Posts Tagged ‘death penalty’

As Iran prepares to execute Ahmadreza Djalali, the world reacts

November 26, 2020

Around the world, shock and outrage has been the reaction to the news that Iran is preparing to execute Swedish-Iranian emergency medicine specialist Dr Ahmadreza Djalali. In a call from Evin Prison on 24 November, Ahmadreza told his wife Vida, who lives in Sweden, that he believed he may be executed in less than a week. He has been transferred into solitary confinement and it has been reported that he will shortly be sent to Rajai Shahr Prison where this draconian death sentence would be delivered.

Dr Djalali has been used as a bargaining chip as part of Iran’s hostage diplomacy. A dual national, illegally detained in solitary confinement with no access to a lawyer before being sentenced to death in October 2017. The court based their sentence for “corruption on earth” on “confessions” elicited after torture, threats to kill Ahmadreza Djalali’s wife and two young children, solitary confinement and his prolonged ill treatment.

The UN, EU, Council of Europe, European governments, worldwide academic institutions, civil society and thousands of individuals have all called for Dr Djalali’s release.

UN experts Javaid Rehman, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Islamic Republic of Iran and Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions issued a statement saying: “We are horrified by the reports that Mr. Djalali is soon to be executed by the Islamic Republic of Iran. His torture, arbitrary detention, death sentence and now reported imminent execution are unconscionable acts that should be condemned by the international community in the strongest terms. We urge the Iranian authorities to take immediate action to reverse this decision before it is too late.

Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Diana Eltahawy, said:

“We call on members of the international community to immediately intervene, including through their embassies in Tehran, to save Ahmadreza Djalali’s life before it is too late.”

Valerie Peay, Director of the International Observatory of Human Rights said: “We stand in support of Dr Djalali and his family. Ahmadreza has already suffered gross injustice, pain and the cruel separation from his wife and two children. For three years he has faced a baseless death sentence while Iran has used him as a bargaining chip and sought to gain leverage with the international community by unjustly incarcerating Dr Djalali and other dual nationals. Now is the moment for the Islamic Republic to act to cease this action to execute Dr Djalali and instead, release him to return his life in Sweden with his family.

https://researchprofessionalnews.com/rr-news-europe-universities-2020-11-academic-groups-sound-alarm-over-djalali-death-sentence/embed/#?secret=xEX33rLMOr

EU Council approves conclusions on the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024

November 20, 2020

The Council has approved conclusions on the EU Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy 2020-2024. The Action Plan sets out the EU’s level of ambition and priorities in this field in its relations with all third countries.

See: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/03/27/new-eu-action-plan-for-human-rights-and-democracy-2020-2024/

The conclusions acknowledge that while there have been leaps forward, there has also been a pushback against the universality and indivisibility of human rights. The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its socio-economic consequences have had an increasingly negative impact on all human rights, democracy and rule of law, deepening pre-existing inequalities and increasing pressure on persons in vulnerable situations.

In 2012, the EU adopted the Strategic Framework on Human Rights and Democracy which set out the principles, objectives and priorities designed to improve the effectiveness and consistency of EU policy in these areas. To implement the EU Strategic Framework of 2012, the EU has adopted two EU Action Plans (2012-2014 and 2015-2019).

The new Action Plan for 2020-2024 builds on the previous action plans and continues to focus on long-standing priorities such as supporting human rights defenders and the fight against the death penalty.

By identifying five overarching priorities: (1) protecting and empowering individuals; (2) building resilient, inclusive and democratic societies; (3) promoting a global system for human rights and democracy; (4) new technologies: harnessing opportunities and addressing challenges; and (5) delivering by working together, the Action Plan also reflects the changing context with attention to new technologies and to the link between global environmental challenges and human rights.

https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2020/11/19/council-approves-conclusions-on-the-eu-action-plan-on-human-rights-and-democracy-2020-2024/

New shocking report by AI re prisoners’ abuse in Iran

September 3, 2020

Iran’s police, intelligence and security forces, and prison officials have committed, with the complicity of judges and prosecutors,  a catalogue of shocking human rights violations, including arbitrary detention, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment, against those detained in connection with the nationwide protests of November 2019, said Amnesty International in a new report published today.

The report, Trampling humanity: Mass arrests, disappearances and torture since Iran’s 2019 November protests, documents the harrowing accounts of dozens of protesters, bystanders and others who were violently arrested, forcibly disappeared or held incommunicado, systemically denied access to their lawyers during interrogations, and repeatedly tortured to “confess”. They are among the 7,000 men, women and children arrested by the Iranian authorities within a matter of days during their brutal repression of the protests.

Victims include children as young as 10 and injured protesters and bystanders arrested from hospitals while seeking medical care for gunshot wounds, as well as human rights defenders including minority rights activists, journalists, and individuals who attended ceremonies to commemorate those killed during the protests. Hundreds have since been sentenced to prison terms and flogging and several to the death penalty following grossly unfair trials which were presided over by biased judges behind closed doors, frequently lasted less than an hour, and systematically relied on torture-tainted “confessions”.

“In the days following the mass protests, videos showing Iran’s security forces deliberately killing and injuring unarmed protesters and bystanders sent shockwaves around the world. Much less visible has been the catalogue of cruelty meted out to detainees and their families by Iranian officials away from the public eye,” said Diana Eltahawy, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

Instead of investigating allegations of enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment and other crimes against detainees, Iranian prosecutors became complicit in the campaign of repression by bringing national security charges against hundreds of people solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, while judges doled out guilty verdicts on the basis of torture-tainted ‘confessions’. This litany of crimes and violations, committed with total impunity, has been accompanied by a wave of forced televised ‘confessions’ in state propaganda videos and grotesque statements from top officials who have praised intelligence and security forces as heroes for their role in the brutal crackdown.

Amnesty International has recorded the names and details of more than 500 protesters and others, including journalists and human rights defenders, who have been subjected to unfair criminal proceedings in connection with the protests.

Prison terms meted out to those convicted have ranged from between one month and 10 years for vague or spurious national security charges such as “gathering and colluding to commit crimes against national security”, “spreading propaganda against the system”, “disrupting public order” and “insulting the Supreme Leader”.

Of these, at least three, Amirhossein Moradi, Mohammad Rajabi and Saeed Tamjidi, were sentenced to death for “enmity against God” (moharebeh) through acts of vandalism, and another, Hossein Reyhani, is awaiting trial on a charge carrying the death penalty.

More than a dozen known to Amnesty International have received flogging sentences, in addition to prison terms, and at least two have had their flogging sentences implemented.

The organization believes that the real number of individuals prosecuted and sentenced in connection with the November 2019 protests is far higher, given the large number of arrests carried out and the patterns of prosecution and sentencing in the country in cases of arbitrary arrests and detention involving intelligence and security bodies.

Amnesty International is urging member states of the UN Human Rights Council and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to address the prolonged, systematic impunity for gross violations of human rights in Iran, including by supporting the establishment of a UN-led inquiry with a view to ensuring accountability and guarantees of non-repetition.

The organization is also urging all UN member states to forcefully call on the Iranian authorities to immediately and unconditionally release anyone who continues to be imprisoned solely for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly in connection with the November 2019 protests; quash all convictions resulting from unfair trials, including those that relied on statements obtained through torture or other ill-treatment; and hold those responsible to account.

Torture epidemic

Amnesty International’s research found that there was widespread use of torture and other ill-treatment by police, intelligence and security agents and prison officials against men, women and children, both during arrest and later in detention.

Prosecution and judicial authorities failed in their legal obligations to conduct independent and impartial inspections of detention facilities, including those run by security and intelligence bodies, and to ensure that legal provisions banning the use of secret detention and torture and other ill-treatment against detainees are respected.

Torture was used to punish, intimidate and humiliate detainees. It was also routinely used to elicit “confessions” and incriminating statements, not just about their involvement in the protests, but also about their alleged associations with opposition groups, human rights defenders, media outside Iran, as well as with foreign governments.

The organization’s research found that victims were frequently hooded or blindfolded; punched, kicked and flogged; beaten with sticks, rubber hosepipes, knives, batons and cables; suspended or forced into holding painful stress positions for prolonged periods; deprived of sufficient food and potable water; placed in prolonged solitary confinement, sometimes for weeks or even months; and denied medical care for injuries sustained during the protests or as a result of torture.

Other documented methods of torture included stripping detainees and spraying them with cold water, and subjecting detainees to extreme temperatures and/or bombardment of light or sound; forcible extraction of the nails from fingers or toes; pepper spraying; forced administration of chemical substances; using electric shocks; waterboarding; and mock executions.

Information received by Amnesty International from primary sources also reveals that interrogators and prison officials perpetrated sexual violence against male detainees, including through stripping and forced nakedness, sexual verbal abuse, pepper spraying the genital area, and administering electric shocks to the testicles.

One victim from Khorasan Razavi province who was subjected to waterboarding told Amnesty International:

“They [my interrogators] would drench a towel in water and place it over my face. Then they would pour water slowly over the towel, which made me feel like I was suffocating… They would stop… until I started to feel better and then they would start torturing me this way again. They also punched, kicked and flogged me on the soles of my feet with a cable.”

One man who was subjected to electric shocks recounted:

“The electric shocks were the worst form of torture… It felt like my entire body was being pierced with millions of needles. If I refused to answer their questions, they would raise the voltage levels and give me stronger electric shocks. I would shake violently and there would be a strong burning sensation coursing through my whole body…. The torture has had lasting effects on my mental and physical health. To this day, I still can’t sleep at night.”

A victim from Tehran province who was suspended from his hands and feet from a pole in a painful method his interrogators referred to as “chicken kebab” told the organization:

“The pain was excruciating. There was so much pressure and pain in my body that I would urinate on myself… My family know that I was tortured, but they don’t know how I was tortured. I feel choked with tears because there is no one here I can speak to.”

In all cases documented by Amnesty International, victims reported various forms of psychological torture to give forced “confessions”, including the use of degrading verbal insults and profanities; the intimidation and harassment of their family members; threats to arrest, torture, kill or otherwise harm their family members, including elderly parents or spouses; and threats to rape detainees or their female family members.

Enforced disappearances

Amnesty International’s research shows that many detainees were subjected to enforced disappearance for weeks or even months while held in undisclosed locations run by the security and intelligence bodies including the ministry of intelligence or the Revolutionary Guards. Other detainees were held in overcrowded prisons or police stations, military barracks, sports venues and schools.

Distressed relatives told the organization that they visited hospitals, morgues, police stations, prosecution offices, courts, prisons and other known detention centres to enquire about the fate or whereabouts of their loved ones, but the authorities refused to provide them with information and threatened them with arrest if they kept seeking information or publicly spoke out about them.

In one case documented by Amnesty International, the authorities arrested a family member of two people who were forcibly disappeared for enquiring about their fate and whereabouts.

Amnesty International is aware of three ongoing cases of enforced disappearance, where the authorities continue to conceal their fate and whereabouts from their families. They include brothers Mehdi Roodbarian and Mostafa Roodbarian from Mahshahr, Khuzestan province.

On 11 September followed this: https://en.radiofarda.com/a/human-rights-organizations-call-for-un-investigation-into-suppressing-iranian-protesters/30833918.html

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/09/iran-detainees-flogged-sexually-abused-and-given-electric-shocks-in-gruesome-post-protest-crackdown-new-report/

 

Four Yemeni journalists under Houthi death sentence

July 21, 2020

As four Yemeni journalists continue to wonder when or whether the Houthi authorities will execute the death sentences they received in April on spying charges, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls for international pressure to make the Houthis understand that they will suffer international opprobrium if they do not overturn the sentences.

Before being abducted by the Houthis in 2015, the four journalists played leading roles in a Sanaa-based network of media outlets and Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and WhatsApp pages linked to Al-Islah, the Yemeni branch of the Muslim Brotherhood and ruling party in regions controlled by Yemen’s internationally recognized government.

Abdul Khaleq Amran edited the Al-Islah Online website and ran Yemen Revolution Press, a news agency created from several media outlets in 2011. His staff covered the Yemeni civil war, documented crimes committed by the Houthis and interviewed the Houthis’ opponents.

Akram Al-Walidi supervised the staff of the Alrabie-ye.net news website and the government news agency SABA. He gathered information about developments in the fighting from the Al-Islah side, on the basis of reliable sources and with the help of a network of senior political and administrative officials then based in Ma’rib, which was established as the new capital after the Houthi rebels seized Sanaa.

Hareth Humaid, the head of news at Yemen Revolution Press, covered Houthi human rights violations, including abductions and bombardments of civilians. He produced a daily news bulletin with the latest violations. Its last issue was No. 54.

Tawfiq Al-Mansouri worked for the daily newspaper Al-Masdar until it stopped publishing when the Arab coalition intervened in 2015. He then joined Yemen Revolution Press doing layout and graphic design and helping to give form to the various media outlets linked to the agency.

After their abduction in 2015, the four journalists were secretly moved from one prison to another in Sanaa and were subjected to violent interrogations. Torture and repeated blows left all of them with severe physical and psychological aftereffects, according to the Association of Abductees’ Mothers. Amran has a slipped disc. Humaid has suffered loss of vision and has constant migraines. Walidi has chronic digestive problems.

“Every year the world moves one step closer to the universal abolition of the death penalty, but these four veteran journalists are facing the worst of all sentences just for doing their job,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“Efforts are urgently needed to end their nightmarish plight and return to humanitarian principles in a country where journalists have already paid a heavy price in the war. The Houthis must overturn this decision or face international opprobrium. We ask all those who may have any influence, direct or indirect, on the Houthis to use it to help bring this madness to an end.”

The four were among a total of ten journalists abducted by the Houthis in Sanaa in 2015 on the absurd grounds that they could potentially provide the Arab coalition with information for use in its air strikes. Accused of “collaborating with the enemy,” they were tried by a Houthi Special Criminal Court that is not recognized by the international community.

In its latest annual round-up, RSF reported that a total of 15 journalists were being held hostage in Yemen, most of them by the Houthis. The others were either being held in provinces controlled by the so-called “legitimate government” (such as Muhammad Ali Al-Moqri) on in areas controlled by separatists (such as Saleh Musawa, who has since been released).

As RSF also reported in the 2019 round-up, the conditions in Yemen are nowadays so bad that many journalists have abandoned journalism and have switched to other forms of work. Yemen is ranked 167th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index. See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2020/05/04/world-press-freedom-day-2020-a-few-more-links/

https://rsf.org/en/news/who-are-four-yemeni-journalists-under-houthi-death-sentence

Saudi Arabia ends death penalty for minors and flogging but Abdullah al-Hamid dies in detention

April 27, 2020

Many media reported on Saudi Arabia‘s King Salman having ordered an end to the death penalty for crimes committed by minors and to floggings, which should indeed be considered progress. King Salman’s son and heir, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has sought to modernize the country, attract foreign investment and revamp Saudi Arabia’s reputation globally. He’s also overseen a parallel crackdown on liberals, women’s rights activists, writers, moderate clerics and reformers. The 2018 killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey by agents who worked for the crown prince drew sharp criticism internationally. [for some ealrier posts on Saudi Arabia, see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/saudi-arabia/]

The latest royal decree could spare the death penalty for at least six men from the country’s minority Shiite community who allegedly committed crimes while under the age of 18, including Ali al-Nimr, who had participated in anti-government protests. Such activity carries terrorism-related charges in the kingdom for disturbing order and disobeying the ruler. Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have long called on the kingdom to abolish the use of the death penalty, particularly for crimes committed by minors. The president of the Saudi government’s Human Rights Commission, Awwad Alawwad, confirmed the latest decision in a statement Sunday, saying it helps the kingdom establish “a more modern penal code and demonstrates the kingdom’s commitment to following through on key reforms.” He said “more reforms will be coming,” and that the two decisions “reflect how Saudi Arabia is forging ahead in its realization of critical human rights reforms even amid the hardship imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Five years ago, prominent Saudi blogger Raif Badawi was given 50 lashes before hundreds of spectators in the metropolitan city of Jiddah. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/10/29/saudi-blogger-raif-badawi-awarded-europes-sakharov-prize/]. It drew outrage and condemnation from around the world, including from many of Saudi Arabia’s Western allies.

In the meantime long prison sentences carry their own risk as seen in the case of Saudi human rights defender Abdullah al-Hamid, 69, has died in custody in a hospital in Saudi Arabia, according to the Right Livelihood Foundation, which awarded a prize [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/11/14/right-livelihood-award-urges-freedom-for-3-saudi-laureates/]. It said on Friday that al-Hamid, who was serving an 11-year prison sentence, was taken to hospital after suffering from ill-health in a Riyadh prison earlier this year. He subsequently had a stroke and fell into a coma in early April, according to rights groups including Amnesty International. “Dr al-Hamid was a fearless champion for human rights in Saudi Arabia,” Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty’s Middle East research director, said in a statement.

The Right Livelihood Foundation said al-Hamid was repeatedly denied crucial medical care and “paid the ultimate price for his convictions”. Ole von Uexkull, head of the foundation, blamed Saudi authorities for his death, saying that al-Hamid’s “unlawful imprisonment and inhumane treatment … led to his death“.

Iranian human rights defender Emad Baghi continues his campaign against the death penalty

July 10, 2019

Emadeddin Baghi, seen in a picture uploaded April 28, 2012.

Can fiction help an anti-death penalty campaign in Iran? MEA laureate 2009 Emad Baghi thinks so. He published a 456-page semi-autobiographical work bwith the aim to turn the public against the death penalty in his country. [see e.g. https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2011/06/21/emad-baghi-laureate-2009-of-the-martin-ennals-award-released-from-prison/]

Read more: https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2019/06/fiction-to-help-campaign-against-death-penalty-in-iran.html#ixzz5t14zRau2

Brunei back to the middle ages – will hotel boycott work?

April 4, 2019

Cruel and inhuman punishments such as death by stoning for same-sex sexual acts and amputation for robbery came into effect in Brunei Darussalam as Amnesty International feared. The proposed changes to Brunei’s penal code to incorporate punishments under a strict interpretation of Islamic law – including death by stoning – should be halted, the UN’s top human rights official, Michelle Bachelet, said on Monday 1 April 2019. Now some interesting new celebrity action is on the way:

A boycott of Brunei-owned luxury hotels  was sparked last week in an opinion piece by actor George Clooney, who said a boycott of the high-end hotels — where rooms can start at $600 a night or more — is necessary to keep money from flowing “directly into the pockets of men who choose to stone and whip to death their own citizens for being gay or accused of adultery.” It is gaining support from celebrities including Ellen DeGeneres and Elton John as the country on Wednesday implemented what it called Islamic criminal laws including death by stoning for gay sex.

The nine hotels owned by Brunei are:

  • The Dorchester, London
  • 45 Park Lane, London
  • Coworth Park, UK
  • The Beverly Hills Hotel, Beverly Hills
  • Hotel Bel-Air, Los Angeles
  • Le Meurice, Paris
  • Hotel Plaza Athenee, Paris
  • Hotel Eden, Rome
  • Hotel Principe di Savoia, Milan

..In his opinion piece last week, Clooney noted that he’s stayed at many of the hotels owned by Brunei, a small nation located on the island of Borneo, but said he was unaware of their ownership “because I hadn’t done my homework.” He acknowledged that a boycott is unlikely to change Brunei’s laws, but said consumers must decide whether they want their money to support laws that violate human rights. “Are we really going to help fund the murder of innocent citizens?” he wrote. “I’ve learned over years of dealing with murderous regimes that you can’t shame them. But you can shame the banks, the financiers and the institutions that do business with them and choose to look the other way.”

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2019/03/brunei-darussalam-heinous-punishments-to-become-law-next-week/
https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-asia-47813751/will-george-clooney-s-brunei-boycott-really-work
https://www.20min.ch/ro/news/monde/story/Clooney-appelle-au-boycott-des-h-tels-de-Brunei-25250215
https://www.economist.com/asia/2019/04/04/bruneis-ultra-rich-monarch-adopts-harsh-sharia-punishments?
https://news.un.org/en/story/2019/04/1035831

Does G7 set a precedent with Sotoudeh for inviting human rights defenders?

March 11, 2019

Radio Farda on 8 March 2019 reported that France’s President Macron has decided to invite jailed Iranian Human Rights Defender Nasrin Sotoudeh to the G7 Council. This is an excellent idea that deserves follow-up in other such forums. There are quite a few laureates of human rights awards who are in detention or subject to a travel ban. An invitation from a group of important world leaders is hard to ignore!

My first suggestions are:

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2019/01/29/eren-keskin-mea-nominee-2019-speaks-out-fearlessly-turkey-more-oppressive-today-than-ever/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/10/10/breaking-news-egyptian-defender-mohammed-zaree-laureate-of-the-martin-ennals-award-2017/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/09/15/fly-emirates-if-the-emirs-let-you/


Imprisoned Iranian lawyer and human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh adjusts her scarf at her house in Tehran, September 18, 2013
Imprisoned Iranian lawyer and human rights activist Nasrin Sotoudeh adjusts her scarf at her house in Tehran, September 18, 2013

French President Emmanuel Macron has invited jailed Iranian human rights lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh to take part in the G7 gender equality forum. Sotoudeh’s husband Reza Khandan told Radio Farda on Friday that Macron’s invitation has been given to him in Tehran on Thursday March 7, one day before the International Women’s Day.[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/06/16/iranian-human-rights-lawyer-nasrin-sotoudeh-arrested-again/]

Ms. Sotoudeh is to be a member of the consultative council for gender equality in Group 7. Khandan said Iranian women should be proud of Soutoudeh’s membership in the G7 council. Copies of the invitation have been handed to the Iranian Foreign Ministry and Bar Association.

Nasrin Sotoudeh has been in Jail since June 2018 with a five-year imprisonment sentence and is facing more charges for defending human rights activists in Iran. She is an outspoken opponent of the death penalty and compulsory hijab.  Sotoudeh, 55, is the winner of numerous international awards, including PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write (2011), Southern Illinois University School of Law Rule of Law Citation (2011) and Sakharov Prize (2012). On 21 September 2018, she was awarded the 23rd Ludovic-Trarieux International Human Rights Prize.

https://en.radiofarda.com/a/france-s-macron-invites-jailed-iranian-human-rights-lawyer-to-g7-council-/29811115.html

UN Panel debated death penalty with focus on human rights

February 26, 2019

Today, 26 February 2019, the UN Human Rights Council held its biennial high-level panel discussion on the question of the death penalty, with a focus on human rights violations in the context of the death penalty, in particular with respect to the rights to non-discrimination and equality.  A report was distributed by the APO Group on behalf of Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Here some highlights:

..In her opening statement, Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, reminded that death rows were disproportionately populated by the poor and economically vulnerable; members of ethnic minorities; people with psychosocial or intellectual disabilities; foreign nationals; indigenous persons; and other marginalized members of society.  Condemning people to death for conduct that should not be criminalized in the first place was never compatible with a State’s human rights obligations.  The High Commissioner encouraged all States to take a stand on the right side of history and join the international trend towards abolition.  

The panellists were Pradeep Kumar Gyawali, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Nepal; Melinda Janki, Director of the Justice Institute Guyana; and Fatimata M’Baye, Lawyer and Co-Founder of the Mauritanian Human Rights Association.  Yuval Shany, Chair of the Human Rights Committee, acted as the discussion moderator.

Mr. Shany drew attention to the adoption by the Human Rights Committee of the General Comment No. 36 on the right to life, according to which the death penalty could not be “reconciled with full respect for the right to life.”  The General Comment made particular reference to the problem of inequality in the application of the death penalty.  

….

FATIMATA M’BAYE, Lawyer and Co-Founder of the Mauritanian Human Rights Association, said that there had been a moratorium on the death penalty in Mauritania since 1987, though there were still death penalty rulings handed down.  She drew attention to the case of Mohamed Ould Mkheitir, a blogger who had posted an article about social discrimination in Mauritania, which meant he was accused of blasphemy.  When he was arrested, he was asked to repent and quickly withdraw the article, but unfortunately, he was still prosecuted quickly by the police.  This case had given rise to a great deal of violence and hatred within the local community.  Mohamed was sentenced to death in 2015 by the penal court of the country, which was confirmed in 2016.  There was an appeal launched, and a two-year sentence was later handed down.  Ms. M’Baye said that the blogger was currently being held in a secret location.  The source of law in Mauritania was Islamic law, and women were often sentenced to the death penalty, many times accused of infanticide.  The death penalty was an egregious practice that was humiliating and degrading.  The United Nations could play a role in ending the death penalty by asking those States that still practiced it to abandon this punishment in the name of the right to life. [see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/04/08/us-state-department-international-women-of-courage-awards-2016-yulan/]

In the ensuing discussion, speakers expressed belief that the abolition of the death penalty and torture had elevated human dignity and advanced human rights.  The death penalty was a human right violation.  They hailed the adoption in the United Nations General Assembly of a resolution on a moratorium on the death penalty in December 2018, but noted that around the world capital punishment continued to be imposed in violation of major international standards.  Speakers expressed deep concern that the death penalty was imposed in a disproportionate and discriminatory manner to juvenile offenders, women victims of domestic violence, minorities, foreign nationals, persons with disabilities, and poor and economically vulnerable populations.  Some, however, noted that every State had the right to choose its legal and criminal justice systems, without external interference, and that the rights of defendants always had to be weighed against the rights of victims and their families, and the broader rights of the community and society.    

Speaking were Iceland on behalf of a group of countries, Montenegro, Luxembourg, Italy, Mexico, Singapore on behalf of a group of countries, Chile on behalf of a group of countries, Brazil on behalf of a group of countries, European Union, New Zealand, Pakistan, Australia, Malaysia, Fiji, Slovenia, Ecuador, France, Iraq, Iran, Bangladesh, Argentina, India, Saudi Arabia, and Greece. 

Also taking the floor were the following civil society organizations: Friends World Committee for Consultation, Centre for Global Nonkilling, International Lesbian and Gay Association, Together against the death penalty, and International Federation of ACAT (Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture), and the National Human Rights Institution: Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines. ….. 

Iran respected those who had abolished the death penalty, but it could not accept any universal prescription to that effect.  Iran remained committed to observing the rule of law and due process in the criminal justice system, while continuing to study the best ways to serve justice.  Bangladesh stressed that its application of the death penalty was restricted to very selective cases of the most heinous crimes.  No child or pregnant woman could be sentenced to death.  Argentina believed that the abolition of the death penalty and torture had elevated human dignity and advanced human rights.  The death penalty was a human rights violation.

India reiterated its stance that it was a simplistic approach to characterize the death penalty as a human rights issue in the context of the right to life of the convicted prisoner.  This approach was deeply flawed and controversial.  There should be no external interference in the criminal justice system of any sovereign State. ….  Saudi Arabia stated that it used the death penalty for only for most serious crimes and in the most serious circumstances, after a fair trial had been guaranteed.  All procedures were in accordance with international standards as Islamic Sharia lay down the provisions of the punishments to guarantee the supreme rights of the people.  All States had the sovereign right to bring justice through their own procedures.  Greece opposed the death penalty in all cases and circumstances and highlighted the death penalty’s negation of the reformative function that any punishment should bare.  It was particularly concerned that the death penalty disproportionately affected women, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons, and human rights defenders and therefore urged States to do their utmost to ensure a fair trial. ..

YUVAL SHANY, Chair of the Human Rights Committee, noted that many delegates had commended the trend towards the abolition of the death penalty.  However, a concern around what some had termed as a backlash against abolition in this field was also noted.  A number of representatives had also noted the irreversibility of the death penalty.  It was also noted that there was an increasing consensus that the death penalty if applied should only be applied for the most serious crimes.  There was also a strong concern from all corners of the room about the problem of discrimination in regard to poverty, sexual orientation, women, psychosocial disability and other issues.  The panel was asked: how could all address biases, racial biases, gender biases and other biases in the application of the death penalty, and identify good practices so the death penalty was applied in a non-discriminatory fashion? 

…..

Profile of Human Rights Defender Henderson Hill in the USA

October 24, 2018

Human Rights Defender Henderson Hill in the USA is a campaigner against the death penalty. This is another of the profiles recently published by European External Action Service (EEAS) in the context of the 70th anniversary of the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. [see: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/10/04/chia-wei-chi-first-in-series-of-videos-by-european-external-action-service/].

https://eeas.europa.eu/headquarters/headquarters-homepage/51511/human-rights-defenders-henderson-hill-usa_en