดร
Union for Civil liberty (UCL) สมาคมสิทธิเสรีภาพของประชาชน
WARTANI Media Agency สำนักสื่อ Wartani
WE PEACE สมาคมผู้หญิงเพื่อสันติภาพ
Women Struggle for Livelihood กลุ่มหญิงสู้ชีวิต.
WeMove ขบวนผู้หญิงปฎิรูปประเทศไทย
Women Network for Advancement and Peace เครือข่ายผู้หญิงเพื่อความก้าวหน้าและสันติภาพ
Work and Environment Related Patient's Network of Thailand (WEPT สภาเครือข่ายกลุ่มผู้ป่วยจากการทำงานและสิ่งแวดล้อมแห่งประเทศไทย)

Beyond Thailand

Association of Human Rights Defenders and Promoters (HRDP, Myanmar)
Centre for Independent Journalism (Malaysia)
Center for Sustainable Development in Mountainous Areas (CSDM, Vietnam)
Center for Women's Global Leadership (USA)
LBH Masyarakat (Community Legal Aid Institute, Indonesia)
Malaysians Against Death Penalty and Torture (MADPET)
Malaysian Humanist and Rationalist Movement (MyHARAM)
National Free Trade Union (Sri Lanka)
North South Initiative (Malaysia)
PINAY (Filipino Women’s Organization in Quebec)
PUSAT KOMAS (Malaysia)
Safety and Rights Society (Bangladesh)
The Vietnam Committee on Human Rights (France)
Think Centre (Singapore)
Vietnam Indigenous Knowledge Network (VTIK)
Vietnamese Women for Human Rights (VNWHR)
Workers Hub For Change (WH4C, Malaysia)


Amnesty International
ASEAN Youth Forum
Asia Indigenous Peoples Pact (AIPP)
Asia Pacific Forum on Women, Law and Development (APWLD)
Civil Rights Defenders
FIDH, within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders
Focus on the Global South
FRIDA | The Young Feminist Fund
International Labor Rights Forum (ILRF)
Migrant Forum in Asia (MFA)
Nazra for Feminist Studies
Network of Patani's Citizens Outside the Motherland
Protection International
Southeast Asian Press Alliance (SEAPA)
The Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development (FORUM-ASIA)
UPR Info AsiaUrgent Action Fund for Women's Human Rights
Urgent Action Fund Latin America
Women Living Under Muslim Laws
World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders


Ms.  Kanungnit Makchuchit  คนึงนิจ  มากชูชิต
Ms. Naiyana  Waikham นัยนา  หวายคำ
Ms. Chantawipa   Apisuk จันทวิภา อิสุข
Mr. Jumpol  Apisuk จุมพล อภิสุข
Mr. Bordin Saisaeng Researcher, Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University บดินทร์ สายแสง สถาบันสิทธิมนุษยชนและสันติศึกษา มหาวิทยาลัยมหิดล
Chompunut Chalieobun ชมพูนุท เฉลียวบุญ
Dr. Eakpant Pidavanija Lecturer, Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University เอกพันธุ์ ปิณฑวณิช สถาบันสิทธิมนุษยชนและสันติศึกษา มหาวิทยาลัยมหิดล
Mr. Ismail Hajiwaechi นายอิสมาอีล ฮายีแวจิ 
Assistant Professor Dr Naruemon Thabchumpon, Political Science Faculty, Chalulongkron University ผศ.ดร. นฤมล ทับจุมพล คณะรัฐศาสตร์ จุฬาลงกรณ์มหาวิทยาลัย
Lecturer Ngamsuk Rattanasatian Lecturer, Institute of Human Rights and Peace Studies, Mahidol University งามศุกร์ รัตนเสถียร สถาบันสิทธิมนุษยชนและสันติศึกษา มหาวิทยาลัยมหิดล
Mrs. Ruengrawee Pichaikul นางเรืองรวี พิชัยกุล
Sor Rattanamanee Polkla, Lawyer
Thaweesak Pi, Social Activist นายทวีศักดิ์ ปิ นักกิจกรรมทางสังคม
Victor Bernard
William Nicholas Gomes, Human Rights Defender and Freelance Journalist, UK
Yuyun Wahyuningrum, Senior Advisor on ASEAN and Human Rights, Human Rights Working Group (HRWG, Indonesia)

ANNEX 1 - Human Rights Defender Profiles

Ms. Pornpen is a leading Human Rights Defender in Thailand who has been involved in various Human Rights issues both in Thailand and the region, including women’s rights, indigenous rights and preventing forced disappearances. Her work serves the public interest by ensuring that authorities are held accountable and pressuring authorities to unconditionally respect the Human Rights of all. As Director and President of the Cross Cultural Foundation, Ms. Pornpen and Mr. Somchai have constantly been monitoring and documenting cases of torture and Human Rights violations in Thailand’s southernmost provinces and other parts of the country

Mr. Somchai is a seasoned and respected Human Rights lawyer in Thailand, who has been fighting to defend people’s Human Rights for the past 25 years. He was a Commissioner for the Law Reform Commission of Thailand until it was disbanded by the current military regime. Furthermore, as president of the Cross Cultural Foundation he has been a key figure forging bridges across Thai society. Cross Cultural Foundation organises educational activities, as well as research and legal support to promote people’s Human Rights, especially in Thailand’s southernmost provinces which are in a state of prolonged armed conflict. In September 2014, both Ms. Pornpen and Mr. Somchai, as well as their organization, faced a criminal defamation and computer-related crimes charge filed by Army Task Force 41. The case was eventually dropped by decision of the state prosecutor in June 2015 following an international campaign denouncing the Thai Army’s harassment and intimidation of these HRDs for their legitimate and crucial Human Rights work.

Ms. Anchana is Director of Duay Jai Group which has been working with victims of ill-treatment in national security cases since January 2010, in Thailand’s southernmost, conflict-affected regions. Following the release of the report on torture cases, on 14th February, Col. Suratep, Head of the Civil Society Organisations unit under the Internal Security Operations Command ('ISOC'), contacted Ms. Anchana and other activists who were involved in compiling the report and summoned them for a discussion. Ms. Anchana presented herself at Sirinthon Army Camp in Yala Province for the discussion with seven security officers. The meeting lasted two and a half hours, during which the officers questioned Ms. Anchana about the cases in the torture report. The officers expressed their discontent with the report and requested the human rights defender to henceforth submit all of her publications to the ISOC prior to their release. Ms. Anchana refused to do so. Thai Lawyers for Human Rights (TLHR)[4] reported that at about 5 pm on Friday, 19th February 2016, a group of ten men in green uniforms visited the home of Ms. Anchana, in Songkhla Province, but only Ms. Anchana’s mother was home. Without presenting any warrant, they claimed to be border police officers and asked about Ms. Anchana’s work and her personal information. The activist’s mother reported that the men took pictures of her and the house. She added that before they left they told her to inform Ms. Anchana not to use Line, a chat application, or Facebook.

[2]               Computer Crimes Act, Article 14.1
“Whoever commits the following offences, shall be punished with imprisonment not exceeding five years and fin not exceeding on hundred thousand baht or both:
(1) input, into computer system, forged computer data in whole or in part or false computer data in a manner likely to cause injury to another person or the public;”
[3]               See Annex 1 – Human Rights Defender Profiles for more details.