"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, September 29, 2016

UK trained hundreds of guards at Bahrain’s death row prison, new report finds

Bahrain
The FCO funded training for hundreds of prison guards at Bahrain’s death row jail, where an innocent man faces imminent execution after ‘confessing’ under torture, a new report by anti-death penalty charity Reprieve has found.

Northern Ireland Co-operation Overseas (NI-CO), a state-owned Belfast business, received almost a million pounds in UK taxpayer money last year for work with Bahrain’s interior ministry. In 2015 more than a dozen NI-CO experts worked with Bahrain’s prison staff at jails where systematic torture took place, and trained as many as 400 guards who work at Jau, which holds prisoners awaiting execution.

Reprieve’s report, Belfast to Bahrain: the torture trail, highlights the case of one death row inmate, Mohammed Ramadan, a former policeman and father of three young children who was tortured into making a false confession.

The UK Foreign Office paid NI-CO to train Bahrain’s Ombudsman to handle complaints about abuse by security forces. However, the watchdog refused for more than two years to investigate complaints about Mr Ramadan’s torture, robbing him of vital evidence with which to challenge his wrongful conviction. When the Ombudsman eventually began to investigate earlier this year, it flouted international minimum standards for torture inquiries and intimidated Mr Ramadan’s wife by interrogating her about contact with foreign NGOs.

NI-CO is embedded in Bahrain’s internal security apparatus, raising concerns about conflicts of interest. A victim could be abused by NI-CO trained police, tortured in prison by NI-CO trained guards, and then have their torture allegation investigated and dismissed by the NI-CO trained ombudsman.

Reprieve's report, published today, also highlights NI-CO’s work with other repressive regimes, such as a €9m project in Egypt funded by the EU. NI-CO's work in Egypt appears to have continued despite the situation of Irish student Ibrahim Halawa, who faces a potential death sentence after he was swept up in a mass arrest aged just 17.

Reprieve has called on NI-CO to stop work with Bahrain’s Interior Ministry until the Bahraini government ratifies international laws against torture and allows independent UN inspections.

Harriet McCulloch, deputy director of Reprieve’s death penalty team, said:

“The UK Foreign Office is financing a whitewash of Mohammed Ramadan’s torture and coerced confession, leaving an innocent man languishing on death row and his family afraid to speak out. UK money is complicit in covering up torture in Bahrain. The Foreign Office needs to come clean about what it has paid NI-CO to do with a repressive regime like Bahrain.”

Reprieve’s report, Belfast to Bahrain: the torture trail, is available to download here

Source: Reprieve, September 29, 2016. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications@reprieve.org.uk / +44 (0) 790 435 1392. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine.oshea@reprieve.org / +1 917 855 8064.

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Jury for Dylann Roof's federal trial will be chosen from pool of 748 people

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
Some 748 prospective jurors in the upcoming Dylann Roof federal death penalty trial have been picked to go on to a second, more intensive, phase of jury screening that will begin Nov. 7.

The 748 who survived the initial screening process this week were picked over a 2 1/2 day period that began Monday in a small federal courtroom in Charleston.

About 3,000 were initially summoned for this week's screening process. Federal Judge Richard Gergel had said he would like to come up with a pool of 700 potential jurors.

This week's screening went faster than expected. By around noon Wednesday, the court had surpassed that goal and wound up with 748 - a number that should be more than enough to produce a final jury panel of 12 jurors and 6 alternates.

Reasons some potential jurors were excused this week included child care or work-related duties.

The 748 who survived the initial screening this week have filled out extensive questionnaires about their lives and any reservations they might have about being deciding on a death penalty, should Roof eventually be found guilty and the trial move on to a sentencing phase.

Between now and Nov. 7, prosecutors and Roof's defense attorneys will study the completed questionnaires. From those, lawyers will develop additional questions and submit them to Gergel, who will then, beginning Nov. 7, question the prospective jurors 1 at a time as attorneys watch and possibly submit more questions.

Roof, 22, a white supremacist from Columbia, is charged with various federal hate crimes and obstruction of religion resulting in death in the June 2015 gun slayings of 9 African-Americans at a Charleston's historic "Mother" AME Emanuel Church.

Source: thestate.com, September 29, 2016

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Manipulating a witness? Montana DOJ used controversial medical expert to defend lethal injection protocol

The ACLU says Attorney General Tim Fox has some explaining to do.

Confronted with a challenge to the state's lethal injection cocktail, the Department of Justice leaned on a controversial medical expert last year to argue the sedative it planned to use to kill 2 death row inmates would work as quickly as Montana law requires. But Auburn School of Pharmacy Dean Lee Evans didn't say what state attorneys needed him to - at least not initially.

Evans' evolving testimony became a central issue at trial, ultimately backfiring when a Helena judge struck down the drug protocol in October 2015 and effectively put a moratorium on the death penalty in Montana. Now the parties who won the case think they know why Evans seemed to change his professional opinion: because Fox's attorneys told him to.

That's what evidence uncovered after trial suggests, they allege in March filings. 6 months later, they're still awaiting a judge's order so they can try to prove it.

"This is a death penalty matter," says ACLU Montana Legal Director Jim Taylor. "If in fact somebody manipulated a witness, that's something everybody needs to know."

The case, Smith v. Batista, hinged on whether a drug known as pentobarbital and commonly used to euthanize pets works in the "ultra-fast acting" manner required by state law. In his 1st expert witness disclosure before trial, Evans did not address the "ultra-fast acting" definition, instead calling pentobarbital a "short acting" drug. A month later, he filed a second, shorter disclosure stating pentobarbital "could be" considered ultra-fast acting.

Lewis and Clark County District Judge Jeffrey Sherlock questioned the reliability of Evans' testimony in issuing his decision in the case, noting discrepancies in his statements about the drug's speed and classification.

Sherlock wasn't the 1st person puzzled by Evans. One of the only medical professionals still willing to testify on behalf of states defending their lethal injection protocols, Evans has been criticized by his peers and U.S. Supreme Court justices for relying on consumer website Drugs.com for parts of his testimony. The Montana DOJ contracted with Evans in 2015 after its previous expert witness quit consulting on death penalty litigation.

After the trial, attorneys for the plaintiffs discovered deposition statements Evans made in a separate case in Tennessee in which he acknowledges that he doesn't classify pentobarbital as "ultra-fast acting." The inmates' attorneys raised the issue with Fox's office, which "discussed the concerns at the executive team level" and took "appropriate actions" with the lawyers who represented the state on the case, according to a DOJ email included in court documents. The state has refused to say more.

The plaintiffs are awaiting a judge's ruling that could force the department to hand over records of its communication with Evans as well as its internal investigation. Taylor says if someone in Fox's office did improperly instruct Evans to change his testimony, the state would be liable for attorneys' fees and the case never would have gone to trial.

In a statement, DOJ spokeswoman Anastasia Burton describes the claims as "unsupported" and calls the plaintiffs' motion "an inappropriate attempt to extend this litigation, in the context of increasing their attorney fees."

Evans was paid $14,350 for his expert witness testimony last year, Burton says. The state has severed ties with him.

Source: The Missoula Independent, September 29, 2016

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Leader of Indonesia gang which raped, murdered girl sentenced to death

Suspects charged for the gang-rape and murder of a 14-year old schoolgirl appear in court in the Indonesian city of Curup on August 4, 2016.
Suspects charged for the gang-rape and murder of a 14-year old schoolgirl
appear in court in the Indonesian city of Curup on August 4, 2016.
An Indonesian court on Thursday sentenced to death the leader of a gang of men and boys who raped and murdered a schoolgirl in a case that prompted the president to take steps to impose harsher punishments for attacks on children.

The gang leader, Zainal, was sentenced to death in a court on Sumatra island. 4 other men were jailed for 20 years for their roles in the April attack on the 14-year-old in the western island by a group of 14 males, including eight boys.

Sexual violence against women and children is common in Indonesia but gang rape is unusual.

The case shocked the world's fourth most populouscountry and prompted President Joko Widodo to sign a regulation allowing for harsher punishments for child rapists, including death and chemical castration.

The regulation is pending approval in parliament.

"Because of the sadistic nature of the crime ... the court sentences Zainal to death," said presiding judge Henny Faridha.

The youngest member of the gang was 13 years old.

They attacked the girl as she was on her way to school. Her battered body was found in a rubber plantation a few days later, after her parents reported her missing.

7 gang members were earlier jailed for 10 years, while 1 was ordered into a rehabilitation program for a year. 1 suspect is on the run, according to police.

The victim's parents, who were in court, said the sentencing was inadequate.

"They should all get the death penalty," Yana, the victim's mother, told reporters as she broke down in tears.

The attack was reminiscent of a 2012 fatal gang rape of a female university student in India's capital, New Delhi, which provoked a national outcry and soul-searching about the treatment of girls and women in Indian society.

Source: Reuters, September 29, 2016

Indonesian sentenced to death in fatal gang-rape case


The leader of an Indonesian gang who murdered and gang-raped a schoolgirl was sentenced to death Thursday, in a high-profile case that led to the introduction of tougher punishments for child sex offenders.

Zainal was handed the death penalty at a court on western Sumatra island while four other men were sentenced to 20 years each over the case.

The murder and gang-rape of the 14-year-old, who was attacked by a group of men and boys in April as she made her way back from school, shocked the country and sparked a national debate about a failure to tackle endemic sexual violence.

President Joko Widodo responded to growing anger about the case in May by introducing tough new punishments for child sex offenders, including a maximum penalty of death, chemical castration and forcing convicted paedophiles to wear electronic monitoring devices.

Following the discovery of the teenager's body tied up and naked in the woods, police arrested 13 people over the attack while one alleged perpetrator is still at large.

Zainal, a 23-year-old who like many Indonesians goes by one name, was sentenced to death for premeditated murder, which was a crime already punishable by death before the new laws were introduced.

"This sentence was handed down because the defendant was the one who persuaded other defendants (to commit the crime)," presiding judge Heny Farida told the court in the town of Curup.

The mother of the victim shouted in protest after the verdicts were handed down, demanding all the defendants be sentenced to death.

Asrorun Niam Sholeh, chairman of government-backed rights group the National Commission for Child Protection, welcomed the decision to hand down the death penalty and said it highlighted that child sex attacks were "an extraordinary crime".

The others involved in the case, who were all minors, have already been jailed with most receiving 10-year sentences.

The attack captured national attention when reports of the incident went viral on social media, prompting tens of thousands to sign online petitions and sparking protests in the capital Jakarta.

It has drawn comparisons with the fatal gang-rape of a student on a bus in Delhi in 2012, which sparked mass protests and led to an overhaul of India's rape laws.

Source: Agence France-Presse, September 29, 2016

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Iran: Eight Prisoners Executed on Murder and Moharebeh Charges

Public execution in Iran
Iran Human Rights (SEPT 29 2016): Eight prisoners sentenced to death for murder and Moharebeh (enmity against God) charges were reportedly hanged at Karaj's Rajai Shahr Prison (Alborz province, northern Iran) on Wednesday September 28.

According to close sources, on Thursday September 22, eleven prisoners at Rajai Shahr were transferred to solitary confinement in preparation for their executions. 

The execution sentences of eight of them were reportedly carried out on Wednesday. 

The other three prisoners were returned to their cells after their executions were stopped by the complainants on their case files.

A close source who asked to be annonymous has confirmed the names of the prisoners: Ali Rabizadeh, Majid Gonjehali, Adnan Anwar, Hossein Karimi, Mohammad Jafari, Karim Hatamzadeh, Farajollah Hatami, and Mehdi Alizadeh. 

According to the source, Karim Hatamzadeh was executed on Moharebeh charges related to armed robbery, the other seven were executed on murder charges.

Additionally, on Sunday September 25, a Baluch prisoner, Mehdi Nazari, sentenced to death for drug related offenses, was transferred from his prison cell to an unknown location. 

There has been no information on his whereabouts or condition since then.

Source: Iran Human Rights, September 29, 2016

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Iran: 7 inmates executed on drug charges

Seven prisoners were recently executed in southern Iran on drug related charges.

Iran Human Rights (SEPT 29 2016): Seven prisoners sentenced to death for drug related offenses were reportedly hanged at Minab Central Prison (Hormozgan province, southern Iran). 

According to close sources, the executions were carried out early morning on Tuesday September 27. 

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the media, have been silent about these seven executions.

The prisoners were reportedly transferred from their wards to solitary confinement on Sunday September 25 and were permitted to have their immediate family members see them for the last time on Monday. 

The names of the prisoners have been confirmed to Iran Human Rights by close sources as: Khodabakhsh Balouch, Ali Balouch, Chaker Balouch, Mohammad Mohammad Zehi, Majid Nariman, Mehdi Moradi, Mohammad Ghourchizadeh.

Iranian authorities continue carrying out executions for drug offenses, even though last month, a top judicial official claimed that the death penalty is not a deterrent against drug crimes. 

"The death penalty for drug traffickers has not acted as a deterrent so far. We fought against many drug traffickers in accordance to the law, but, unfortunately, the volume of drugs entering and transiting through the country has increased," said Mohammad Bagher Olfat, who is in charge of social assistance and crime prevention in the Iranian Judiciary. 

Source: Iran Human Rights, September 29, 2016

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The Philippines should not reinstate the death penalty, even for Peter Scully

Alleged Australian child sex abuser Peter Scully (center)
Alleged Australian child sex abuser Peter Scully (center)
Bringing back a flawed system to kill a rotten individual means that we dispense with the individual but are stuck with the system

There have been calls to reintroduce the death penalty in the Philippines as the trial of alleged Australian child sex abuser Peter Scully takes place and horrific details of the crimes he is accused of emerge.

The abolition of the death penalty in south-east Asia isn’t so much a movement that has swept through the region as a fragile mosaic. In the countries that don’t execute the line is held – but tenuously. And in some countries where they do execute, there’s the sense that it could turn. There are unofficial moratoriums or death sentences handed out that don’t lead directly to the gallows, just a lifetime in jail.

Japan has the death penalty and its use is shrouded in secrecy, but the Japan Federation of Bar Associations, whose membership includes 37,000 lawyers, said it would declare its opposition to the death penalty at a meeting in early October due to growing concern over miscarriages of justice.

Thailand continues to regularly sentence people to death, however executions are rare, with no lawful executions since 2009.

Malaysia and Singapore still execute.

Executions have been on hold in Vietnam because the government cannot acquire the drugs used for lethal injection (pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the drugs have refused to supply their medicines for such means).

Indonesia has the death penalty. After a lengthy informal moratorium under former president Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, the killings resumed again in 2014.

After Ferdinand Marcos was deposed in 1986, the Philippines abolished the death penalty via a newly drafted constitution. But there was a “get out” clause allowing congress to reinstate it “hereafter” for “heinous crimes”.

As the first country in Asia to abolish the death penalty, the Philippines played an important role in the region, signalling a move away from pre-modern forms of punishment. Abolitionists hoped the removal of the death penalty in the region would act as a sort of nudge or cause a domino effect.

In the absence of a nudge, abolition of the death penalty could be posited as an entry into a trading bloc or partnership. Having capital punishment on your statute books is a barrier to entering the EU, for example. Turkey abolished the death penalty in a bid to qualify for membership, although there has been talk of bringing it back following the July coup attempt.

It can easily be assumed that progress towards enlightenment is linear. We abolish capital punishment and we don’t go back. We don’t go back even when the mob and the media are begging for it.

If you accept, as I do, that the abolition of the death penalty is a move towards a more enlightened, humane, civilised and less barbaric society, then opposition to the death penalty must occur regardless of individual cases that grip and even sicken the public imagination. Which brings us to the case of alleged Australian paedophile, Peter Scully.

Reading an account of the crimes he is accused of (he is pleading not guilty), it would be hard not to lapse into fantasies of revenge if he’s found guilty – to want him to be made to suffer horribly and even more; that he be eradicated, dissolved, removed from the world. Murder is murder. Child abuse is stealing someone’s life from them. What other punishment could be fitting? And yet ...

Nietzsche’s warning that “he who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster” is true here.

And more. Bringing back a flawed system to kill a rotten individual means that we dispense with the individual but are stuck with the system.

This is a system – as the United States is finding out more and more with advanced DNA technology – that executes the wrong people, or executes poorly – many long minutes between the first dose of the drug, or the first wave of the shock and the prisoner pleading for death, then finally the death.

Even if all goes “well”, it is possibly the most cruel and unusual punishment to have the time and date of your death fixed by the state. You know when you will die and by what means, and each minute of waiting until that moment must of course be filled with terror and dread.
But it need not be this way. Christopher Hitchens wrote:
... it is possible to eliminate the execution of the innocent, simply by joining the association of countries that have dispensed with the death penalty.
Those in the international community who have been appalled by the spate of extrajudicial killing by the Duterte government in the Philippines must surely also be appalled by talk of reintroducing capital punishment. This is frontier justice not just at night, on the borders, but brought right into the daylight and given the centre seat in the justice system.

Source: The Guardian, Opinion, Brigid Delaney, September 28, 2016

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Iran upholds 16-year sentence for anti-death penalty campaigner Narges Mohammadi

Iranian human rights and anti-death penalty lawyer Narges Mohammadi
Iranian human rights and anti-death penalty lawyer Narges Mohammadi
An Iranian appeals court on Wednesday upheld a 16-year prison sentence for a prominent Iranian human rights advocate.

Narges Mohammadi had been sentenced in May on charges of violating national security and acting against the Islamic regime through her support of an anti-death penalty campaign.

As vice president of the Defenders of Human Rights Center in Iran, Mohammadi gained attention in 2014 for defending women who had acid thrown on them in the city of Esfahan, purportedly for dressing immodestly.

While jailed this summer at Tehran’s Evin Prison, she staged a 20-day hunger strike in protest of authorities who barred her from speaking by phone with her family.

Mohammadi is mother to 9-year-old twins, who live in France with their father. Friends say she suffers from a chronic illness that causes partial paralysis, which has worsened due to her imprisonment.

The appeals court in Tehran upheld Mohammadi’s sentence following a hearing in the case last week.

“It is shocking for me as a human rights lawyer that a fellow lawyer with children would be sentenced to jail for even one day,” said Nasrin Sotoudeh, a colleague who served three years in jail until being released in 2013.

“She has committed no crime but doing her legal work. Is it wrong to defend the victims of violence?”

Mahmoud Behzadi, Mohammadi's lawyer, said his client had not decided whether to appeal to Iran's Supreme Court.

Amnesty International and other human rights groups have assailed Mohammadi’s treatment as an example of how Iranian authorities use broad national security laws to punish dissidents or those seen as hostile to the conservative theocracy.

Human rights activists and dual nationals continue to be imprisoned during the presidency of Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate whose 2013 election had raised hopes of an easing of Iran’s harsh security laws.

Mohammadi is a supporter of the Campaign for Step by Step Abolition of the Death Penalty, known by its Persian acronym, Legam. Iran is one of the world’s leading practitioners of capital punishment, putting to death an estimated 1,000 people last year, many for drug offenses.

Last month, Iran put to death a teenager who was convicted of a crime when he was 17. Approximately 160 minors are on death row in Iran, according to Amnesty International.

Siavash Ramesh, a 28-year-old political activist, said Mohammadi’s sentence shows the Iranian regime won’t tolerate criticism of its death penalty laws.

“They sentenced her to give a warning to human rights activists and give her a lesson not to trespass against the regime’s imposed red lines,” Ramesh said.

Source: Los Angeles Times, September 29, 2016

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

UAE: Two brothers sentenced to death for killing brother-in-law

Dubai courts
Dubai: Two brothers have been sentenced to death for killing their brother-in-law by choking him with a plastic rope after he married their sister without the family’s consent.

A Pakistani man, F.A., who remains at large, lured his countryman brother-in-law, M.T., to discuss their family dispute in November 2014.

F.A. convinced the victim to meet him in a sandy area in Bur Dubai where he beat him before strangling him with a plastic rope and fled the country shortly after the incident, said records.

The Dubai Court of First Instance convicted F.A. of premeditated murder and his younger brother, 26-year-old I.A., was found guilty of aiding and abetting.

Presiding judge Fahd Al Shamsi handed the two accused the death sentence.

When he defended himself in court, I.A. pleaded innocent and contended that he was not present in the area where the murder happened.

“I was at work and did not participate in the crime …,” the younger brother told the court.

Court records said F.A. was the one who had plotted to kill M.T. and brought a plastic rope for the purpose of getting rid of his brother-in-law.

I.A. aided his brother by encouraging him to take revenge on the victim for marrying their sister against the family’s wishes.

A police lieutenant testified that the victim’s boss reported to Dubai Police’s operations room that M.T. had not returned the taxi to the company.

“The boss said M.T. went out on his shift as normal but did not return on time. The boss claimed that despite having repeatedly called the victim, he did not answer his phone. We tracked down the car’s location in the sandy area and discovered that he had been killed. Upon questioning the victim’s brother, he said he suspected that F.A. and I.A. must have been involved in M.T.’s killing. The deceased’s brother said that they had a family dispute after M.T. married the brothers’ sister against their wishes. The victim’s brother claimed that M.T. informed him that F.A. had called him the day before the incident and asked to meet him in Satwa to resolve the dispute. The brother said on the same day M.T. did not answer his phone despite having called him several times.

“Primary interrogations revealed that the defendant was involved in the victim’s murder. Immigration records showed that F.A. had fled the country six hours before the murder was discovered. Shortly after that police apprehended I.A., who admitted that the family had agreed to kill M.T. in Pakistan. The 26-year-old defendant said during questioning that he warned his elder brother not to take a hasty decision and kill the victim in the UAE. I.A. said his brother killed their brother-in-law without his knowledge,” testified the lieutenant.

Wednesday’s rulings remains subject to appeal within 15 days.

Source: Gulf News, September 28, 2016

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Four Prisoners Executed in Northern Iran

Public execution in Iran
Iran Human Rights (SEPT 28 2016): A prisoner sentenced to death for murder was reportedly executed at Urmia Prison while two prisoners in Shahroud and one prisoner in Gorgan prisons were reportedly executed on drug related charges.

According to reports by the unofficial news agency, HRANA, early morning on Monday September 26, a prisoner was hanged at Darya, Urmia's central prison (West Azerbaijan province, northwestern Iran). 

The report identifies the prisoner as Amir Behrouz. 

On Sunday September 25, a prisoner -- identified as Javad Sanjehvali, 33, sentenced to death for drug related offenses -- was reportedly hanged at Gorgan Prison (Golestan province, northern Iran). 

On Thursday September 22, two prisoners sentenced to death for drug related offenses were reportedly hanged at Shahrud Prison (Semnan province, northern Iran). 

HRANA identifies the prisoners as Hossein Arabahmadi, 27, and Rahmatali Saadatiar, 40. 

According to the report, Hossein and Rahmatali were imprisoned and in imminent danger of execution for five to ten years before they were hanged. 

Iranian official sources, including the Judiciary and the media, have been silent on the executions in this report.

Source: Iran Human Rights, September 28, 2016

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Pakistan says it ‘may limit’ death penalty, amid fears for mentally ill prisoner

Pakistan says it is seeking ways to limit the scope of the death penalty, amid fears for a mentally ill prisoner who faces hanging as early as next week.

Speaking on Monday at an event at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the first secretary of Pakistan’s Permanent Mission to the UN said the government was examining the country’s penal code to determine whether the death penalty could be “narrowed”, saying: “We are looking at the option of enhancing the duration of life sentence instead of awarding death sentences.” She added: “Pakistan remains fully committed to promoting and protecting the human rights of all our citizens.”

Pakistan has executed some 419 people since the lifting of a moratorium on the death penalty in December 2014, making it one of the world’s most prolific executing states. Research last year by Reuters and human rights organization Reprieve found that – despite a claim by the Pakistani government to be targeting ‘terrorists’ – fewer than one in six of those prisoners who had been hanged could be linked to militancy.

Among those currently facing execution is Imdad Ali, a former electrician who is severely mentally ill. Yesterday, Pakistan’s Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by Mr Ali to stop his hanging, which had been scheduled to take place last week. Ruling that Imdad’s execution could go ahead, the Court said that a large proportion of prisoners in Pakistan suffer from mental illness and that they “cannot let everyone go.” He could now be hanged as early as next week, despite a prison medical report from earlier this month describing him as “insane.”

The execution of mentally ill people is prohibited under Pakistani and international law. Yesterday, several UN human rights experts urged Pakistan to halt Mr Ali’s execution, while Amnesty International and the Asian Human Rights Commission have also called for the hanging to be stopped.

Commenting, Harriet McCulloch, deputy director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, said: “While it’s encouraging to hear that Pakistan’s government may finally be turning away from its recent shameful spree of executions, the authorities must act now to prevent another illegal hanging. Imdad Ali could be executed within days, despite the government’s own doctors having declared him ‘insane’ – his hanging would be a grave breach of Pakistani and international law. If Pakistan’s leaders are serious about scaling back the death penalty, they must start right away, and call off Imdad’s execution.”

Source: Reprieve, septemebr 28, 2016. Reprieve is an international human rights organization. Reprieve’s London office can be contacted on: communications@reprieve.org.uk. Reprieve US, based in New York City, can be contacted on Katherine.oshea@reprieve.org 

More detail on the comments made at yesterday's UNHRC event is available on request.

A statement by four UN rights experts, made yesterday, can be seen here; Amnesty International's comments can be seen here; while the Asian Human Rights Commission's comments are here.

4. Reuters' 2015 piece on executions in Pakistan can be seen here.

5. More information about Imdad Ali is available at the Reprieve website.

Emergency Action: Prisoner under new threat of execution


Imdad Ali suffers from such severe paranoid schizophrenia that he isn’t even aware that he could be executed as early as next week.

Imdad did not receive a proper medical assessment at his trial and was sentenced to death without his mental illness being properly considered. Despite now conceding that he is mentally ill, the Pakistan Supreme Court yesterday refused to stop his execution.

Last week, we helped to launch legal action in Pakistan and built an international campaign signed by over 10,000 Reprieve supporters. His execution was halted with only hours to spare – but now that the Pakistan Supreme Court has rejected his appeal, he could receive a new death warrant at any time.

Imdad's legal options have now been exhausted and his only chance is clemency from President Hussain of Pakistan. Will you call on President Hussain to grant mercy to Imdad and prevent his inhumane execution?


Time is against us, and we have to act quickly. On Friday, we will present our petition to the Pakistan High Commission in London to show the authorities how many people around the world oppose what they're planning. Please add your name to our call for mercy, and help us prevent the execution of a vulnerable, severely mentally ill man.

Source: Clive Stafford Smith, Founder, Reprieve

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Indonesia: Jokowi wants unified ‘national branding’ for positive image

“Wonderful Indonesia”
"A positive image must be maintained. I urge the use of the soft-power
approach be strengthened through cultural diplomacy, the promotion of
Indonesian cuisine and also promotion through sports." - Jokowi (no kidding)
President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has urged the Cabinet to enhance the soft-power approach to improve Indonesia's image, highlighting national branding as a strategy to improve the country's competitiveness in trade, tourism and investment.

During a limited meeting on national branding held at the Presidential Office in Jakarta on Tuesday, Jokowi explained that currently each ministry acted independently in promoting trade, tourism and investment. 

For instance, the Trade Ministry with its “Remarkable Indonesia” tagline and the Tourism Ministry with the “Wonderful Indonesia” tagline.

As a result, strategies to build a positive image of Indonesia tended to separate and run alone. Even in exhibitions abroad, ministries did not coordinate well, he said.

"We will consolidate in order to be able to compete with other countries. I also urge the use of the soft-power approach be strengthened through cultural diplomacy, the promotion of Indonesian cuisine and also promotion through sports," Jokowi told his ministers.

He also asserted that establishing national branding was not simply the creation of a national logo or tagline, but an effort to achieve and maintain a positive perception of the country in the global environment.

"A positive image must be maintained by providing good, fast and professional services," he went on.

Source: The Jakarta Post, September 27, 2016

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Roof jury selection underway in Charleston federal death penalty case

Dylann Roof
Dylann Roof
The 1st of some 3,000 potential jurors in the Dylan Roof death penalty trial began reporting Monday to the U.S. District courthouse in downtown Charleston.

Jurors were summoned, some 80 at a time, before U.S. Judge Richard Gergel, whose questions were aimed at weeding out those who obviously cannot or who will elect not to serve: people over 70, having no one else to care for young children and the like. Also to be excluded: those whose minds are already made up about Roof's guilty, or whether to impose the death penalty.

Roof, 22, a self-proclaimed white supremacist, is charged with federal hate crimes resulting in death in the June 2015 slayings of 9 African-Americans who were attending an evening Bible study at historic "Mother" Emanuel AME church downtown.

Of the first 80 prospective jurors in court on this morning, some 90 % were white. 9 were black. All were somber. Gergel deferred 2 teachers.

The initial jury selection is taking place in a relatively small courtroom on the 4th floor of an old federal courthouse on Broad Street. It has only about 80 seats, nearly all of which were taken up Monday by prospective jurors.

Gergel allowed a sketch artist, along with one pool print reporter to write accounts of what happened. Other journalists watched the proceedings on a flat-screen television in a nearby courtroom. Unlike state court, no cameras or reporters' tape recorders are allowed in federal court. The in-court proceedings in this story were furnished by the pool reporter.

Roof stared down at his defense table during much of the morning. During Monday's initial session, he appeared unemotional. In numerous pretrial hearings since last year, he has waived his right to be present in court.

The Roof case is set to be one of the most sensational criminal trials ever held in South Carolina, due to the racial dimensions of the case and the brutality of the crime.

Underscoring the emotionalism of the trial and the effect of publicity about the case, Judge Gergel has ordered dozens of pretrial documents to be kept secret so as not to taint the jury pool.

Roof also faces charges of murder in Charleston County state court. Prosecutor Scarlett Wilson is also seeking the death penalty in that case. Jury selection is set to begin in January in that case.

Monday's proceeding in federal court is designed to produce a smaller pool of some 700 prospective jurors. Those potential jurors will begin a more detailed questioning session on Nov. 7. The actual trial will not start until late November, observers estimate.

It's the opening day of a long, tedious and potentially confusing jury selection process in the Dylan Roof federal trial in the June 2015 slayings of 9 African-Americans at a historic downtown Charleston church.

Source: thestate.com, September 26, 2016

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