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

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Bali nine executions: Court throws out two more cases

Two more foreigners on death row in Indonesia have had their cases thrown out of court in a sign that the executions are imminent.

President Joko Widodo has warned that the execution of 10 drug felons, including Bali nine organisers Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan, is "only a matter of time" pending the conclusion of their legal processes.

Supreme Court spokesman Suhadi told Fairfax Media on Tuesday the court had rejected requests for judicial reviews lodged by Frenchman Serge Atlaoui and Martin Anderson from Ghana.

Hope is fading for a further reprieve as Attorney General H.M. Prasetyo has repeatedly said it was the outcome of these two cases on which he was waiting before proceeding with the executions.

Atlaoui was arrested near Jakarta in 2005 in a secret laboratory producing ecstasy. He has always maintained he is innocent of drug charges and was simply installing equipment in what he thought was an acrylics factory.

His legal team has also argued it is incomprehensible why Atlaoui is facing the firing squad in the next round of executions when he was arrested with 17 others.

"Is it because he is a foreign national?" Atlaoui's lawyer, Nancy Yuliana, asked in the Jakarta Post.

Nigerian Raheem Agbaje Salami also had his case thrown out of the Administrative Court on Monday on the grounds the court did not have jurisdiction over clemency pleas.

Earlier this month the Supreme Court also rejected the request for a judicial review made by Filipina maid Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso.

She is the only one of the 10 felons in the next round of executions who is yet to be transferred to Nusakambagan, the remote site of the executions.

Controversially, [Attorney-General] Prastyo has also declared that Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte is fit for execution even though he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, Jewel Topsfield, April 22, 2015

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Indonesian court rejects death row Frenchman's appeal

French death row inmate Serge Atlaoui
Indonesia's Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal by a Frenchman on death row for drug offences, taking him and a group of other foreigners closer to execution by firing squad.

Serge Atlaoui, 51, was arrested near Jakarta in 2005 in a secret laboratory producing ecstasy and was sentenced to death two years later.

Imprisoned in Indonesia for a decade, the father-of-four has always denied the charges, saying he was installing industrial machinery in what he thought was an acrylics factory.

He is one of several foreign drug convicts on death row in Indonesia who recently lost appeals for presidential clemency, typically a last chance to avoid the firing squad. They are expected to be executed once final legal appeals are resolved.

In a further bid to avoid execution, Atlaoui filed a request for a judicial review of his case at the Supreme Court.

However Suhadi, one of the judges assessing his case, said the court rejected his application on Tuesday.

"A panel of three judges has rejected (the request) for a judicial review from Frenchman Serge Atlaoui," said Suhadi, who goes by one name and is also the Supreme Court spokesman.

He said there was no new evidence presented -- a requirement for a judicial review -- and the reasons put forward were not sufficient.

Several other death row convicts also have legal bids outstanding, including two high-profile Australian drug traffickers who have lost several appeals but are now taking their case to the Constitutional Court, although authorities insist they have no more options.

A Ghanaian among the group is appealing to the Supreme Court.

The French ambassador to Indonesia warned last week that executing Atlaoui would have "consequences" for relations between Paris and Jakarta.

Drug laws in Indonesia are among the world’s toughest.

President Joko Widodo, who took office in October, has been a vocal supporter of putting drug traffickers to death, saying the country is facing a narcotics emergency.

However Indonesia has been actively trying to save its own citizens on death row abroad -- Jakarta last week protested at the execution of two Indonesian women in Saudi Arabia.

Source: Agence France-Presse, April 21, 2015

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Prison guards and the death penalty

Screenshot from "Monster's Ball" (2001) by Marc Forster
with Billy Bob Thornton, Halle Berry and Heath Ledger.
Like murder, execution inflicts emotional and psychological damage on those linked to it.

How are prison guards affected by overseeing prisoners on death row or even participating in executions? What effects does it have in the short and the longer term?

This short paper draws on research and interviews with prison guards to outline the psychological impact that guards who have worked with prisoners for many years on death row can experience when a prisoner is put to death.

This paper is part of a series looking at the wider impact of the death penalty. See also our paper: Fighting for clients’ lives: the impact of the death penalty on defence lawyers.


When we think about the people affected by the death penalty, we may not think about guards on death rows. But these officials, whether they oversee prisoners awaiting execution or participate in the execution itself, can be deeply affected by their role in helping to put a person to death. 

Guards on death row

Persons sentenced to death are usually considered among the most dangerous prisoners and are placed in the highest security conditions. Prison guards are frequently suspicious of death row prisoners, are particularly vigilant around them,1 and experience death row as a dangerous place. 

Harsh prison conditions can make things worse not only for prisoners but also for guards. The mental health of death row prisoners frequently deteriorates and they may suffer from ‘death row phenomenon’, the ‘condition of mental and emotional distress brought on by prolonged incarceration in the harsh conditions of death row, combined with the knowledge of forthcoming execution’,2 leading guards to fear for their own safety. Solitary confinement in particular degrades prisoners’ mental health on death rows; it is common practice in countries including Japan, Jordan, South Korea, USA and elsewhere.3 In Japan, in the latter stages before execution, all communication between prisoners or between guards and prisoners is forbidden.

In 2014, the Texas prison guards union appealed for better death row prisoner conditions, because the guards faced daily danger from prisoners made mentally ill by solitary confinement and who had ‘nothing to lose’.5 In this environment, routine safety practices were imposed that dehumanised prisoners and guards alike, such as every exit of a cell requiring a strip search. Guards protested that their own dignity was undermined by the obligation to look at ‘one naked inmate after another’6 all day. 

Interactions with prisoners

Despite the stark conditions, death rows are still places where human connections form. In all but the most extreme solitary settings, guards engage with prisoners regularly, bringing them food and accompanying them when they leave their cells (for example to exercise, receive visits or attend court hearings). Guards may spend more time with death row prisoners than with friends or family outside and can develop empathy towards the prisoners.7 Modern prison management actually encourages the development by staff of positive relationships with prisoners, in combination with an understanding of prisoners’ personal situations and any risk posed by individual prisoners.8

Managing visits from family members can be emotionally tough for guards, especially when prisoners are banned from touching their visitors and visits take place through glass partitions or nets.9 The ‘most difficult thing’ as an attending guard is ‘to see on the other side of the glass … the families. Children. Never be able to touch. Never be able to hug.’10 Final visits by families prior to execution can be even harder, as can the time when guards see the prisoner for the last time. When prisoners leave for execution, guards may become tense and uneasy;11 some have started crying after doing mundane tasks like taking a prisoner’s fingerprints.12 A Tanzanian prison officer described how he would ‘spend sleepless nights for a week before regaining my composure’13 following an execution. One US guard reported at least a dozen occasions in which a prisoner about to go to the execution chamber would stick his hand out of the slot in the door to shake his hand, and say something like: ‘Good to know you … Thanks for being a good officer’.14

1. Information from India, Japan and USA, 2014 and 2015.
2. Penal Reform International, Death Penalty Information Pack, London, 2014, p. 35.
3. Death Penalty Worldwide database, accessed 18 February 2015 at http://www.deathpenaltyworldwide.org/country-search-post.cfm?89-0chk=on&90- 0chk=on&99-0chk=on.
4. Amnesty International, Hanging by a Thread: Mental Health and the Death Penalty in Japan, London, 2009, p. 31.
5. Joanna Walters, ‘Prison Guards Working On Texas’ Death Row Call For Softer Conditions For Condemned Inmates’, The Telegraph website, 18 February 2014, accessed 25 January 2015 at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/10647442/Prison-guards-working-onTexas-Death-Row-call-for-softer-conditions-for-condemned-inmates.html.
6. Alex Hannaford, ‘Inmates Aren’t the Only Victims of the Prison-Industrial Complex’, The Nation, 16 September 2014, accessed 28 November 2014 at http://www.thenation.com/article/181607/inmates-arent-only-victims-prison-industrial-complex (Inmates aren’t the only victims); Texas After Violence Project, Interview with Edgar Fincher, 17 April 2011, forthcoming at http://av.lib.utexas.edu/index.php?title=Category:Texas_After_Violence_Project (Interview with Edgar Fincher).
7. Interview with Edgar Fincher.
8. ‘Dynamic security’ is defined as ‘the development by staff of positive relationships with prisoners … in combination with an understanding of their personal situation and any risk posed by individual prisoners’ (Council of Europe, Recommendation Rec(2003)23 on the management by prison administrations of life sentence and other long-term prisoners, Adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 9 October 2003, para. 18(a)).

9. Oliver Robertson and Rachel Brett, Lightening the Load of the Parental Death Penalty on Children, Quaker United Nations Office, Geneva, June 2013, p. 20. 
10. Interview with Edgar Fincher. 
11. Information from India, 2015. 
12. Inmates aren’t the only victims. 
13. Kiangiosekazi Wa-Nyoka, ‘Death penalty with its perceived deterrent effect’, Daily News website, 15 November 2014, accessed 27 November 2014 at http://dailynews.co.tz/index.php/columnists/columnists/38290-death-penalty-with-its-perceived-deterrent-effect (Perceived deterrent effect). 
14. Interview with Edgar Fincher

Source: Prison Reform International, April 2015. Penal Reform International (PRI) is an independent non-governmental organisation that develops and promotes fair, effective and proportionate responses to criminal justice problems worldwide.

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Bali Nine executions 'must be more civilised'

Indonesian police blocking access to Nusakambangan prison island, where Indonesia carries out its executions.
Indonesian police in Cilacap, in Java, blocking access to
Nusakambangan prison island, where Indonesia carries out its executions.
Indonesia's president has warned it "is only a matter of time" until Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran are executed.

Jakarta has postponed the executions of the two Australians and eight other drug offenders for this week, while it hosts foreign dignitaries for the Asian African Conference.

But the stay is only temporary, with President Joko Widodo telling Indonesian wire service Antara the executions are "only a matter of time".

Philippines Vice President Jejomar Binay is expected to raise the issue in Jakarta meetings this week as concern grows over the fate of condemned domestic worker Mary Jane Veloso.

Former Indonesian foreign minister Hassan Wirajuda says a more "civilised" approach could help avoid diplomatic strife in future.

He said he isn't troubled by Indonesia's use of the death penalty, but more by the language officials are using when explaining it.

Mr Wirajuda says the foreign protests are legitimate, but Indonesia must project a better image of its death penalty regime.

"We already gave the maximum legal avenues to find the most fair legal verdict," he said on Tuesday.

"But when the (death) sentence is final, the way we do it, maybe we can be more civilised.

"We shouldn't showcase the executions ... Why must we describe in detail the process of the execution? That's not necessary ... China is also doing this without showcasing it like they're enjoying the executions.

"That's what I mean when I say that we need to do it in more civilised manner."

Chan and Sukumaran are among the prisoners still pursuing legal challenges.

The Bali Nine pair, who remain in an isolated cell on Nusakambangan Island, have a case lodged with the Constitutional Court that challenges the clemency process, but it's yet to be registered.

Indonesian Zainal Abidin, Ghanian Martin Anderson and Frenchman Serge Atlaoui have applied for Supreme Court judicial reviews.

Veloso and Nigerian Raheem Salami plan to follow, while a relative for Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte, who suffers schizophrenia, is pursuing guardianship before other legal moves.

In the interview with Antara, Mr Joko said he wouldn't interfere with the outstanding legal appeals of the group awaiting the firing squad, but confirmed the executions will take place on their conclusion.

Meanwhile, the high court in the West Java city of Bandung has commuted the death sentences of two Iranian drug offenders.

The pair was sentenced to death in January after they were caught in February 2014 trying to pick up a delivery of 40 kilos of methamphetamine.

A National Narcotics Agency spokesman said he regrets the new sentences at a time when the government is taking a tough stance by executing death row drug offenders.

But the judges disagreed, reportedly saying in their decision that sentencing is "not about revenge but more a form of education".

Source: AAP 2015, April 21, 2015

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U.S. couple found guilty of 'sadistic' Bali suitcase murder, escape death penalty

Tommy Schaefer and Heather Mack in court
Tommy Schaefer and Heather Mack in court
(Reuters) - An Indonesian court found a young U.S. couple guilty on Tuesday of murdering the woman's mother and stuffing her battered body into a suitcase on the resort island of Bali.

Heather Mack and Tommy Schaefer, both from the Chicago area, were arrested last August after staff at a luxury hotel discovered the body of Mack's mother, Sheila von Wiese-Mack, in an abandoned suitcase in a taxi.

Schaefer was sentenced to 18 years in prison for premeditated murder immediately after the verdict was delivered by a panel of three judges, and Mack to 10 years for being an accessory to murder.

The pair were tried separately in Denpasar District Court and it was not immediately clear if they would appeal.

Schaefer, 21, who had said in court he had killed Wiese-Mack in self-defense after she attacked him in anger because she objected to the couple's relationship, apologized to the family of the victim.

"Although I do take full responsibility for my actions, I am not a murderer," he told Reuters after hearing the verdict.

Prosecutors had called for a 15-year sentence for Mack, 19, because she faced a lesser charge and because she recently gave birth to a baby girl.

"10 years is better than the 15 years sought by the prosecution, so (we're) happy," said Ni Ketut Novi Sri Wirani, Mack's lawyer.

Presiding Judge Made Suweda spent more than an hour reading out the grisly details of the killing before delivering the verdicts.

"In my decision I have made a special judgment because Heather has a baby who needs a mother," said the judge. "For Tommy, I call the crime sadistic."

Source: Reuters, April 21, 2015

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Monday, April 20, 2015

Indonesian court commutes death sentences of 2 Iranian drug traffickers

In what may be a glimmer of hope for the Bali Nine ringleaders, two Iranians convicted of drug offences in Indonesia have had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment on appeal.

Mustofa Moradalivand and Sayed Hashem were sentenced to death by Bandung district court in West Java in January after they were caught in February 2014 trying to pick up a delivery of 40 kilos of methamphetamine.

Slamet Pribadi, a spokesman for the National Narcotics Agency, said he regretted the new sentences at a time when the Indonesian government is taking a tough stance by executing drug offenders on death row.

"We didn't want to intervene with the judicial process, but we expected the appeal of this case would corroborate the initial court verdict," Pribadi was quoted as saying by news website detik.com.

Along with Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, a Brazilian, a Nigerian, a Ghanaian, a French national and a Filipino are all set to be executed for drug convictions following a first batch of executions by Indonesia in January.

Source: AAP, April 21, 2015 (local time)

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Iran: 10 hanged in Esfahan, Shiraz and Zahedan

April 20, 2015: Ten prisoners were hanged in Iran on April 13 and 20.

Four prisoners with drug-related charges were executed on April 13 in Esfahan prison, according to the report of Human Rights Activists News Agency in Iran (HRANA). 

One of them has been identified as Siamak Ranjbari. 

Also, retaliation sentences for two brothers, Ali and Reza Sardari, were executed in Adel Abad prison in Shiraz. 

According to a report from inside Iran, 4 prisoners were hanged on April 18 in Zahedan’s Central Prison, east of the country.

The judiciary or the media in Iran have not reported these executions. 

Sources: HRANA News Agency, April 19-20, 2015

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Living on death row in Tennessee: 'The rollercoaster is exhausting'

Screenshot from "Rectify" (2013), a TV Series  by  Ray McKinnon
Screenshot from "Rectify" (2013), a TV Series  by  Ray McKinnon
with Aden Young, Abigail Spencer, and J. Smith-Cameron.
Thirty-four inmates are volleyed between life and death as the state grapples with lawsuits on the constitutionality of legal injection and the electric chair

Donnie Johnson has spent nearly half of his life waiting to die. In 1985, the Memphis camping equipment center staffer was found guilty of suffocating his wife, Connie, with a plastic garbage bag. Since his conviction, he’s maintained his innocence; insisting that a work‐release inmate murdered his wife, and that he only helped dispose of the body at a nearby shopping center out of fear for his life.

The 64‐year‐old death row inmate, who stays at Riverbend Maximum Security Institution on the western outskirts of Nashville, has twice been scheduled to die. 

Johnson, whose latest execution date on 24 March was indefinitely postponed, is one of 69 inmates currently locked up on Tennessee’s death row. The inmates’ lives now hang in the balance of a pair of lawsuits contesting whether the state’s two execution methods, lethal injection and the electric chair, illegally subject them to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of their constitutional rights. A court last week halted all executions until the current legal challenges are resolved.

Tennessee’s courtrooms have become one of the latest battlegrounds over how prisoners sentenced to death are executed. Those challenges – which gained national attention last year after several botched executions ahead of the US supreme court’s landmark lethal injection case later this month – come at a time when some residents of the conservative southern state are showing signs of shifting their views on the death penalty.

Since Tennessee’s last execution in 2009, lawyers have argued over numerous parts of the capital punishment process. Following a series of court rulings, the state has switched up the deadly drug used in its executions, concealed the identities of people administering lethal injection drugs to inmates, and brought back the electric chair as a backup execution method in case its dwindling supply of lethal injection drugs runs out. Those legal fights, largely taking place over the past two years, occurred as former Democratic attorney general Robert Cooper embarked on an unprecedented effort to schedule executions in a state that has only killed six inmates since the turn of the century.

Thirty‐four Tennessee death‐row inmates are now challenging whether the state’s procedures for both execution methods are unnecessarily cruel. 

[Kelly Henry, a capital habeas unit supervisor with the Tennessee federal public defender’s office] questions the broader use of the death penalty in Tennessee. She says the process, particularly when execution dates are delayed, can trigger post‐traumatic stress disorder due to the psychological torture involved. Case in point: one of her past clients had four stays of execution before which he washed down his cell for the next inmate, packed up his belongings and divided them up for his family members. Three days before an execution, Henry says, inmates are moved to an 8ft‐by‐10ft cell, placed under 24‐hour observation, and strip‐searched before all visitations.

“It’s surreal,” Henry says. “All this complete dehumanization of themselves to make sure they don’t kill themselves before they kill them.”

Source: The Guardian, Max Blau, April 19, 2015

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279 Indonesian migrant workers face death penalty abroad

Indonesia vs Saudi Arabia: The Maid Issue. Read more.
As many as 279 Indonesia migrant workers overseas face the possibility of execution, 36 of whom are in Saudi Arabia, an official has said.

“The government, through the Indonesian embassies in those countries, is striving to free them [death row convicts] from the death sentences by, among others efforts, conducting informal approaches to families of the victims,” Manpower Ministry migrant worker placement director Guntur Witjaksono said.

He was speaking during a coordination meeting concerning Indonesian migrant worker placement and protection in Semarang, Central Java, on Friday.

Guntur said informal lobbying of families of victims was a key means of securing pardon for Indonesian migrant workers awaiting execution.

He said some of the migrant workers being facing the death penalty had been convicted of murder. According to the ministry's official data, six out of 36 Indonesian migrant workers on death row overseas are from Central Java.

The head of the domestic and foreign worker placement division at the Central Java Manpower, Transmigration and Population agency, Ahmad Aziz, said in the beginning of 2015, eight migrant workers from Central Java were facing the possibility of execution.

“There are now only six workers [on death row], as Karni from Brebes has been executed, while Satinah from Semarang escaped execution after the Indonesian government paid diyat [blood money] to the victim's family,” said Aziz.

The deputy head of the Agency for the Placement and Protection of Indonesian Migrant Workers (BNP2TKI), Agustin Subiantoro, said most Indonesian workers facing legal problems overseas were working in informal sectors, particularly as domestic helpers.

“The problem often starts at the very beginning, namely in worker-recruitment processes that do not follow required procedures. These include document-completeness examinations, competency tests, health check-ups and training before departures,” he said.

Agustin added that by completing all procedures, there should have been a guarantee that Indonesian migrant workers dispatched were only those who had the competence or skills needed by their employers in the destination countries.

To better protect Indonesian workers from similar legal problems in the future, he said the government would establish stricter recruitment protocol, stressing worker competence such as housework skills, legal knowledge and language, as well as the ability to adapt to the culture of the people in their destination countries.

Karni binti Medi Tarsim was executed on Thursday. In 2013, a Saudi Arabian court sentenced Karni to death for killing her employer’s four-year-old child in 2012. Karni’s execution came just two days after another Indonesian migrant worker, Siti Zaenab, was beheaded in Medina on Tuesday. In 2001, a local court sentenced Siti to death for murdering her female employer in 1999.

Source: The Jakarta Post, April 19, 2015

Jokowi’s execution plan won’t jeopardize migrants

The Foreign Ministry has defended President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo's policy on the execution of foreign nationals convicted of drug offences, saying that it would not jeopardize the fight to save hundreds of Indonesian migrant workers on death row overseas.

The ministry's director for the protection of Indonesian citizens, Lalu Muhammad Iqbal, said on Saturday the ministry had not found any indication that Jokowi's plan had compromised diplomatic efforts to stop the execution of migrant workers overseas.

"Nothing has been affected. We executed foreign nationals in Indonesia before and were able to save 238 of our people [from executions overseas between 2011 and 2015] and none of the countries have complained [about it]," he told reporters on Saturday.

Currently, there are at least 227 Indonesian nationals hoping to be pardoned.

The majority of them, 168, are in Malaysia, and 60 per cent of them are drug convicts, data from the ministry shows.

Iqbal said no country had attempted to block Indonesia's attempts to save its citizens from execution because the country's efforts were conducted through legal means.

"So if we have exhausted all legal means, such as providing lawyers and legal counseling, but still to no avail, we will move toward diplomatic protection. That's where the President comes in," Iqbal said.

As of today, the only cases that have prompted the Indonesian government to deploy diplomatic means involved Siti Zaenab and Karni binti Medi Tarsim, two Indonesian migrant workers who earlier this week were executed in Saudi Arabia.

According to Iqbal, both President Jokowi and his predecessor, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, had earlier sent letters to the Saudi King regarding both cases, leading to the postponement of the executions until 2015.

"But there was a limit to what the king could do to postpone the process. Therefore, when one of them was executed, we already expected the other one to be executed within the next two days," he said.

The government had only been able to make predictions as to when the Saudi Arabian government would carry out both executions because it had not given prior notice to either the family members or Indonesian government.

Iqbal said Saudi Arabian law did not obligate the government to give notification prior to executing the death row convicts.

He said there was little that the Indonesian government could do once they had exhausted all diplomatic means.

"When the Australian prime minister [Tony Abbott] protested us [for planning to execute two of its citizens], he could not do much about it because it is our law after all. That's what happened to us as well. We could not protest Saudi Arabian law," Iqbal said.

Human rights watchdog Imparsial programme director Al Araf said that the execution of the two Indonesian migrant workers should serve as a lesson for the Indonesian government to honour the lives of foreigners facing the death penalty in Indonesia.

"Domestic politics have to be consistent with foreign politics. If in our diplomacy we protect our people who are threatened by the death penalty, then domestically, Jokowi has to abolish the death penalty," he said.

At least 467 Indonesians have died by capital punishment abroad, including 28 in Saudi Arabia, 168 in Malaysia, 15 in China, four in Singapore, one in Vietnam and two in Laos.

Source: Jakarta Post/Asia News Network, Hans Nicholas Jong, Apr 19, 2015

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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Birmingham attorney takes fight against death penalty in U.S. to the United Nations

Birmingham lawyer Lisa Borden opposes the death penalty. One of her worst fears is the prospect that one day she will have to watch a client executed.

Borden, who oversees the pro bono programs at the firm of Baker Donelson, has been involved in the appeals of five death row inmates. She also has filed briefs on behalf of groups fighting against executions.

But recently she found another way to help condemned inmates - she asked other nations to bring pressure on the United States to make changes to death penalty policies.

Borden was among 12 representatives from The Advocates For Human Rights, a non-profit group from Minnesota, that traveled in late March to the U.N. offices in Geneva Switzerland to participate in the U.N.'s "Universal Periodic Review."

The U.N. created the 'Universal Periodic Review" in 2006 as a way to review the human rights records of all 193 member nations. Each nation's human rights records are reviewed every four years.

During the process other nations are allowed to recommend changes the nation under review should make. The United States' next review is May 11. The U.S. can accept, reject, or just note the recommendations made by other countries.

In preparation for the reviews, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including The Advocates For Human Rights, are afforded an opportunity to submit reports and lobby the delegates of member nations on what recommendations they should make, in this case, to the United States.

Borden was the only one of the 12 with The Advocates for Human Rights to focus on the U.S. death penalty issues. Her firm had worked with the group on death penalty issues before. The others in the group focused on other issues.

Source: al.com, Kent Faulk, April 18, 2015

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Johannes Nugroho: Indonesia’s Death Penalty Strategy Is Fatally Flawed

'People can change': Portrait of Indonesian President Joko Widodo by
death row inmate Myuran Sukumaran, Kerobokan prison, Jan. 2015
Foreign Affairs Minister Retno Marsudi’s short time in office has already seen a lot of controversy surrounding capital punishment: at home involving foreigners on death row and their Indonesian counterparts overseas. The ministry’s latest protest against Saudi Arabia over the recent executions of two Indonesian migrant workers — Siti Zaenab and Karni binti Medi Tarsim — illustrates the difficulties for any country to condemn the taking of life while still implementing the same punishment.

The latest diplomatic brouhaha with Saudi Arabia has revealed that there is something incoherent and illogical in our stance on the death penalty. At the moment, Jakarta is trying to implement its self-contradictory policy of brooking no contest for our own judicial murder of drug traffickers while simultaneously appealing for mercy on behalf of Indonesian nationals sentenced to death by foreign courts. And the strategy isn’t working at all.

On a rather surreal note, the spokesman for the Foreign Affairs Ministry, Armanatha Nasir, told the press that the bone of contention lay in the failure by the Saudi government to notify Indonesia of the dates and time chosen for the executions. The statement suggests that Indonesia didn’t dispute the justice behind the death sentences, merely the procedural aspect of the executions.

So, if the ministry were sufficiently satisfied with the rulings of Saudi courts in both cases, the formal pleas for mercy it made on behalf of the two migrant workers, in retrospect, were incoherent, to say the least.

Perhaps our incoherence is inevitable considering that if Indonesia makes a habit of questioning the justice system of other nations, it follows that our own judiciary may also become susceptible to the same treatment. Hence our government has chosen to focus on procedure. But in so doing, it debases the humanitarian nature of the issue.

Source: The Jakarta Globe, Op-Ed by Johannes Nugroho, April 19, 2015. Mr. Nugroho is a writer from Surabaya.

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Paris Warns Indonesia of Consequences if Frenchman Executed

Serge Atlaoui and his Indonesian attorney
Jakarta. The French ambassador in Jakarta on Friday warned Indonesia that executing a Frenchman on death row on drugs charges would have “consequences” for the bilateral relationship.

“If the execution is carried out, it will not be without consequence for our bilateral relationship,” Ambassador Corinne Breuze told reporters in Jakarta, adding that France, which abolished the death penalty in 1981, was opposed to capital punishment in every circumstance.

Serge Atlaoui, 51, was arrested near Jakarta in 2005 in a secret laboratory producing ecstasy and sentenced to death two years later.

Imprisoned in Indonesia for a decade, the father-of-four has always denied the charges, saying he was installing industrial machinery in what he thought was an acrylics factory.

He has appealed his case before the Supreme Court, and a verdict is expected imminently.

If rejected, his execution and that of other foreigners — including citizens from Australia, Brazil, Philippines, Ghana and Nigeria — could be very soon.

The Indonesian government has already compiled a list of those to face the firing squad next after conducting a round of executions in January, the first since 2013.

In the Atlaoui case, eight others arrested alongside the Frenchman were also sentenced to death.

But “what appears shocking to us is that our compatriot is the only one on the list to be executed,” said the ambassador.

“I recall Serge Atlaoui was convicted as a chemist, when he was a solderer with a minor role in this affair,” she said, adding the French government were “prepared to assist Indonesia in its fight against drug trafficking.”

Drug laws in Indonesia are among the toughest in the world.

President Joko Widodo, who took office in October, has rejected all requests for clemency from drug dealers sentenced to death, claiming the country is facing a narcotics emergency.

However Indonesia has been actively trying to save its citizens on death row abroad. Jakarta protested the execution this week of two Indonesian women in Saudi Arabia.

Atlaoui’s wife Sabine pleaded with the president, saying her husband did not deserve to die and her family had been living through “psychological torture.”

“A member of the prosecutor’s office has already asked us for my husband’s measurements for his future coffin, which is unimaginable and inconceivable given the situation we are in,” she said.

Source: Agence France-Presse, April 17, 2015

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Schizophrenic Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte fit to execute: Indonesia

Rodrigo Gularte
Jakarta: A Brazilian man whom the Attorney-General has proclaimed fit to execute with the Bali nine organisers was first diagnosed with a mental illness in 1982, according to medical documents obtained by his legal team.

Rodrigo Gularte is facing the firing squad with nine other drug felons, including Australians Myuran Sukumaran and Andrew Chan and all these offenders are slated to be executed together.

Lawyers for Gularte, who was arrested in 2004 trying to smuggle six kilograms of cocaine into Indonesia hidden inside surfboards, say he cannot be executed because he is schizophrenic.

But last month Attorney-General H.M. Prasetyo said that according to testimonies from fellow inmates and doctors, Gularte was not sick at all.

"This means there's nothing stopping us from executing him," he was quoted in the Jakarta Post newspaper.

Mr Prasetyo has also repeatedly said the law only prohibited the government from executing pregnant women and children under 18 years of age.

However Rodrigo's lawyer, Christina Widiantarti, said Mr Prasetyo was not being "transparent".

"Under public law in Indonesia you can't punish a mentally sick person - not even six or 20 years in jail," she said.

Instead, according to article 44 of the Indonesian penal code, a person who has a mental disorder should be taken to hospital.

Last year specialists from Yogyakarta who visited him at Pasir Putih prison on Nusakambangan also diagnosed him with paranoid schizophrenia.

The Attorney-General requested a second opinion which was provided by two police doctors from Central Java Provincial Police.

However the the second opinion has not been made available to Gularte's legal team, family members or the Brazilian embassy.

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Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, Jewel Topsfiel, April 19, 2015

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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Oklahoma governor signs 'foolproof' nitrogen gas execution method

The state is the first to approve nitrogen-induced hypoxia for use on death-row inmates, which supporters says is ‘painless’ despite lack of human testing

Oklahoma became the first US state to approve nitrogen gas for executions under a measure Governor Mary Fallin signed into law Friday that provides an alternative death penalty method if lethal injections aren’t possible, either because of a court ruling or a drug shortage.

Executions are on hold in Oklahoma while the US supreme court considers whether the state’s current three-drug method of lethal injection is constitutional. Supporters of the new law maintain nitrogen-induced hypoxia is a humane and painless method of execution that requires no medical expertise to perform.

“Oklahoma executes murderers whose crimes are especially heinous,” Fallin said in a statement announcing that she had signed the bill into law.

“I support that policy, and I believe capital punishment must be performed effectively and without cruelty. The bill I signed today gives the state of Oklahoma another death penalty option that meets that standard.”

The bill authored by Republican representative Mike Christian and Republican senator Anthony Sykes had passed the state house on an 85-10 vote and cleared the senate on a 41-0 vote.

There are no reports of nitrogen gas ever being used to execute humans, and critics say that one concern is that the method is untested. Some states even ban its use to put animals to sleep.

But supporters of Oklahoma’s plan argue that nitrogen-induced hypoxia – or a lack of oxygen in the blood – is a humane execution method.

“The process is fast and painless,” said Christian, a former Oklahoma Highway Patrol trooper who wrote the bill. “It’s foolproof.”

Opponents say there’s no way to know whether the method is painless and effective.

“It just hasn’t been tried, so we don’t know,” said represenative Emily Virgin, a Democrat from Norman who opposes the death penalty.

Source: The Guardian, April 18, 2015

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Parents of Boy Killed at Boston Marathon Oppose Death Penalty for Tsarnaev

The Boston Marathon finish line minutes before the blast.
The Boston Marathon finish line minutes before the blast.
BOSTON — For the last few months, Bill and Denise Richard have let the government use the death of their son Martin to drive home the heinous and depraved nature of the bombings at the 2013 Boston Marathon.

Martin, who was 8, was with his family, cheering on the runners, when the menacing figure of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev entered the picture. Videos shown in court showed Mr. Tsarnaev lurking behind the family for four minutes before a bomb went off, killing Martin.

The government showcased Martin’s death in its opening statement and closing argument at Mr. Tsarnaev’s trial. Prosecutors put Bill Richard on the stand. They had the medical examiner describe in excruciating detail what the bomb did to Martin. They showed the jury the burned clothes Martin had been wearing.

Now, as the government prepares to make its case for why Mr. Tsarnaev should be put to death, the Richard family says it has had enough. In an open letter to the Department of Justice, printed Friday on the front page of The Boston Globe, the Richards asked the government to stop seeking the death penalty.

“We are in favor of and would support the Department of Justice in taking the death penalty off the table in exchange for the defendant spending the rest of his life in prison without any possibility of release and waiving all of his rights to appeal,” they wrote.

They argued not against the death penalty itself but against what the continued pursuit of it would mean for them — endless appeals, never letting them move on, forcing their two other children “to grow up with the lingering, painful reminder of what the defendant took from them.”

“As long as the defendant is in the spotlight, we have no choice but to live a story told on his terms, not ours,” the couple wrote. “The minute the defendant fades from our newspapers and TV screens is the minute we begin the process of rebuilding our lives and our family.”

The family all suffered in the explosion: Martin’s little sister, Jane, then 7, lost her left leg; his brother, Henry, then 9, witnessed unfathomable carnage; their mother, Denise, is blind in her right eye; their father, Bill, caught burning shrapnel in his legs, and his eardrums were perforated.

A jury convicted Mr. Tsarnaev on April 8 of all 30 counts against him in connection with the bombing, which killed two other people and injured 264 others, many of them grievously.

Source: The New York Times, Katharine Q. Seelye, April 17, 2015

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Indonesian maid beheadings won't stop Bali nine executions: AG

Attorney-General H.M. Prasetyo
Attorney-General H.M. Prasetyo
Jakarta: The beheading of two Indonesian maids in Saudi Arabia this week will not prevent the execution of 10 drug felons in Indonesia, according to the Attorney-General.

However Attorney-General H.M. Prasetyo said Indonesia respected the rule of law.

"The difference is that we provide notification of an execution to the ambassador three days before it happens, but they did not," Mr Prasetyo was quoted saying by Philippines news website Rappler.

The date of the execution of 10 drug felons, including Bali nine organisers Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran, is not known.

However Mr Prasetyo has said it will not be until after the African-Asian conference, to be held in Jakarta and Bandung from April 19-24.

He said it was not a good look to shoot people when the country had many guests.

The execution of the two Indonesian domestic helpers in two days in Saudi Arabia has prompted fierce protests in Indonesia and renewed criticism of the country's double standard on the death penalty

The Indonesian government summoned the Saudi ambassador after learning on Thursday Saudi Arabia had executed another Indonesian domestic worker, Karni binti Medi Tarsim, 37, who was convicted of murdering a 4-year-old girl in 2012.

It also issued statements protesting against the Saudi Arabian authorities' failure to notify them or the families before carrying out the executions.

Tarsim's killing followed that of Siti Zaenab, who was suspected of being mentally ill, on Tuesday.

Siti, 47, was convicted of murdering her employer's wife in 1999, but the execution was delayed until the youngest son was old enough to make a decision about whether she should be pardoned.

The Indonesian government offered two billion rupiah ($200,000) in blood money and three Indonesian presidents - including Joko Widodo - made fruitless representations to save her life.

Migrant Care executive director Anis Hidayah said the executions should provide momentum for the Indonesian Government to stop the practice of capital punishment in Indonesia.

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald, Jewel Topsfield, April 18, 2015

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Friday, April 17, 2015

India: HC commutes death sentence to life term

April 14, 2015: Gujarat high court has commuted the death sentence of a convict to life imprisonment in a case of kidnapping and murder of a 9-year-old in Navsari.

Parvez Rana (38) was awarded death penalty in 2012 by a trial court in Navsari district for murdering the boy for a ransom of Rs 50 lakh. 

The murder took place in 2007.

Rana told police that he had kidnapped Nayan to make some quick money. 

He told the police that he had kept Nayan in a plastic bag and left it at his shop. 

He kept a watch on police movement from his shop and fearing arrest decided to kill the child. 

He strangled the child and threw the body in a rivulet.

Rana had challenged the death penalty in the high court. 

The bench of Justice Akil Kureshi and Justice V M Pancholi concluded that the case did not fall under the rarest of the rare category and reduced the punishment to life imprisonment, said Rana's lawyer Pratik Barot. 

Source: TNN, April 14, 2015

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Pakistan: 5 more hangings in 3 Punjab jails

April 16, 2015: Five murder convicts were hanged in Rawalpindi, Gujranwala and Faisalabad, raising the total number of executions to 75 since Pakistan reversed the self-imposed moratorium on the death penalty in December 2014 after the Taliban school massacre.

Two death row inmates – Majid and Qaiser – were executed in Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail in two separate murder cases. 

Majid was accused of murdering six people in Wah Cantt while Qaiser was awarded the death penalty for killing an associate.

Two more prisoners – Aijaz and Abdul Jabbar – were hanged at the Central Jail in Gujranwala. Both the convicts were found guilty of killing two persons in 1995 and 2001 respectively.

Convict Zafar Iqbal was hanged to death in the Faisalabad Central Jail. The inmate was accused of murdering a woman who resisted during a robbery in 2005.

Meanwhile, hanging of two death row prisoners was halted after families of Nizam Din and Muhammad Hussain presented compromise agreement to the jail authorities. 

Sources: geo.tv and dnd.com.pk, April 16, 2015

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Singapore executes convicted killer

Singapore's Changi Prison Complex
Singapore's Changi Prison
April 17, 2015: A 39-year-old male Singaporean was executed at Changi Prison Complex, after being convicted of murder and sentenced to death on Apr 7, 2009, police said in a media release.

Muhammad bin Kadar stabbed a 69-year-old woman to death in her flat while robbing her on May 6, 2005. She was stabbed more than 110 times, according to police.

Police added Muhammad bin Kadar was represented by counsel throughout the legal process, and that the Court of Appeal had dismissed his appeal on July 5, 2011.

The Court of Appeal dismissed his application for re-sentencing under the new death penalty regime on Sep 29, 2014, after hearing further arguments.

He was given the opportunity to petition the President for Clemency, which was turned down, police said.

Source: CNA/dl, April 17, 2015

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Court allows challenge to execution of Pakistani convicted as juvenile

Shafqat Hussain
Shafqat Hussain
The Islamabad High Court has today said it will hear the first significant legal challenge to the execution of a Pakistani who was convicted as a juvenile.

In an order handed down this morning, the Court told the Pakistani government to appear in court in two weeks to respond to concerns about the planned execution of Shafqat Hussain. Mr Hussain was arrested in 2004 as a minor and sentenced to death, on the basis of a ‘confession’ extracted from him after nine days of torture.

Following the widespread resumption of executions in the country in late 2014, Mr Hussain was told he would be hanged last month; however, the execution was stayed pending a government investigation, after lawyers at Justice Project Pakistan (JPP) produced evidence of his juvenility and forced confession.

Today's order allows Mr Hussain's lawyers at JPP to mount a legal challenge to the government’s inquiry into his case, which was discredited recently after it emerged government officials had confiscated important evidence. Mr Hussain’s stay of execution was due to expire today, and there were fears that the government would quickly seek a so-called ‘Black Warrant’ for his hanging.

Pakistan's death row is the largest in the world, holding some 8,500 prisoners. Recent research by the Justice Project Pakistan and Reprieve suggests that over 800 of these prisoners may have been arrested and sentenced to death while still juveniles.

Commenting on the decision, JPP’s director and Mr Hussain's lawyer Sarah Belal said: "Shafqat Hussain's death sentence was handed down after torture and wrongful arrest - it should never have been allowed to happen. Yet despite having promised to conduct a full and transparent inquiry into the case, the Government's inquiry so far has been riddled with problems and shrouded in secrecy. It's extremely welcome, therefore, that the Court has demanded that the Government explain itself - and opened the door for Shafqat to finally defend himself. We look forward to hearing the Government's justification for trying to hang a man whom it wrongfully arrested, tortured and sentenced to death as a child."

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at human rights organization Reprieve, said: "In the Pakistani government's rush to execute the thousands it holds on death row, it is clear that it has all but abandoned due process. Today's decision by the Court is a victory for those who want to see real justice prevail in Pakistan - not just the hasty hangings of scapegoats and vulnerable victims like Shafqat, who was arrested as a child, tortured and sentenced to death on the basis of a forced 'confession'. Thousands of lives hang in the balance - and the international community must speak out against this wave of injustice, and urge Pakistan to change course before it is too late."

Source: Reprieve, April 17, 2015

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Nebraska: Measure Repealing Death Penalty Advances

The state is considering repealing the death penalty amid a shortage of lethal injection drugs, with legislation to eliminate capital punishment clearing a major hurdle on Thursday. 

Lawmakers voted 30 to 13 to advance the bill, which would replace capital punishment with life imprisonment for first-degree murder. 

If that support holds, death penalty opponents would have enough votes to override the promised veto of Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican. 

A coalition of Republicans who voted for the bill cast the death penalty as a wasteful and bungling government program. 

Nebraska has not executed anyone since 1997 and has no way to carry out sentences for the 11 men on death row because its supply of sodium thiopental, an anesthetic that is part of its execution protocol, expired in 2013. 

The bill must advance through two more rounds of voting in the one-house, nonpartisan Legislature.

Source: AP, April 16, 2015

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