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

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Barack Obama commuted death sentence of former Ft. Hood soldier before leaving the Oval Office

President Barack Obama
FORT HOOD, Texas (KWTX) President Barack Obama has commuted the death sentence of a former Ft. Hood soldier who was convicted in 1989 of the shooting deaths of two Killeen taxi drivers.

Then Army Pfc. Class Dwight Jeffrey Loving was sentenced to death in a 1989 court martial for robbing and killing Pvt. Christopher Fay, who was moonlighting as a cab driver to earn extra pay, and Master Sgt. Bobby Sharbino, also a cabbie.

Fay, 20, was assigned to the 13th Corps Support Command and Sharbino was retired.

Testimony at court martial showed Loving asked Fay to drive him to a remote location on post where he shot and robbed him.

Loving then used the same tactic to rob and kill Sharbino.

Both men’s bodies were found on Dec. 12 and Dec. 13, 1988 in their cabs.

Unhappy with the amount of money he took in the first two robberies, Loving tried the tactic again when cab driver Howard Harrison, of Kempner, encountered Loving.

Harrison, however, was injured in a struggle with Loving but eventually was able to disarm the bandit and escape without further injury.

FBI Texas Rangers and U.S. Army CID agents arrested Loving the next day after he and his girlfriend spent the previous evening socializing with friends at Killeen night clubs.

In all the robberies netted Loving less than $100.

Loving, 48, a native of Rochester, N.Y., has been on death row at the Ft. Leavenworth since his conviction.

Loving undisputed video confession was presented during the court martial, during which he explained how he enjoyed shooting one of the men so much he re-cocked his handgun and shot the cabbie in the head again.

On June 3, 1996, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Loving’s conviction and sentence, then again in 2001.

In 2008 the high court refused a re-hearing on the issue.

The court set a Dec.10, 2008 execution date for Loving, which would have marked the first military execution since 1961.

Source: kwtx.com, Paul J. Gately, January 21, 2017


President Barack Obama commutes sentences of 2 of high-profile military prisoners


Chelsea Manning
Chelsea Manning
President Barack Obama commuted the sentences of a pair of high-profile military prisoners and pardoned a controversial former Marine Corps general on Tuesday as one of his last acts before leaving the Oval Office.

Among the 209 commutations and 64 pardons announced by the White House were Chelsea Manning, serving 35 years for leaked sensitive Army documents related to the Iraq War; Dwight Loving, a soldier on death row convicted of murder in 1988, and James Cartwright, convicted of lying to the FBI about the release of sensitive intelligence information to reporters five years ago.

Cartwright received a pardon, effectively erasing the crime from his record. Manning, who has served seven years of a 35-year sentence, will be released in May.

Loving had his sentence reassigned to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

All of the 273 decisions were announced without further explanation from the White House. The majority of the decisions were for lower-level drug offenses, an issue that has been among Obama’s top executive actions in recent years.

Manning’s case had been among the most closely watched as Obama’s time in office grew shorter, with advocates pushing for her release. She has attempted suicide several times in the last year, and her imprisonment has raised problematic questions about the military’s responsibilities to deal with her requests for gender reassignment surgery.

Manning, an Army intelligence analyst known as Bradley Manning at the time of her 2010 arrest, made public hundreds of thousands of military documents, including military reports from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and diplomatic cables from American embassies around the world.

She admitted to the crime and was sentenced without a plea deal. In the intervening years, she and her advocates have pressed Obama for leniency, noting that investigators found no evidence the leaks put lives in danger.

Cartwright was similarly accused of mishandling classified information to reporters about covert cyberattacks on Iran's nuclear facilities. He admitted to the leak and to lying to FBI investigators, and was due to be sentenced later this month. He could have faced up to five years in prison.

Instead, the presidential pardon will remove the threat of jail time for him.

Loving was a soldier stationed at Texas’ Fort Hood Army base in 1988 when he robbed two convenience stores and murdered two taxi drivers during a crime spree.

Only six men are on military’s death row, including Nidal Hasan, the Army psychiatrist who killed 13 people at Fort Hood in 2009. The military has not executed any prisoners since 1961.

Source: Military Times, Leo Shane III, January 17, 2017

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Arkansas: No hunt for lethal drug

Potassium chloride
Arkansas' prison spokesman said Friday that he is "unaware of any efforts" to find a new supply of an execution drug that expired at the start of the new year.

The Department of Correction has not restocked its expired batch of potassium chloride, spokesman Solomon Graves said, adding that the state's remaining supply of execution drugs remains unchanged. Graves declined to comment further.

In September 2015, Gov. Asa Hutchinson set execution dates for eight men on death row. However, their executions were placed on hold due to a legal challenge, lodged by the eight men and another inmate, of the state's three-drug "cocktail" method of execution, which is pending a review by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Potassium chloride is the third and final drug used in executions; it causes cardiac arrest and death. The first drug, midazolam, is an anesthetic and is followed by vecuronium bromide, a muscle relaxer.

In emails sent last fall, Graves detailed the expected expiration dates of the state's supply of execution drugs: potassium chloride this month, followed by midazolam in April and vecuronium bromide in March 2018. The drugs would expire at the end of the month, Graves wrote, "unless otherwise specified."

Graves specified this week that the batch of potassium chloride expired Jan. 1.

Arkansas has not executed an inmate since 2005, due to legal challenges and its difficulty in obtaining execution drugs.

The Legislature passed Act 1096 in 2015, amending the execution statutes to allow for the usage of either a three-drug cocktail or a single dose of barbiturate. If lethal injection is struck down by the courts, the law authorizes executions by electrocution.

Within months of the law's passage, Hutchinson scheduled the series of executions, to begin in the fall of 2015. None were carried out after the Arkansas Supreme Court issued a stay over the prisoners' court challenge.

The state's high court this summer upheld the state execution law, but agreed to continue the stay so that the prisoners could take their case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The prisoners are asking the U.S. justices to review their previous decision upholding the use of midazolam in Oklahoma executions.

Midazolam has been accused of causing several botched executions in other states, including Oklahoma, with reports of condemned prisoners heaving and gasping before death.

While the deaths of the inmates were on hold this summer, the state's supply of vecuronium bromide expired, but a new batch was acquired less than two weeks later.

Thirty-four men are on death row in Arkansas.

Source: arkansasonline.com, John Moritz, January 21, 2017

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How Trump’s Supreme Court Nominee Could Affect Texas Cases

Most parts of a president’s legacy are murky. It can be hard to identify an administration’s long-term effect on the economy or the environment, but the Supreme Court is a different story.

“Can you think of much of what Ronald Reagan did that has an impact today? Maybe yes, maybe no," says Josh Blackman, professor at Houston College of Law. "But Anthony Kennedy? Major impact. Antonin Scalia, until recently? Major impact. Much that Bill Clinton did that’s relevant today? Not much. Ginsburg and Breyer? Major impact.”

In this election, in particular, the stakes of the Supreme Court have been high from the outset. There’s already one vacancy on the bench. And odds are good there will be more.

“It’s very possible that the new president may have more vacancies to fill as we have three justices on the court that are over right now the average retirement or resignation age of 78," says Charles "Rocky" Rhodes with Houston College of Law.

If Trump wins a second term, it’s possible that he could fill four seats. But just filling Scalia’s seat will have major implications for cases important to Texas. That includes one that ended in a 4-4 tie this summer: United States v. Texas. It considers President Barack Obama’s 2014 executive action to defer deportation for certain undocumented immigrants. The tie leaves the lower court’s ruling in place, which set aside Obama’s order until there’s a permanent resolution.

“United States versus Texas might have come out differently with a different justice on the court," Rhodes says. "That case could go back up to the United States Supreme Court, and one justice there could make a huge difference with respect to the ultimate resolution of that case.”

With a Trump appointee, that resolution would likely favor opponents of Obama's executive action on deferred deportations. But it’s not just immigration issues that would be impacted. Other looming issues such as gun rights, campaign finance or the death penalty, would likely earn a conservative ruling. That’s also true for LGBT rights cases like Gloucester County School Board v. G.G. The case just landed on the court’s docket. It considers whether transgender students can use the bathroom that matches their gender identity. That’s disallowed under a “bathroom bill” that passed in North Carolina in 2016.

Texas lawmakers are considering a similar measure this legislative session. It has the backing of Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. And Rhodes predicts it won’t be the last time Texas’ socially conservative political leadership clashes with LGBT rights.

“We certainly are going to see a lot of cases that are going to be rising – trying to draw that line between where the rights of individuals to express their opposition to same-sex marriage, versus the rights of LGBT individuals," Rhodes says.

A Trump appointee may also delay action on an issue that many legal scholars view as unavoidable, says Scot Powe from the University of Texas at Austin law school.

“There’s going to come a reckoning on the death penalty in some point in time,” Powe says. “So few states are executing people, and even Texas has slowed significantly the number of executions, that at some point in time unless things change, the court is going to say the death penalty is cruel and unusual punishment. I think that decision is almost inevitable.”

“There’s been this movement on the left, Justices Ginsburg and Breyer have signed on to say while the death penalty may not be unconstitutional by itself, we don’t have the means to implement it that is Constitutional," Josh Blackman says.

That distinction is especially relevant to Texas. Attorney General Ken Paxton sued the Food and Drug Administration in early January 2017 for detaining a shipment of drugs the state plans to use in executions. The agency hadn’t approved the drugs for human injections. Paxton argued the state should receive an exception to use the drug because they’re for a law enforcement purpose. But overall, lawsuits filed by Texas against a Trump-led federal government may slow significantly from the previous eight years.

Then-Attorney General Greg Abbott and his successor, Paxton, sued the Obama administration dozens of times. During the Trump administration, state attorneys may find themselves in front of the Supreme Court far less. Patrick said as much in a statement on Election Night which read, in part, "for the first time since 2008, we won’t have a White House that we have to constantly sue to protect the rights of Texans."

“You didn’t see Governor Abbott when he was attorney general, for instance, file as many lawsuits when we had President George W. Bush in office," Rhodes says. "Because his executive orders and executive actions and the administrative decisions that were made were typically – not always, but typically – more in line with the same political beliefs as our highest Texas elected officials.”

So the question now becomes whom Trump will appoint. When Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to Scalia’s seat, Senate Republicans gambled. They stalled Garland’s confirmation, waiting to see the outcome of the election. And it paid off. Now, looking through the list of names Trump will consider for Scalia’s seat, there’s one in particular Texans would watch. That would be Don Willett – a current Texas Supreme Court Justice.

Source: Texas Public Radio, Texas Standard, Michael Marks, January 20, 2017

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Iran: Five executed, including 2 Afghan nationals

Public execution in Iran
4 Prisoners Including Afghan Citizens Hanged on Drug Charges

4 prisoners, including 2 Afghan citizens, were reportedly hanged at Taybad Prison (Razavi Khorasan province, northeastern Iran) on drug related charges.

According to a report by the human right news agency HRANA, the executions were carried out on Wednesday January 18. 

The report identifies one of the prisoners as Habib Khazayi. The names of the other three prisoners are not known at this time.

Iranian official sources, including the media and the Judiciary, have not announced these 4 executions. It is not clear whether these prisoners received a fair trial or had access to a lawyer.

"Young Man" Executed on Murder Charges


A young man was reportedly hanged at Jiroft Prison (Kerman province, southern Iran) on murder charges.

According to a report by the Iranian state-run news agency Jaam-e Jam, the execution was carried out on Wednesday January 18. 

The report claims the young man was sentenced to death for the murder of his step parents. 

The prosecutor's office and the revolutionary court in Jiroft have identified the prisoner only by the initials "M.Sh."

Although Iranian official sources have described the prisoner as a young man, they have not released his exact age. It is not clear whether the prisoner received a fair trial or had access to a lawyer.

Source: Iran Human Rights, January 20, 2017

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Britain urged to act as 2 face execution in Bahrain

UK government has been criticised for its links with the Bahraini Sunni monarchy.

Bahrain could be poised to execute 2 prisoners who claim their confessions were extracted through torture.

Mohammed Ramadan and Husain Moosa were sentenced to death in 2014 for their alleged involvement in a bomb attack that killed a police officer, but supporters say they were falsely accused and confessed under duress.

Human rights organisations fear that the 2 men could be put to death in the coming days following the execution of 3 prisoners on Sunday (16 January), the 1st in Bahrain since 2010.

The men, Ali al-Singace, Abbas al-Samea, and Sami Mushaima, were allegedly tortured to force a confession in the same police station as the current death row inmates.

Activists have called on Britain to suspend its support for the Bahraini criminal justice system to avoid UK complicity in further human rights violations in Bahrain, a wealthy island state in Persian Gulf and a key British ally in the Middle East.

Bahrain, which is ruled by a Sunni monarchy, has led a major government crackdown against its Shia majority in the 5 years since protests erupted in Manama during the Arab Spring.

British foreign secretary Boris Johnson said in response to the executions that the UK is "firmly opposed to the death penalty", and that he has "raised the issue with the Bahraini government". But anti-death penalty campaign group Reprieve described Johnson's response as "woefully inadequate". The charity has sent a letter to UK Prime Minster Theresa May calling for the government to "immediately suspend its involvement with all actors within the Bahraini criminal justice system and Ministry of Interior".

"Reprieve and other organisations have repeatedly called attention to the link between human rights abuses and the multiple UK-trained institutions in Bahrain."

Human Rights Watch and the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy were among other organisations to make similar appeals.

The UK has spent more than 5 million pounds in Bahrain since pro-democracy protests rocked the kingdom in 2011. Last Friday (13 January), it emerged that the controversial aid programme, overseen by the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO), is being bolstered by a further 2m pounds this year.

Reprieve says that Britain's funding and training of police officers, prosecutors, judges, prison guards and oversight investigatory bodies in Bahrain has not lessened human rights abuses in the country.

Maya Foa, director of the death penalty team at Reprieve, told IBTimes UK: "Reprieve and other organisations have repeatedly called attention to the link between human rights abuses and the multiple UK-trained institutions in Bahrain. It is disappointing that there has not been a change of position by the UK Foreign Office."

As reported in the Observer, documents obtained by Reprieve reveal that Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Prisons helped prepare inspections of custody facilities in Bahrain in 2014, including the notorious police station where the prisoners were allegedly tortured.

The subsequent inspection report by the Bahraini Prisoners and Detainees Rights Commission failed to mention high-profile allegations of torture, including those of death row inmate Ramadan.

Ramadan's torture allegations were also ignored for more than 2 years by the Ombudsman for the Ministry of Interior, a body receiving FCO-funded training from UK state-owned company Northern Ireland Cooperation Overseas (NI-CO), Reprieve claims.

His case has been passed onto another NI-CO-trained watchdog, Bahrain's Special Investigations Unit, which previously ruled that one of the executed men, al-Samea, lied about his torture allegations.

Britain is the biggest obstacle in preventing international scrutiny of Bahrain's human rights abuses, because it is playing a leading role in whitewashing Bahrain's crimes."

Reprieve's Foa said the British-backed oversight mechanisms "refused to investigate or acknowledge the systemic and brutal torture of prisoners leading to coerced confessions", and that she was "seriously concerned" that they will fail Ramadan.

Supporters of Ramadan, a father-of-3, say his arrest was a politically-motivated retaliation for his participation in pro-democracy marches. He was deprived of legal counsel in a trial based on evidence obtained under prolonged torture.

Sayed Alwadaei, director of advocacy at the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy, said that the FCO deeming Bahrain's torture watchdogs as "independent" is evidence that the UK is "misleading the international community".

"Britain is the biggest obstacle in preventing international scrutiny of Bahrain's human rights abuses, because it is playing a leading role in whitewashing Bahrain's crimes," Alwadaei said.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights said in a statement that he was "appalled" at Sunday's executions, and that the way the trials were conducted "raises serious doubts whether the accused were provided with the right to fair trial".

Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, described the events as "extrajudicial killings".

Reprieve's Foa noted a "prioritisation of trade over human rights" by the UK government. Last year, the UK intensified its engagement with Bahrain, with visits to the oil-rich nation by Prince Charles, Theresa May and Boris Johnson.

Addressing the Gulf Cooperation Council in December, May said the UK was "determined to continue to be your partner of choice as you embed international norms and see through the reforms which are so essential for all of your people".

It remains to be seen whether the UK government will take any measures to prevent further capital punishment in Bahrain. In the meantime, Ramadan and Moosa live in fear of imminent execution.

An FCO spokesman told IBTimes UK: "The UK government is aware of the challenges which remain in Bahrain, but it is not good enough to merely criticise other countries from the sidelines.

"Only by working with the government of Bahrain are we able to bring about the changes we would like to see in the country. We will continue to raise concerns about human rights in Bahrain whenever we have them."

The Embassy of the Kingdom of Bahrain in London could not be reached for comments.

Source: ibtimes.co.uk, January 20, 2017

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Friday, January 20, 2017

Indonesia: Open Letter On Anniversary of First Executions under President Widodo

Indonesia: open letter on anniversary of first executions under President Widodo -- Amnesty International.

On the occasion of the second anniversary of the resumption of executions under President Joko Widodo, eight organizations have written to the Indonesian authorities to bring to their attention ongoing concerns on the use of the death penalty in Indonesia.

The organizations renew their calls on the country’s highest authorities to immediately establish a review of all death sentences with a view to commutation, and to establish a moratorium on the implementation of the death penalty, as essential first steps towards its abolition.

Open letter (click here to download the pdf):

TO:

Teten Masduki
Chief of the Presidential Staff Office (KSP)
Gedung Bina Graha
Jl. Veteran No. 16
Jakarta Pusat
DKI Jakarta 10110
Indonesia

19 January 2017

Dear Chief of the Presidential Staff Office

On the occasion of the second anniversary of the resumption of executions under President Joko Widodo, I am writing on behalf of the undersigned organizations to bring to your attention our ongoing concerns on the use of the death penalty in Indonesia. We renew our calls on the country’s highest authorities to immediately establish a review of all death sentences with a view to commutation, and to establish a moratorium on the implementation of the death penalty, as essential first steps towards its abolition.

The first executions since Joko Widodo became President were carried out on 18 January 2015, when six prisoners were shot by firing squads. Since then, 12 more have been executed, including most recently on 29 July 2016. All the executed prisoners, who included three Indonesians and 15 foreign nationals, had been convicted of drug-related offences.

The authorities had selected for execution on 29 July a further ten people, but at the last minute granted them a stay of execution to allow for their cases to be reviewed to ensure that there is “no judicial and non-judicial error”, in the words of Attorney General M. Prasetyo later on the same day. (1)

While the stay of execution was a welcome development, our organizations remain deeply concerned that human rights violations have tainted the cases of several of the 18 prisoners executed in the past two years; that the stay of execution granted to the ten prisoners in July was only a temporary measure; and that the review of the cases does not appear to be mandated to an independent or impartial body, nor will it apply to all existing death sentences which have been imposed.

Breaches of fair trial safeguards and other human rights violations


Research findings by the National Commission on Human Rights (Komisi Nasional Hak Asasi Manusia, Komnas HAM) (2) and additional research carried out by Amnesty International, (3) ICJR (Institute for Criminal Justice Reform), (4) and other human rights organizations, point to systemic flaws in the administration of justice in Indonesia and violation of fair trial and other international safeguards that must be strictly observed in all death penalty cases.

In several of the cases examined in the context of this research, defendants did not have access to legal counsel at crucial stages of the process, whether from the time of arrest or at different stages of their trial and appeals. In some cases the police ill-treated them to make them “confess” to the crimes or countersign police investigation dossiers used as evidence in court. Several prisoners were brought before a judge for the first time only when their trials began, months after their arrest. Some of them did not receive legal assistance when appealing against their conviction or sentence, or did not even submit an appeal application because they were not informed by their lawyers of their right to do so.

In some cases in 2015 and 2016 executions went ahead despite the courts having accepted prisoners’ applications to submit appeals, which had not yet been heard by the courts. Despite the clear prohibition under international law on the use of the death penalty against persons who were below 18 years of age at the time of the offence, or who have a mental or intellectual disability, our organizations documented that claims which two prisoners made in relation to being under 18 and mental disability were not adequately investigated, resulting in the unlawful imposition of the death penalty and, in one of these cases, execution.

The death penalty also continues to be used extensively for drug-related offences, even though these offences do not meet the threshold of the “most serious crimes”, which, pending abolition, is the only category of crimes for which the death penalty can be imposed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Indonesia is a state party.

Our organizations call on the authorities to:

  • Establish a moratorium on all executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty;
  • Establish an independent and impartial body, or mandate an existing one, to review all cases where people have been sentenced to death, with a view to commuting the death sentences;
  • In particular, in all cases where the death penalty has been imposed for drugs offences or where the trial did not meet the most rigorous international fair trial standards, or in cases where the procedures were seriously flawed, offer a retrial that fully complies with international fair trial standards and which does not resort to the death penalty.


The case of Yusman Telaumbanua


Among those currently on death row in Indonesia is Yusman Telaumbanua, who was arrested together with another man and detained on 14 September 2012 for the murder of three men in April 2012 in the North Sumatra province. They were detained for at least four months before appearing before a judge at the first trial hearing on 29 January 2013. It was not until this hearing that the two men received legal assistance when the District Court appointed the same legal team to act for both of them.

Anyone arrested or detained on a criminal charge has the right to competent and effective legal counsel as soon as they are deprived of liberty and at all stages of criminal proceedings, including during the preliminary investigation, before and during the trial and appeals. If they cannot afford to pay, a lawyer must be assigned to them free of charge. In cases which can lead to the death penalty, the authorities have a particular obligation to ensure that the appointed lawyer is competent and effective.

During the police interrogation, Yusman Telaumbanua did not have a legal counsel assisting him. He could not speak Indonesian, the language used during the investigation, and could not read or write. Yusman Telaumbanua told his current lawyer that during this period of custody he and his codefendant were beaten and kicked on a daily basis by police officers, or by detainees ordered by the police. Although his current lawyers have submitted a complaint to the police, to date there has been no independent investigation into these allegations.

When delivering the indictment, the prosecutor sought life imprisonment for the two men. Their lawyers representing them at that time, however, asked the judges to sentence them to death, although both Yusman Telaumbanua and the other man asked the judges for lenient sentences. Based on their first lawyers’ request, the Court eventually sentenced them to death. Neither of the men submitted an appeal to a higher court, as they did not know they had the right to do so and the lawyers then representing them did not inform them of this right.

Furthermore, according to the police, Yusman Telaumbanua was born in 1993. However, he claims he was born in 1996, which means he would have been under 18 years old at the time the crime was committed and at the time when he was sentenced to death. He does not have a birth certificate as births are not usually registered in his village of origin. His current lawyers managed to gather information from his family and village neighbours, who confirmed that he was born in 1996. A group of forensic radiology experts instructed by the Ministry of Law and Human Rights established that Yusman Telaumbanua was between 18 years and 4 months and 18 years and 5 months of age at the time of the examination in November 2015.

Our organizations call on the authorities to:

  • Establish an independent and impartial investigation into the allegations of ill-treatment, and ensure that those responsible are brought to justice in fair trials;
  • Ensure protection of the best interest of the child as required by the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Indonesia is a state party, and, in cases such as Yusman Telaumbanua’s, where the age of the defendant(s) is disputed, to give them the benefit of the doubt;
  • Establish an independent and impartial body to review Yusman Telaumbanua’s death sentence, with a view to its commutation.


New opportunities for human rights and abolition of the death penalty


The Indonesian Parliament is currently examining proposed amendments to the Indonesian Criminal Code, which include some proposals to move away from the death penalty. Our organisations were encouraged by President Widodo’s statements on 5 November 2016 that Indonesia wants to move towards abolition. (5)

At a time when more and more countries are abolishing the death penalty and 141 in total are now abolitionist in law or practice, the proposed legislative reforms represent a unique opportunity for Indonesia to uphold human rights and end human rights violations associated with the use of the death penalty.

There is no conclusive evidence that capital punishment has a unique deterrent effect. Statistics from countries that have abolished the death penalty show that its absence has not resulted in an increase in the crimes previously subject to capital punishment. Furthermore, evidence has shown that punitive policies have had little influence on the prevalence of drug use.

Our organizations oppose the death penalty in all cases and under any circumstances as a violation of the right to life, recognized by the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, and as the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.

Our organizations renew our calls on the Indonesian authorities to take the opportunity of the reform of the Criminal Code to abolish the death penalty from national legislation.

I remain at your disposal should you wish to discuss this matter. A copy of this letter will be sent to Mr. Wiranto, Coordinating Minister for Politics, Law and Security Affairs; Mr. Bambang Soesatyo, Chairperson of the Commission III of the House of Representatives of the Republic of Indonesia (DPR RI); and Mr. Imdadun Rahmat, Chairperson of the National Human Rights Commission (Komnas HAM).

Yours sincerely

Josef Benedict
Campaigns Director, South East Asia and the Pacific Regional Office

This letter is co-signed by

Amnesty International
Elsam (Lembaga Studi dan Advokasi Masyarakat/Institute for Policy Research and Advocacy)
Human Rights Working Group (HRWG)
Imparsial
Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR)
KontraS (the Commission for the Disappeared and Victims of Violence)
LBHM (Lembaga Bantuan Hukum Masyarakat/Community Legal Aid Institute)
PKNI (Persaudaraan Korban NAPZA Indonesia/ Indonesian Drug Users Network)

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(1) “Relief for Indian national as Indonesia suspends execution of 10 convicts”, Wio News, 29 July 2016, available at http://www.wionews.com/world/relief-for-indiannational-as-indonesia-suspends-execution-of-10-convicts-3532
(2) Komnas HAM issued two reports in 2010 and 2011. The 2011 report was based on a research mission conducted between September and December 2011 into 17 prisons in 13 provinces, during which 56 death row prisoners were interviewed. The 2010 report was based on a monitoring mission to 10 prisons in five provinces and on interviews with 41 death row inmates between September and October 2010.
(3) Amnesty International, “Flawed Justice-Unfair trials and death penalty in Indonesia” (ASA 21/2434/2015), October 2015, available at https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/asa21/2434/2015/en/
(4) Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (ICJR), Overview on Death Penalty in Indonesia, 2015, available at http://icjr.or.id/data/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/Overview-onDeath-Penalty-in-Indonesia.pdf
(5) Indonesia moving towards abolishing death penalty: Widodo, SBS, 5 November 2016, available at http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2016/11/05/indonesia-movingtowards-abolishing-death-penalty-widodo

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Two Bahraini Men at Imminent and Renewed Risk of Execution

Mohamed Ramadhan Issa Ali Hussain and Hussain Ali Moosa Hussain Mohamed are at imminent risk of execution following the execution of three men on 15 January 2017.

Their death sentences were upheld by the Court of Cassation on 16 November 2015 and have been passed to the King who has the authority to ratify the sentences, commute them or grant a pardon. 

Mohamed Ramadhan and Hussain Ali Moosa are now at imminent and renewed risk of execution. 

After a nearly seven-year hiatus, Bahrain resumed executions on 15 January when it executed three men whose death sentences, in a grossly unfair trial, were confirmed by the Court of Cassation on 9 January and speedily ratified by the King.

Mohamed Ramadhan and Hussain Ali Moosa were sentenced to death on 29 December 2014 for the killing of a policeman, who died in a bomb explosion in al-Deir, a village northeast of Manama, on 14 February 2014. 

Their trial was grossly unfair and relied on forced “confessions”. Both men did not have access to their lawyers during their interrogation at the Criminal Investigations Directorate, where Amnesty International continues to document the use of torture and other ill-treatment, and later told their lawyers that they had been tortured in the first few days following their arrest in February 2014. 

Mohamed Ramadhan said that he had been detained incommunicado and beaten and given electric shocks to force him to “confess” but were unsuccessful. Hussain Ali Moosa said he was coerced to “confess” and incriminate Mohamed Ramadhan after being suspended by his limbs from the ceiling, given electric-shocks and beaten repeatedly for several days.

Despite the two men’s lawyers lodging complaints with the Special investigations Unit within the Public Prosecution regarding the two men’s torture allegations, they received no response. 

Mohamed Ramadhan’s wife and a US-based NGO also lodged complaints with the Ombudsman’s office but it failed to investigate his torture allegations for two years and his wife has not been informed about the conclusion of its investigation.

➽ Click here to take action NOW (on Amnesty International's website)

Source: Amnesty International, January 18, 2019

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Former Delaware death row inmate goes free after acquittal

Isaiah McCoy walks out of Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington as a free man.
Isaiah McCoy walks out of H. R. Young Correctional Institution as a free man. 
Isaiah McCoy, a death row prisoner for years, walked out of the Howard R. Young Correctional Institution in Wilmington and into his young daughters' embraces on Thursday night just hours after a judge found him not guilty of murder in his second trial.

Outside the prison's barbed wire fence and heavy doors, McCoy, 29, became emotional as he reunited with his girls and with the team of attorneys and an investigator who helped get him acquitted of the 2010 killing of 30-year-old James Munford.

"I just want to say to all those out there going through the same thing I'm going through 'keep faith, keep fighting," McCoy said. "Two years ago, I was on death row. At 25, I was given a death sentence – and I am today alive and well and kicking and a free man."

A spokesman for the Department of Justice said prosecutors were disappointed by the verdict from Kent County Superior Court Judge Robert B. Young.

“While we are disappointed with the outcome of this case, we respect the decision of this court. This was a difficult case and the court indicated the basis for its decision at the time of the verdict," spokesman Carl Kanefsky said.

The path to McCoy's acquittal has been long.

He was accused of shooting Munford to death during a drug deal in the rear parking lot of the Rodney Village Bowling Alley on May 4, 2010. The deal was supposed to be for 200 ecstasy pills and crack cocaine, but during the transaction, McCoy pulled out a gun and shot Munford, according to prosecutors.

A jury found McCoy guilty in June 2012, but the Delaware Supreme Court later overturned his conviction and death sentence.

The court did so because former Deputy Attorney General R. David Favata belittled McCoy and lied to a judge during the death penalty trial, the court said.

Favata made demeaning comments about McCoy's choice to represent himself, such as "I have been to law school, your honor. I understand the rules" and “The trouble with dealing with somebody with a limited education and no legal education is he doesn’t clearly understand what he’s reading," according to court documents.

Favata also, while in the presence of McCoy during a court recess, spoke about "Omerta," an Italian mafia code of silence. Favata said he would put a detective back on the stand to tell everyone that McCoy was a snitch and added that McCoy could have trouble back in prison after the other inmates learn he is a snitch, the documents said.

McCoy alerted the judge to the comments, but Favata denied them. Then, the prothonotary, who was in the room and overheard Favata’s comments, was disturbed that Favata lied to the judge and wrote a note saying McCoy was telling the truth. Favata eventually admitted the comments were meant to be heard by McCoy, according to court documents.

The judge attempted multiple times to rein in Favata’s behavior, but it was not until July 2015 that Favata was suspended from the bar for six months and one day for what the court called "unprofessional conduct." Favata had already retired from the state in March of that year.

With McCoy facing a retrial because of the conduct, Deputy Attorneys General Greg Babowal and Steve Smith gave him the option to plead guilty to manslaughter and a weapons charge, which would have carried a sentence of five to 50 years in prison. He refused the deal and proclaimed his innocence.

"He trusted the judge to look at the evidence, and the judge looked at the evidence and saw the two accomplices were not credible," McCoy's attorney, Herbert Mondros, said.

The trial opened last Monday with accomplice, Deshaun White, taking the stand. White, who received a sentence reduction for his cooperation in the case, is serving a 13-year prison term at the Sussex Correctional Institution for charges related to Munford's death.

Attorney Michael Wiseman, also representing McCoy, spent hours questioning White on inconsistent stories he gave to law enforcement and a jury in McCoy's first trial.

At one point in the week-long trial, it looked as though the judge would recuse himself from the case and order a mistrial after McCoy allegedly made a comment to a corrections officer that he would have sex with and rob the officer's wife.

After contemplating the issue over night, the judge allowed the trial to continue and issued the verdict in the case around 2 p.m. Thursday. The judge noted the law on accomplice testimony and found the witnesses told conflicting stories that were uncorroborated by evidence.

Mondros said McCoy was extremely emotional as the verdict was read in court.

"Imagine a guy who had just spent the last six-and-a-half years on death row, in isolation, to now be essentially exonerated," he said.

Mondros also was on a team that represented another death row inmate, Jermaine Wright, who was freed last year. ​Wright spent 20 years on death row before the Supreme Court overturned his 1991 conviction for the killing of 66-year-old Phillip Seifert, a liquor store clerk. He was allowed to plead not contest to second-degree murder on the eve of his retrial.

Mondros, Wiseman and investigator Phil Primason met McCoy outside the prison about seven hours after the verdict was read. They loaded boxes of legal documents into the car, as McCoy hugged and laughed with his daughters.

McCoy said he planned to spend the next days with his daughters and to let his new situation sink in.

"Give myself some time, and then I'll be ready to tackle the world," he said.

Source: Delaware Online, Jessica Masulli Reyes, January 19, 2017

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Florida Supreme Court throws out three death sentences

Florida's death chamber
Florida's death chamber
The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday threw out the death penalty for three murderers, including a man convicted of abducting an 81-year-old Lake County woman from a Publix parking lot and killing her in 2010.

The decisions are the latest in a growing string of rulings since October, when the state's highest court declared Florida's death-penalty statute unconstitutional.

In those three Thursday opinions, as with earlier ones, the court ruled that because jurors did not unanimously vote for death, the defendants must be resentenced.

In the Lake County case involving Donald Otis Williams, the jury vote for death was 9-3.

He was found guilty of murder, kidnapping and robbery a few months after the victim, Janet Patrick, disappeared while loading groceries into her car in Leesburg on Oct. 19, 2010.

Williams, 56, was arrested several days later sitting in her car with her credit cards in his pocket.

He was on sex-offender probation at the time.

Inside the car, authorities found two pairs of underwear. A crime lab found DNA from both Williams and Patrick on them. Hairs found in them also matched both the defendant and victim.

Patrick's body — nude except for a pair of socks — was found a week later in Polk County, near where Williams used to live.

Her remains were badly decomposed, and a medical examiner could not determine the cause of death but ruled it a homicide.

The high court on Thursday upheld Williams' conviction but overturned his sentence.

It also ordered the resentencing of Lancelot Armstrong, convicted of murdering a deputy in Broward County in 1990; and William Kopsho, convicted of murdering his estranged wife in Marion County in 2000.

Jurors must vote 12-0 for death, the court wrote, and unanimously identify the specific reasons why a defendant should be put to death and why those reasons outweigh arguments that he should be spared.

In a fourth death-penalty case Thursday, the high court let stand the sentence of Louis B. Gaskin, convicted of shooting a Volusia County couple in 1989.

Florida has not executed an inmate since January 2016 because of rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court and the Florida Supreme Court that the state's death-penalty statute is unconstitutional.

State Sen. Randolph Bracy, D-Orlando, has introduced a bill in Tallahassee that would require a 12-0 jury vote in death cases.

It could be approved once the legislative session begins March 7.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, Rene Stutzman, January 19, 2017

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Thursday, January 19, 2017

Ricky Gray’s execution took more than 30 minutes. His attorneys want to know why.

"Midazolam will produce relaxation and that relaxation may be sufficiently severe to produce sleep, but in studies we've conducted, it does not eliminate sensation to pain." - S. Stevens Negus, professor of pharmacology at Virginia Commonwealth University

Attorneys for Ricky Gray, a prisoner executed Wednesday night in Virginia, are questioning why the procedure took more than a half-hour and was not fully visible to observers.

When he was executed at Greensville Correctional Center, Gray was hidden from the view of witnesses for 33 minutes. According to the Virginia Department of Corrections, the delay was caused by difficulty putting an IV line in one of Gray’s veins.

But Gray’s attorneys are challenging that explanation. Gray had told them that VDOC staff had examined his veins multiple times in the days leading up to the execution.

“He was a healthy, 39-year-old man, and did not have any medical condition or history (such as intravenous drug use) that would indicate potential problems,” attorneys Rob Lee, Jonathan Sheldon and Elizabeth Peiffer said in a statement.

The three attorneys said that Gray was observed turning his head from side to side a minute or more after being given a sedative and was pinched to test his consciousness. They said they also observed “labored breathing, gasping, snoring, and other audible and visible activity.”

Prison officials explained the movements as evidence of respiratory depression. But the attorneys say he may have been reacting to the second drug in the state’s three-drug protocol, a paralytic. If he was conscious when that drug was administered, “he would have suffered excruciating pain,” they said.

The lawyers also questioned why a doctor with a stethoscope checked Gray’s heart before the prisoner was pronounced dead, when prison officials have in the past relied on a heart monitor.

“The redundancy check by the physician is not something we have seen before in the numerous lethal injections we have observed,” they wrote.

The drug used to sedate Gray, midazolam, has been implicated in several prolonged and apparently painful executions. Arizona has agreed to stop using the drug. Despite testimony from pharmacologists that midazolam is not a proper anesthetic for executions, the Supreme Court narrowly upheld its constitutionality last year.

Gray was the first prisoner to be executed in Virginia using midazolam.

A spokesman for the VDOC did not immediately return a request for comment.

Source: The Washington Post, Rachel Weiner, January 19, 2017

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Florida: The inmate in Cell 1

Cell 1 is the last cell Florida inmates stay in before they’re executed. It’s where they say their goodbyes, make peace with death or mount their final legal stands against death. It’s where many hope their sentence will be delayed or commuted. Some inmates get pulled out of Cell 1 to return to Death Row; others meet their end in the execution chamber a few feet away. It’s a place of uncertainty, the cell between life and death.

On Jan. 12, 2016, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling threw Florida’s death penalty into a state of limbo -- putting the death sentence on hold. Legal challenges and court decisions--as recently as last month--have created more confusion. It is in this climate that the Legislature will start rewriting the new rules to reinstate the death penalty when it returns to session in March.

WLRN News reporter Wilson Sayre spent almost two years researching the ins and outs of the death penalty in Florida. In this special report, she looks at the momentous changes that occurred in 2016, the consequences of the Supreme Court decision in Hurst v. Florida and what being in limbo means for the 384 people on Death Row in the state, their families and the victims’ families.

Part 1: The inmate in Cell 1


Mike Lambrix has spent more of his life on Death Row than in the outside world.

At 56, he’s lost most of his hair along with his once-athletic body. Every day for the 33 years he’s lived on Death Row, since he was convicted of a double murder in 1984, he’s worn the orange shirt of condemned men in Florida.

On November 30, 2015, Gov. Rick Scott signed his death warrant and Lambrix was set to die by lethal injection on Feb. 11, 2016. This wasn’t a surprise. Lambrix had exhausted all his appeals and Gov. Scott has had a quick pen when it comes to executions. In fact, Scott has overseen more executions than any other Florida governor since LeRoy Collins, who left office in 1961.

A death warrant sets in motion a strictly codified script that regulate all actions until the prisoner's execution. Lambrix was moved from Death Row to Death Watch, which is reserved for people who’ve been given their execution dates.

“The first thing you see is a board on the wall that says your name, your cell number and your execution date,” said Lambrix. “Every time you go in and out of there you see that right there, in writing, just to remind you.”

On Death Watch, inmates get more privileges than Death Row inmates. For example, you get to call to your family. Until recently, there were no social calls on Death Row.

Death Watch cells are bigger, 12x7 feet instead of the 6x9-foot cells on Death Row, which means prisoners get from one end of the cell to the other in five steps instead of three. Lambrix says the guards tend to be nicer. Even those that don’t have a great reputation show a more compassionate side with inmates on Death Watch.

Mike Lambrix
Mike Lambrix
But Death Watch isn’t supposed to be some kind of prison paradise where you can live out your final days in a more enjoyable setting. There’s a practical side to it. Inmates are put there so guards can watch over them more carefully; to make sure they don’t hurt themselves or others.

The fear is: Condemned prisoners have nothing to lose.

“You never forget why it's different. Everything about Death Watch is specifically structured towards what the conclusion is going to be,” said Lambrix

Lambrix had company when he was moved to Death Watch in 2015. Oscar Bolin was then the official resident of Cell 1. That cell is always reserved for the next inmate to be executed and Bolin's date came before Lambrix's.

So Lambrix spent weeks watching Bolin prepare for his execution: packing up his property in boxes for his wife, have his final meetings with lawyers and a chaplain, dealing with the denials of his final appeals, shaving his chest ahead of the execution.

“I can't get away. There's nowhere I can go. I put my earbuds on. My MP3 is my escape,” said Lambrix.

For Lambrix, this was like looking into the future, a process he'd be following himself.

“There's a part of you that says, ‘You know what, that's me,’ ” said Lambrix, “because I am the next cow in line. And I'm watching this cow get its head off."

Lambrix got to know Bolin; They’d spent weeks talking between their cells. And then he was just down the hall during Bolin’s execution.

The state’s two execution chambers are right next to Death Watch. In one, there’s the state’s electric chair -- which hasn’t been used since 1999. In the other chamber, there’s a gurney with straps used for lethal injections.

“So they walked [Bolin out of Cell 1] and that’s last I heard of anything because once he went around he never came back,” said Lambrix.

After Bolin was walked out to meet his sentence, Lambrix could hear the witnesses to the execution mill about, waiting.

“Every little sound down on Death Watch during this period of time becomes somewhat amplified, like a thunderous roar,” said Lambrix. “Every little whisper, you know, I'm straining to hear everything that goes on on the other side of that door.”

The execution went forward at 10:16 p.m. on Jan 7, 2016. Bolin was the last person in Florida to be executed and the only one in 2016.

The execution affected Lambrix. “I didn't sleep too well that night,” he said.

“One of the things that really bothered me about the process after they killed him [Bolin] is that very early the next morning they came in and they ordered me to get my stuff in my Cell 3 and I immediately got moved to Cell 1. You know, I'm just telling myself, “What, you couldn't wait a day? You know, you just killed this guy. You couldn't just wait a day?”

Florida's death chamber
Florida's death chamber
Lambrix says that being moved from Cell 3 to Cell 1 brought the reality of his imminent execution home.

"When you walk into that Cell 1, there's a part of you that even despite all the hope that you might still have. It takes that hope away,” said Lambrix.

This was the second time Lambrix has been in Cell 1. He was hours away from his execution before, in fall 1988. Then, a U.S. district court stayed his execution to review various claims by his defense attorneys hoping to overturn Lambrix`s death sentence.

He says being in Cell 1 sort of changes you. You have to wrestle with knowing the date of your death, in his case Feb. 11, 2016. That’s on top of other, more mundane preparations you’re forced into, like divvying up your property.

Lambrix found himself making choices based on the date of his execution. Should he buy new toothpaste? Or stretch what he has left?

Watch the new X-Files mini series? His date would come halfway through the episodes.

He was fitted for his execution suit: dark blue with charcoal pinstripes and a white shirt, short sleeves so they can insert the needle.

Here’s an excerpt from something he wrote for his blog during that time on Death Watch for Feb 1, 2016:

“Time flies quickly when you’re counting down what is expected to be the last days of your life. As I awoke this morning, I realized I’m now down to only 25 days. I smiled as I remembered song on my mp3 player by country music legend Johnny Cash called “25 Minutes to Go.” It starts with the words, 'They’re building a gallows outside my cell and I’ve got 25 minutes to go,' then in his southern accent continues, 'and the whole town’s waiting just to hear me yell, I’ve got [24] minutes to go.”

Lambrix says that during each minute of his 25 days on Death Watch, he hoped his execution would get called off.

“Death Watch is a very unique experience because the phone is like five feet in front of your cell and you're just like looking at that phone and there's a clock on the wall and you're looking at the clock,"said Lambrix.

"Because that phone is your lawyers telling you you got a stay of execution. You know, every moment of that clock is tick, tick, tick. And you're looking at that phone just trying to mentally will it to ring.”

The phone did ring for Lambrix, a little more than a week before his execution.

The U.S. Supreme Court had issued an opinion in a case called Hurst v. Florida that put in limbo all death penalty cases in the state.

➽ Click here to read the full article (+ videos)

Source: WLRN News, January 19, 2017

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