Death Sentences and Executions 2013 - Asia-Pacific
|Publication Date||27 March 2014|
|Cite as||Amnesty International, Death Sentences and Executions 2013 - Asia-Pacific, 27 March 2014, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/53bd2e278.html [accessed 31 August 2016]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
While some setbacks were recorded in the Asia-Pacific region last year, positive steps in a number of countries showed that, even among traditional supporters of the death penalty, progress towards abolition is tangible.
Ten countries were known to have carried out executions, two more than in 2012. China once again executed more people than the rest of the world put together, but it was not possible to obtain an accurate picture of the reality of capital punishment there. Amnesty International also could not confirm reliable figures for Malaysia and North Korea. In Viet Nam, publishing statistics on the use of capital punishment was still prohibited in law. A new secretive trend also surrounded the use of the death penalty in India and Indonesia, where executions were not announced prior to being carried out, neither to the public nor to the families and lawyers of the prisoners.
Excluding China and despite the resumption of executions in Indonesia and Viet Nam, thirty- seven executions were confirmed in 2013, one less than 2012. Pakistan once again suspended its application of the death penalty and no death sentences were implemented in
Singapore, where six people had their cases commuted following a review of the country's mandatory death penalty laws in 2012. In China, the Supreme People's Court issued further legal guidelines for greater procedural protections in death penalty cases and the former Minister of Health, Huang Jiefu, said the goal was to end organ transplants from executed prisoners by mid-2014. Brunei Darussalam, Laos, the Maldives, Mongolia, Myanmar, South Korea, Sri Lanka and Thailand did not carry out executions. The Pacific sub-region continued to be a virtually death penalty-free area, despite threats from Papua New Guinea to resume executions.
|EXECUTIONS AND DEATH SENTENCES IN THE ASIA-PACIFIC
At least 37 executions were reported to have been carried out in 10 countries in the Asia-Pacific region: Afghanistan (2), Bangladesh (2), China (+), India (1), Indonesia (5), Japan (8), Malaysia (2+), North Korea (+), Taiwan (6), Viet Nam (7+). This figure does not include thousands of executions believed to have taken place in China.
At least 1,030 new death sentences were known to have been imposed in 17 countries in the region in 2013: Afghanistan (174), Bangladesh (220+), China (+), India (72+), Indonesia (16+), Japan (5), Laos (3+), Malaysia (76+), Maldives (13), North Korea (+), Pakistan (226+), Singapore (1+), South Korea (2), Sri Lanka (13+), Taiwan (7), Thailand (50+), Viet Nam (148+).
The scope of the death penalty was expanded in Bangladesh, India and Papua New Guinea. In several countries in the region, trials for offences punishable by death continued to violate international law and standards on the use of the death penalty, including through the imposition of capital punishment as the mandatory punishment. Some individuals were sentenced to death on the basis of evidence extracted through torture and other ill-treatment. Foreign nationals remained disproportionately affected by the death penalty in the region, which continued to be used for offences that did not meet the threshold of the "most serious crimes" under Article 6 of the ICCPR.
The death penalty continued to be imposed for drug-related offences in China, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Pakistan, Singapore, Thailand and Viet Nam. Executions for these crimes were carried out in China, Indonesia, Malaysia and Viet Nam. Economic crimes were punished by death in China and Viet Nam. Such death sentences were implemented in China.
Two executions were carried out in Afghanistan, and 174 new death sentences were imposed for murder and terrorism. Approximately 300 people were under sentence of death at the end of the year. Two men were exonerated in the Western province of Herat after they had been sentenced to death in relation to the kidnapping and killing of a child.
In November the Ministry of Justice and the Ministerial Committee of Shari'a and Traditional Penalty and Investigating Crimes proposed at least 26 amendments to the country's Penal Code. The proposed changes included the reinstatement of punishments dating to the Taliban era and reflecting their interpretation of Shari'a law, including public stoning to death for "adultery" by married people, amputation of hands and feet for theft and robbery, and flogging of up to 100 lashes for unmarried people found guilty of "adultery". Following international criticism, the President stated in an interview on 28 November that the government had backed away from the proposal to reintroduce stoning as punishment for adultery. The proposals were awaiting consideration by the Parliament at the end of the year.
Bangladesh carried out two executions and imposed at least 220 death sentences. Of the death sentences, 152 were handed down in a single case related to a 2009 mutiny, following which the accused were allegedly tortured during their pre-trial detention. At least 1,100 people were reported to be on death row at the end of the year.
The scope of the death penalty was reportedly expanded on 16 June, when the Parliament adopted the Children Act 2013 allowing for the death penalty to be imposed against adults using children to carry out terrorist activities, as defined under the Anti-Terrorism Act 2009.
During the year, Amnesty International remained concerned about trial proceedings before the International Crimes Tribunal (ICT), a national court established in 2010 to try people suspected of crimes under international law, including genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, committed during Bangladesh's 1971 war of independence. While noting that most of those detained in connection with these crimes were members of the two opposition parties, Amnesty International expressed concerns in relation to amendments to the Act governing the conduct of trials before the ICT, which were adopted by Parliament on 17 February, introduced the possibility for the prosecution to appeal against any sentencing decision of the ICT, even retroactively.
In 2013, the ICT sentenced seven people to death. The sentence in one of the two cases in which the defendants had initially been awarded life imprisonment, that of Abdul Quader Mollah, a key figure in the Islamist opposition party Jamaat-e-Islami, was appealed by the prosecution and was increased to a sentence of death by the Supreme Court on 5 December. Without legal avenues available to appeal his death sentence, Abdul Quader Mollah was executed on 12 December.
On 29 April Bangladesh was reviewed under the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) at the UN Human Rights Council. The government rejected recommendations to reconsider its position on capital punishment; establish a moratorium on executions; and abolish the death penalty.
No new death sentences were known to have been imposed in Brunei Darussalam. A new Penal Code was enacted on 22 October, retaining the death penalty including for acts that do not meet the threshold of the "most serious crimes" and, in some cases, acts that should not be considered crimes, including adultery and consensual sex between people of the same gender. Furthermore, the end of childhood is defined by the age of puberty, allowing for the imposition of the death penalty for crimes committed by defendants below 18 years of age.
China continued to execute more people than the rest of the world put together, often after unfair trials and for non-lethal crimes, such as drug trafficking and economic offences. The authorities continue to treat the figures on death sentences and executions as a state secret and do not publish statistics. Amnesty International's monitoring continued to indicate death sentences in the thousands. The organization could not confirm the reductions in the use of the death penalty claimed by Chinese officials in recent years.
Amnesty International stopped publishing its figures for China in 2009, in a challenge to the authorities to end the secrecy that surrounds the use of capital punishment. If implemented correctly, the reforms promoted by several bodies in China could in fact lead to a decrease in the number of death sentences and executions in the country. However, such an assumption is impossible to verify without critical information being made public.
China's amended Criminal Procedure Law (CPL) came into force on 1 January 2013. The new CPL offers some enhanced procedural protections for suspects and defendants in capital cases and together with the "Supreme People's Court Explanation for Implementation of the CPL", which came into effect on the same date, provides additional clarification with regard to the final review of death sentences by the Supreme People's Court.
However, the measures do not bring detainees' rights or trial proceedings into full conformity with international human rights standards. They are particularly insufficient given that in China forced confessions are commonplace and frequently lead to miscarriages of justice. Implementation of legal protections should begin during investigation, and not wait until the trial proceedings and the final review stage.
Article 34 of the new CPL requires not only the courts but also the procuratorate and the police to inform legal aid organizations that they should assign a defence lawyer to all suspects or defendants who potentially face life imprisonment or the death penalty and do not have a defence lawyer. However, there is no concomitant responsibility of the legal aid organization or timeframe for their compliance stipulated in the amended law. Legal scholars within China have called for greater clarification to establish beyond doubt in the law that legally aided defence is available at all stages of the process in capital cases, and for clearer delineation of the role and responsibility of defence lawyers in the appeal and final review process.
In a positive step, the new CPL (Article 121) provides that interrogations of criminal suspects may be recorded or videotaped. For suspects facing a potential death sentence or life imprisonment, it is mandatory for interrogations to be recorded in full, although suspects are still not guaranteed the right to be accompanied by a lawyer. It is also a positive step that Article 223 of the new CPL requires courts of second instance [appellate courts] to hold a court hearing, in which evidence is reviewed, in appeal cases where the defendant has been sentenced to death. In relation to the review of death sentences by the Supreme People's Court, Article 239 of the new CPL allows the Court to change the sentence (gaipan) if it does not approve the one of death. Article 240 of the new CPL further requires the Supreme People's Court to "hear the opinion of the defence attorney" if the latter requests this and to "question the defendant" during the review process.
These amendments represent limited enhancements to procedures in capital cases. The amended CPL fails to provide a procedure for prisoners under sentence of death to seek pardon or commutation of their sentence, as required under international human rights standards.
On 21 November the Supreme People's Court issued its opinion on "Establishing and Completing Work Mechanisms for Preventing Unjust, False and Wrongly-Decided Criminal Cases". The opinion provides guidance for courts on how to prevent wrongful convictions, including by exclusion of confessions extracted through torture or other illegal methods. The opinion also suggests that death penalty cases should be heard by experienced judges.
On 12 November, the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee passed a resolution on deepening reform. The resolution affirms the authorities' intention to progressively reduce the number of crimes carrying the death penalty.
|A Chinese woman who killed her husband after suffering months of domestic violence remained at imminent risk of execution.
Li Yan's husband, Tan Yong, abused her emotionally and physically following their marriage in 2009. He frequently beat her, stubbed cigarettes out on her face and, during the freezing Sichuan winters, locked her outside on the balcony of their apartment for several hours with little clothing. On one occasion, he cut off one of her fingers. Li Yan required hospital treatment for her injuries after one attack, and contacted the authorities, including the police, several times. They did not follow up her complaints, initiate investigations or offer her any protection. In late 2010, Li Yan beat her husband to death with a gun.
She was sentenced to death on 24 August 2011 by the Ziyang City Intermediate People's Court for intentional homicide under article 232 of the Chinese Criminal Code. Despite Li Yan's testimonies about the abuse she suffered and evidence provided by witnesses, the Sichuan Provincial Higher People's Court upheld the verdict on 20 August 2012. At the time of writing, the Supreme People's Court was still to announce the final ruling on her case.
According to Huang Jiefu, the former Minister of Health, quoted in the media, considerable progress was made in 2013 to introduce voluntary organ donation schemes with the aim of phasing out the use of organs from executed prisoners by mid-2014. However, according to Huang Jiefu, the 900 organs donated voluntarily in the first seven months of 2013 was less than half the number obtained from executed prisoners.
China was reviewed under the UPR on 22 October. The government agreed to examine and provide a response at the March 2014 session of the Human Rights Council on recommendations to: continue reform towards eventual abolition of the death penalty, including greater transparency on its use; publish the figures regarding death sentences and executions; further reduce the offences punishable by death penalty; and establish a moratorium on executions as a first step towards abolition of the death penalty.
India carried out one execution on 9 February, when Mohammad Afzal Guru was hanged in secret at Tihar Jail in New Delhi. He had been sentenced to death in 2002 after being convicted of conspiracy to attack the Parliament of India, waging war against India and murder in December 2001 by a special court designated under the Prevention of Terrorism Act (POTA), a law which fell considerably short of international fair trial standards and has since been repealed. Afzal Guru's death sentence was confirmed by the Supreme Court in August 2005, and his mercy petition was rejected by the President on 3 February 2013.
Serious concerns about the fairness of Afzal Guru's trial – including the fact that he did not receive legal representation of his choice or a lawyer with adequate experience at the trial stage - were not addressed. Afzal Guru's family were not informed in time of his imminent execution and his body was not returned to the family for last rites and burial, in violation of international standards. Afzal Guru was also denied the opportunity to seek a judicial review of the decision to reject his mercy petition.
The President of India rejected the mercy petitions of 18 other prisoners in 2013, the most rejections by any President in nearly 25 years. Authorities began to take steps to increase secrecy around the use of the death penalty, including by removing information regarding decisions on mercy petitions by the President from the website of the President's Secretariat.
|The Supreme Court of India rejected the commutation plea of Devender Pal Singh Bhullar on 12 April. He had been sentenced to death in 2001 for his involvement in a bomb attack in New Delhi in 1993 that killed nine people. He was arrested in January 1995 under the Terrorist and Disruptive Activities (Prevention) Act (TADA), a law that subsequently lapsed, and contained provisions incompatible with international fair trial standards.
Devender Pal Singh Bhullar had no access to a lawyer during his initial detention and trial. He was found guilty on the basis of an unsubstantiated "confession" that he made to the police, which he later retracted, claiming it was made under police pressure. In March 2002, the Supreme Court upheld Bhullar's death sentence, though one of the three judges on the bench had found him not guilty, saying there was no evidence to convict him.
Bhullar had been receiving treatment at a psychiatric facility in New Delhi, and in 2011 his lawyer requested that the Supreme Court consider his mental condition as grounds for commuting his death sentence. The President of India rejected Devender Pal Singh Bhullar's mercy petition in May 2011, eight years after the request was filed.
Devender Pal Singh Bhullar approached the Supreme Court seeking commutation of his death sentence on the grounds of inordinate delay in its consideration. On 12 April 2013, the Supreme Court rejected his plea and decided not to commute the death sentence because of the "enormity of the crime". The judgment stated that delay "cannot be invoked in cases where a person is convicted for an offence under TADA or similar statutes." Devender Pal Singh Bhullar's case remained pending at the end of the year.
Following the gang rape and murder of a young woman in Delhi in December 2012, the Indian government established the Justice Verma Committee, a panel of legal experts tasked with reviewing Indian laws on sexual assault against women. The Justice Verma Committee submitted its report to the Government on 23 January 2013. The report opposed punishing rape or other forms of sexual assault with the death penalty. Despite this, in April 2013, the Parliament of India passed the Criminal Law (Amendment) Act, 2013, which expanded the scope of the death penalty to include crimes of rape that result in death or a persistent vegetative state for the victim, or in cases of certain repeat offenders. On 13 September, four men were convicted and sentenced to death by a trial court in Delhi in relation to the December 2012 case.
At least 72 new death sentences were known to have been imposed throughout the year and at least 400 people were believed to be on death row at the end of the year. Eighteen prisoners had their executions stayed by the Supreme Court to allow for consideration of their appeals, which argued for commutation of the death sentences on the ground of inordinate delay by the executive in the rejection of their mercy petitions. Their death sentences were commuted in 2014.
On 14 March Indonesia resumed executions after four years without any notice, when Adami Wilson, a Malawian national convicted of drug trafficking was executed by firing squad. Four other people were executed during the year: Suryadi Swabuana, Jurit bin Abdullah and Ibrahim bin Ujang in May for murder; and Muhammad Abdul Hafeez, a Pakistani national, in November for drug trafficking. None of the executions was announced before being carried out.
At least 16 new death sentences were imposed and at least 149 people were on death row at the end of the year. Around half of those currently on death row, many of them foreign nationals, were convicted of drug-related offences.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs continued to intervene in cases of Indonesian migrant workers sentenced to death abroad. Figures released in December indicated that of the 247 Indonesians who were under sentence of death in other countries, 186 were in Malaysia, 36 in Saudi Arabia, 11 in China and one in Singapore.
After its review of Indonesia's compliance with the ICCPR, the Human Rights Committee in August regretted that Indonesia had "suspended its de facto moratorium on the death penalty and has resumed executions. The Committee regrets that death sentences are imposed by courts for drug crimes, which do not meet the threshold of the 'most serious crimes' set under article 6 of the Covenant (art. 6)." 
Eight people were executed for murder in Japan. Five new death sentences were imposed, while two people, Kazuo Inou and Tatsumi Tateyama, had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment. A total of 130 people were under sentence of death at the end of the year.
The use of the death penalty in Japan continued to be shrouded in secrecy. When Masahiro Kanagawa, Kaoru Kobayashi and Keiki Kano were executed on 21 February, their families were not notified in advance. Furthermore, capital punishment continued to be used in contravention of international standards on the use of the death penalty. Kobayashi and Kano were executed despite both preparing to apply for retrials, and Tokuhisa Kumagai, one of the eight prisoners to be executed in 2013, was over 70 years of age.
On 16 October the Supreme Court of Japan denied a retrial to 87-year-old Masaru Okunishi, who was convicted of murder and sentenced to death in 1969 based on a forced confession. Okunishi, who has spent more than 40 years facing execution and is one of the oldest death row prisoners in the world, had retracted his "confession" during the first trial and was acquitted due to lack of evidence. However, a higher court reversed the verdict and sentenced him to death. His latest retrial request was denied partly because the Supreme Court ruled that his initial "confession" still stood, even though he had retracted it.
Iwao Hakamada, who has been on death row since 1968 and developed mental illness as a result of the decades he has spent in isolation, remained on death row at the end of the year. The decision on his appeal for retrial was expected to be delivered by the Shizuoka District Court in March 2014.
Japan was reviewed by the Committee Against Torture at its May session. The Committee expressed deep concern about many issues, including the conditions of detention of prisoners on death row, in particular with respect to the unnecessary secrecy and uncertainty surrounding the execution of prisoners; the use of solitary confinement for prisoners sentenced to death, some exceeding 30 years; interference with the right to assistance by legal counsel, including the limited confidential access to a lawyer; and the lack of a mandatory appeal system for capital cases given that an increasing number of defendants were convicted and sentenced to death without exercising their right of appeal. The Committee further urged the government of Japan to ensure that death row inmates are afforded all the legal safeguards and protections they are entitled to, including by giving them and their family reasonable advance notice of the scheduled date and time of the execution and revising the rule of solitary confinement for death row inmates. The Committee urged the authorities to provide data on death row inmates, disaggregated by sex, age, ethnicity and offence and to consider the possibility of abolishing the death penalty.
At least three new death sentences were imposed for drug trafficking in Laos, where the last execution was carried out in 1989.
At least two people were executed in secret in Malaysia, one for murder and one for drug trafficking. At least 76 new death sentences were known to have been imposed, 47 for drug- related offences. Of those sentenced to death, 37 were foreign nationals, 10 of them women. There were an estimated 992 people in death row as of end 2013. Four death sentences were commuted.
Malaysia was reviewed at the UPR on 24 October. In the national report submitted before the review, the government explained it had undertaken a study on comprehensive reform of administration of criminal justice in Malaysia, including the death penalty. The authorities agreed to examine a number of recommendations, including to establish a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to abolition. The government was expected to report to the UN Human Rights Council in March 2014.
No executions have been carried out in the Maldives since 1954, but 13 new death sentences were imposed last year. Eighteen people were on death row as of 31 December and one prisoner had his death sentence commuted for lack of credible evidence. On 2 May two people were sentenced to death by the Juvenile Court in relation to a murder committed when they were under 18 years of age. The sentence was under appeal at the end of the year. Draft legislation aimed at resuming executions was rejected on May.
Mongolia did not carry out any executions for the fourth consecutive year, since the President established an official moratorium on executions in 2010. No new death sentences were imposed. A Bill removing the death penalty from national legislation remained pending before the Mongolian Parliament at the end of the year.
Amnesty International is not aware of any new death sentences in Myanmar. On 2 January 2014 the authorities announced that all remaining death sentences in the country had been commuted. In October the Lower House of Parliament rejected a motion to debate a proposed amendment to the 1993 Child Law that would impose the death penalty for the rape of a child under 16 years.
While reliable reports indicate that at least 70 executions were carried out in North Korea, Amnesty International believes the true figure to be much higher. Further reports about numerous public executions and executions of political opponents of North Korea's leader Kim Jong-un, including his uncle Jang Seong-taek, were also recorded, but such information could not be independently verified. Other crimes for which people were reportedly executed included murder and cannibalism, embezzlement, pornography, escaping to China, corruption, activities that countered the goals of the Korean Workers' Party and watching banned videos from South Korea.
Death sentences continued to be handed down, including for crimes that do not meet the threshold of "most serious crimes" under international law and for crimes which do not carry the death penalty under North Korean law.
|UN COMMISSION OF ENQUIRY ON NORTH KOREA
On 21 March 2013, the UN Human Rights Council established the Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, which is mandated to investigate the systematic, widespread and grave violations of human rights in the country, with a view to ensuring full accountability, in particular for violations which may amount to crimes against humanity.
On 20 August the UN Commission of Inquiry began hearings in South Korea on North Korea's human rights record. Among other witnesses, Shin Dong-hyuk spoke of the regular public executions in the prison camp where he was detained, camp 14 Bowiso Pyong-an Nam-do, in Southern Pyong-an province:
"In the camp, twice a year, there was a public execution. I don't know exact meaning of that, but I think that in order to keep the prisoners on their toes and to scare them. I think that's why they held this public execution twice a year. In front of many inmates, the prisoners, they would tie this one person against the wooden column they would shoot or they would strangle them […] The first time I witnessed such an execution was when I was five. […] In 1996 [I overheard] my Mum and my brother were talking in the corner where we were preparing meal. […] I think they were planning to climb over the mountain and escape. At that time, that thought that passed in my mind was that I thought I was very certain they were planning to escape from the camp. And, I went to the school and I reported to my teacher about their conversation. […] And, because of the plans of my mother and brother, I learned, I was questioned about any further planning that might be happening in my family. And, in front of all the inmates, political prisoners, and in front of my father and myself, my mother and older brother [were] publicly executed. My older brother was publicly executed. My mother was hanged in front of me and my father."
The hiatus in executions that had been interrupted in Pakistan in 2012 when the military authorities executed a soldier, continued in 2013, despite attempts to resume executions in August. At least 226 new death sentences were imposed and at least 8,526 people were on death row at the end of the year. Of these, according to the Minister of Interior, the legal appeals of at least 450 people were finalized and they were facing execution. Amnesty International was aware of at least seven prisoners under sentence of death who were juveniles at the time the offences were committed and who had exhausted their legal remedies.
In December 2013, the Federal Shariat Court ordered the enforcement of its 1991 ruling that the death penalty should be applied for the blasphemy offence, under Section 295-C of the Penal Code, of derogatory remarks against the Prophet Muhammed. The Court further ordered the government to remove the punishment of life imprisonment from Section 295-C, leaving the death penalty as the only sentencing option.
After taking office in June 2013, the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced its intention to recommence executions in an attempt to improve the law and order situation in the country. At least eight men were scheduled to be executed between 20 and 25 August 2013, including two men who were below 18 years of age when the alleged crimes were committed. The planned executions were suspended on 18 August.
Amnesty International remained concerned by the imposition of the death penalty after trials which did not meet international fair trial standards. These trials were characterized by a lack of access to legal counsel and an acceptance of evidence inadmissible under international law, including statements extracted through torture. The high courts did not have jurisdiction over the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, leaving people sentenced to death by courts in this region without a right to appeal to the superior judiciary.
No new death sentences were known to have been imposed in Papua New Guinea, where 10 prisoners remained under sentence of death at the end of the year. No executions have been carried out since 1954.
Following highly publicized and brutal killings of women accused of sorcery, a new law was adopted on 28 May 2013 expanding the scope of the death penalty to include robbery and aggravated rape, even if the crime did not result in death. Legal execution methods were changed to include, in addition to hanging, lethal injection, electrocution, firing squad and asphyxiation. The amendments signalled the intention of the government to resume executions.
No executions were carried out in Singapore. At least one new death sentence was known to have been imposed and at least 26 people remained under sentence of death at the end of the year.
The High Court of Singapore began reviewing the cases of 32 prisoners who had been mandatorily sentenced to death for drug-related offences and murder, following the adoption in 2012 of the Penal Code (Amendment) Act 2012 (Act No. 32 of 2012) and the Misuse of Drugs (Amendment) Act 2012, which introduced discretion for the judges in sentencing under certain circumstances.
Five death sentences that had been imposed for murder were commuted to life imprisonment and strokes of the cane: Jabing Kho was resentenced on 30 April; Fabian Adiu Edwin on 16 July; Bijkumar Ramadevi Nair Gopinathan on 28 August 2013; Kamrul Hasan Abdul Quddus on 12 November; and Wang Wenfeng on 13 November.
Additionally, Yong Vui Kong had his death sentence, imposed for drug-trafficking, commuted on 14 November, while Abdul Haleem bin Abdul Karim and Chum Tat Suan were spared the death penalty on 20 May and 24 October respectively following the introduction of discretion in sentencing.
The review and commutation of six death sentences was a welcome step in the reduction of the use of the death penalty. However, other aspects in the amended Penal Code, such as the continued imposition of the death penalty for drug trafficking and the retention of the mandatory imposition of capital punishment in certain cases, remained of concern.
For the 16th consecutive year, no executions were carried out in South Korea. Two new death sentences were imposed. Sixty-one men remained under sentence of death at the end of the year, including three soldiers. One death sentence was commuted.
At least 13 new death sentences were imposed in Sri Lanka, where the last execution was carried out in 1976. At least 15 people were pardoned. Figures reported by Hiru News indicated that at least 486 prisoners were on death row as of 3 January 2014.
Two people were hired and started training as executioners in February. In October, the Ministry of Justice reportedly appointed a special committee tasked with the review of the country's Penal Code and repealing the death penalty.
Six executions were carried out and seven new death sentences were imposed in Taiwan. Sixty-two people remained under sentence of death at the end of the year, 52 of whom were without any further legal avenues available to them. Concerns remained about the fairness of trials in Taiwan, including in cases involving capital offences. Four people had their death sentences commuted on appeal, including a man suffering from mental illness. Following executions, the Minister of Justice clarified that no organs were harvested from the executed prisoners.
In February, Manfred Nowak, former UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and Eibe Riedel, a member of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, visited Taiwan after calling on the authorities to establish a moratorium on executions. The two men were part of a panel of Independent Experts invited by the government to consider its report on implementation of UN human rights covenants. In their report issued on 1 March 2013, the Independent Experts strongly recommended that the government of Taiwan intensify its efforts towards abolition of capital punishment and – as a first and decisive step – introduce an immediate moratorium on executions. The Taiwanese government replied to the recommendations saying that it would be "difficult" for Taiwan to abolish the death penalty at this stage.
In Taiwan, family members are typically not informed about scheduled executions in advance and only find out when they are invited to collect the body from the mortuary.
No executions were carried out in Thailand, where at least 50 new death sentences were imposed for murder and drug-related offences, including against foreign nationals. Figures reported by the Department of Corrections indicated that 678 people were under sentence of death as of November.
On 15 May, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra launched a pilot project to remove shackles from 513 prisoners on death row. The abolition of the death penalty was included in the draft of the Third National Human Rights Plan (2014-2018), which was awaiting government approval at the end of the year. The Rights and Liberties Protection Department within the
Ministry of Justice announced in August that it will conduct a study and a public consultation on the possibility of abolishing the death penalty in Thailand.
No new death sentences were imposed in Tonga, where the last execution was carried out in 1982. Tonga was reviewed under the UPR in January 2013. Recommendations to take steps towards abolishing the death penalty and to ratify the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR and remove provisions in national law allowing for the imposition of the death penalty for people below 18 years of age, were rejected by the government, which cited public perception of the deterrent effect of the death penalty.
Viet Nam resumed executions after a hiatus of more than 18 months when Nguyen Anh Tuan, convicted for murder in 2010, was reportedly executed by lethal injection on 6 August. At least six other executions were carried out. In June 2010 Viet Nam had amended the Law for Enforcement of Criminal Verdicts to change the method of execution from firing squad to lethal injection, on the grounds that it was more humane. A shortage of drugs for use in lethal injections had resulted in no executions being carried out since January 2012. The shortage had followed changes made in 2011 to European Union (EU) regulations on trade in equipment and substances which can be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Amnesty International was able to confirm that at least 148 people were sentenced to death last year, mainly for murder and drug-related crime, with a small number for economic crimes, such as embezzlement.
Figures published by the Minister of Public Security Tran Dai Quang indicated that 678 people were on death row as of 11 November. At least 110 prisoners had exhausted their appeals and were facing imminent execution. Publishing figures on the use of capital punishment remained prohibited in law.
The Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN), an informal network of individuals and organizations from the Asia-Pacific region, continued to grow steadily, including new members in China. ADPAN organized a meeting of Asian activists at the 5th World Congress against the Death Penalty in June and moved to formally register as an independent entity in Malaysia. Among others, ADPAN members' achievements include the commutation of death sentences in Singapore. "This is the happiest day of my client's life," said M. Ravi, lawyer and ADPAN member, on hearing that his client Yong Vui Kong had had his death sentence revoked after the revision of Singapore's mandatory death penalty laws.
27 "Stoning will not be brought back, says Afghan president", The Guardian, 28 November 2013, available at http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/28/stoning-not-brought-back-afghan-president-karzai (accessed on 4 March 2014).
29 "Experts and academics recommend adding special chapter to amended criminal procedure law on "procedures for death penalty cases to bring together all death penalty provisions in order to strengthen the principle of "killing less, killing better.", Legal Daily, 25 November 2011, available at http://epaper.legaldaily.com.cn/fzrb/content/20111125/Articel03002GN.htm (accessed on 4 March 2014).
30 On 21 January 2014 the Supreme Court of India indicated in Writ Petition (Criminal) no. 55 of 2013 that the ratio laid down in Devender Pal Singh Bhullar v. State (NCT) of Delhi (2013) 6 SCC 195 is per incuriam and that there is no good reason to disqualify TADA cases as exception from commutations on the ground of delay.
31 "247 Indonesians abroad under threat of death penalty", Antara News, 20 September 2013, available at http://www.antaranews.com/en/news/90806/247-indonesians-abroad-under-threat-of-death-penalty, last accessed on 4 March 2014.
32 Human Rights Committee, "Concluding observations on the initial report of Indonesia", 21 August 2013, UN document CCPR/C/IDN/CO/1.
33 Committee against Torture, "Concluding observations on the second periodic report of Japan", adopted by the Committee at its fiftieth session (6-31 May 2013), 28 June 2013, UN document CAT/C/JPN/CO/2.
34 Human Rights Council, "National report submitted in accordance with paragraph 5 of the annex to Human Rights Council resolution 16/21", A/HRC/WG.6/17/MYS/1, 6 August 2013.
35 "MPs reject death sentence for rape of a child", Mizzima News, 23 October 2013, available at: http://www.mizzima.com/mizzima-news/myanmar/item/10399-mps-reject-death-sentence-for-rape-of-a-child (accessed on 4 March 2014).
36 Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, "Public Hearings-Transcript of hearing on 20 August", available at http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/CoIDPRK/Pages/PublicHearings.aspx
37 "Sri Lanka: A roof top protest by 6 prisoners at Bogambara demanding death of freedom", Onews, 3 January 2014, available at http://onews.us/sri-lanka-a-roof-top-protest-by-6-prisoners-at-bogambara-demanding-death-or-freedom.html (accessed on 4 March 2014).
38 "Committee reviews Sri Lanka's Penal Code regarding death penalty", Colombo Page, 27 December 2013, available at http://www.colombopage.com/archive_13B/Dec27_1388159391JV.php (accessed on 4 March 2014).
39 "Six death-row inmates executed", 20 April 2013, Taipei Times, available at http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/front/archives/2013/04/20/2003560175 (accessed on 4 March 2014).
40 "Government 'assessing' death penalty", Taipei Times, 20 March 2013, available at http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/taiwan/archives/2013/03/20/2003557534 (accessed on 4 March 2014).
41 "Vietnam minister wants to restore firing squad", Thanh Nien, 11 November 2013, available at http://www.dailyvietnamnews.net/index/pages/20131109-vietnam-minister-wants-to-restore-firing-squad-for-executions.aspx (last accessed on 4 March 2014).