January 29th, 2011

Murdered by ones government, again

In December 2009, Zahra Bahrami, a born Iranian woman, but naturalized to be Dutch, traveled back to her home country for a family visit. What exactly happened there is not clear, but she was arrested for treason and drugs possession. The storyline here is she was arrested shortly after attending a demonstration against the regime. Iran not accepting her Dutch citizenship sentenced her to death.

Today, it was confirmed she was executed by hanging. In Iran, this used to be being hoisted by a crane, not breaking the neck, but dying a slow, painful, barbarian death. Diplomatic contacts have been put on the back-burner and there are voices stating there is no use in having an embassy at all. Picture posted to show we are talking real people, not some abstract concept of life and death.

Zahra Bahrami

Note: the Iranian government states she was convicted of drugs trafficking, which, if true, is not the smartest thing to do (see footnote in this post). And she was caught here for that crime earlier. The major issue though is the death sentence in itself, and the complete opaqueness of the trial. No assistance, no lawyers, no nothing.

Note: The “security forces” informed her daughter last week Zahra Bahrami was being buried at the same moment in a village a couple of hundred kilometers from Teheran, making the process of dealing with all this unnecessary harder for the family. The Dutch ambassador in Teheran is being withdrawn. The minister of foreign affairs was being seriously questioned about the diplomatic actions and non actions of the administration. He lied flat out saying “everything posssible had been done”, while, in fact he personally had done literally nothing at all. But of course this had no consequences. What is the expression again? The chicken is involved in the bacon-and-egg; the pig is committed?

August 25th, 2010

The death penalty

In Europe, only Belarus still has the death penalty.

In Switzerland, capital punishment was abandoned in 1942. Before that, the method of execution was the guillotine, and before 1867 decapitated with the sword. In line with the “new firmness” or “refreshing shift to the right” as the proponents call it, a group of people in Switzerland is now allowed to start campaining for 100.000 signatures, which again is needed to start a referendum for re-introduction of the death penalty; a lot of legislation in Switzerland is made using the referendum proces.

I have written quite often about this theme here, so I won’t do that again. My personal opinion is that it is not a sign of sophistication. Oh well.

Added 08/28: So it seems a hot item again. In Japan the current Justice minister is fighting an uphill battle against a 86% majority in favor of retaining the ‘unavoidable’ death penalty. And an interesting strategy she choose: inform, show.

Japan, along with the U.S., is one of only two Group of Eight rich countries that retain capital punishment. It currently has 107 inmates on death row.

There are 107 people on death row.

Seven people were executed in 2009.

Inmates are kept in solitary confinement in seven detention centres.

Death row inmates are notified on the morning of the execution day, usually about an hour before the execution.

Execution is by hanging. Medical experts have said that a person who is hanged immediately loses consciousness and their heart stops in about 15 minutes.

While the law says an execution must take place within six months after the sentence is finalised by the court system, in practice it usually takes several years.

January 25th, 2010

The execution

Hassan al-Majeed, alias Ali Chemicali, has been hanged today. The was the guy ordering poison gas attacks on the kurds, killing mostly women and children (not that that last fact matters). I will confess this is a tough one to have an opinion. Lets just say I cannot condemn the ones who cheer his execution. I can’t believe I wrote that.

November 30th, 2009

The case against John Demjanjuk

Here, there is a lot of attention again on the anti-Muslim xenophobia: the swiss voted in favor of a law forbidding the building of minarets at mosks, and of course our silly PVV is gloating at the prospect, and not entirely without political gain: I am pretty convinced more than 60% of our population would support the same thing by now, the end of a tolerant society.

I am more interested in something else, and in a way, affecting us all and, in the long run the above mentioned phobia. In Germany, the trial against John Demjanjuk started today. Demjanjuk was a notorious camp butcher in Sobibor, one of the WWII concentration camps in Germany. Actually, Sobibor was a “vernichtungslager” (extermination camp). I have to assume he is one of the last, if not the last to be trialled for the extermination of jews in WWII.  Demjanjuk is believed to have had his hand in the killing of around 27.000 people.

Under German law, victims have the right to co-prosecute in a criminal trial. Today, I listened to an interview with a family man who lost two sisters, and it was touching how he spoke with love about the sisters he never knew, but also the fear they must have felt, the powerful impression Demjanjuk must have made on them, and also the near feeling of compassion for this now small, old, and pathetic man. He carefully pointed out how these emotions blur the needed crisp vision for justice and how he welcomes, but also feels the irony, of the Germans now finally bringing this man to justice (he was acquitted by the Israeli’s, expelled by the Americans).

I urge you not to turn a blind eye on this historic event. It can teach us, post war generation, where hate and intolerance can lead us.

September 10th, 2008

The execution of minors

Human right watch:

Human Rights Watch documents failures in law and practice that since January 2005 have resulted in 32 executions of juvenile offenders in five countries:  Iran (26),  Saudi Arabia (2),  Sudan (2),  Pakistan (1), and  Yemen (1). The report also highlights cases of individuals recently executed or facing execution in the five countries, where well over 100 juvenile offenders are currently on death row, awaiting the outcome of a judicial appeal, or in some murder cases, the outcome of negotiations for pardons in exchange for financial compensation. (…)

Every state in the world has ratified or acceded to treaties obligating them to ensure that juvenile offenders – persons under 18 at the time of the crime – are never sentenced to death. The overwhelming majority of states complies with this obligation, with several states – including the United States and China – in recent years moving to ban the juvenile death penalty and strengthen juvenile justice protections.

My emphasis. It is truly good news that China, being the worst “kill your own citizens” offender, is mentioned here, and interestingly enough in one breath with the United States. But then, the talent to be optimistic:

“We are only five states away from a complete ban on the juvenile death penalty,” said Clarisa Bencomo, Middle East children’s rights researcher for Human Rights Watch. “These few holdouts should abandon this barbaric practice so that no one ever again is executed for a crime committed as a child.”

Earlier on the nest: Life and Death, Execution.

July 20th, 2008

The games

As mentioned many times before, China is top killer-of-it’s-own-inhabitants, by a long shot. With the upcoming games (and despite human rights pressure building, although that agenda seems to have magically diluted), the government seem to have stepped up it’s “effort” a bit. (Washington Post)

Shortly after dawn on July 9, the local government here bused several thousand students and office workers into a public square and lined them up in front of a vocational school. As the spectators watched, witnesses said, three prisoners were brought out. Then, an execution squad fired rifles at the three point-blank, killing them on the spot.

Capital punishment is barbaric, wrong, often racially, ethnically or religiously biassed. The civilization of a state can clearly be measured by their misuse of it. Have a nice visit to the Beijing games. Thanks Ruth.

April 15th, 2008

The killing re-revisited

It’s that time of year again. Amnesty International published the death penalty report (Abstract. Links to the entire and detailed report at the end of the linked page).

The figures also show an increase in executions in a number of countries. Iran executed at least 317 people, Saudi Arabia 143 and Pakistan 135 – in comparison to 177, 39 and 82 executions respectively in 2006.

Eighty-eight per cent of all known executions took place in five countries: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the USA. Saudi Arabia had the highest number of executions per capita, followed by Iran and Libya. Amnesty International has been able to confirm at least 470 executions by China – the highest overall figure. However, the organization has said that the true figure for China is undoubtedly much higher.

China, which the report refers to as the world’s top executioner, classifies the death penalty as a state secret. As the world and Olympic guests are left guessing, only the Chinese authorities know exactly how many people have been killed with state authorization.

“The secretive use of the death penalty must stop: the veil of secrecy surrounding the death penalty must be lifted. Many governments claim that executions take place with public support. People therefore have a right to know what is being done in their name,” said Amnesty International.

Please note the numbers are the absolute verified numbers. China is by some believed to execute around 6.000 of their citizens yearly. From another, related part of their website:

The death penalty violates the right to life. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. It has no place in a modern criminal justice system.

An execution, just like torture, involves a deliberate assault on a prisoner. Even so-called ‘humane’ methods such as lethal injection can entail excruciating suffering.

Capital punishment is irrevocable. All judicial systems make mistakes, and as long as the death penalty persists, innocent people will be executed.

It is also discriminatory and is often used disproportionately against the poor, the powerless and the marginalized, as well as against people whom repressive governments want to eliminate.

The death penalty does not deter crime more than other punishments. In Canada the homicide rate has fallen by 40 per cent since 1975; the death penalty was abolished for murder in 1976.

Added April 16th: Oh yep, Injection is legal, so all the stalled executions will commence again. Virginia announced they will start immediately.

February 22nd, 2008

The Saudi’s revisted

I’m pretty sure most of you already read this on Boing Boing, but it is insane and infuriating enough to repost. BBC:

Human Rights Watch has appealed to Saudi Arabia to halt the execution of a woman convicted of witchcraft.

(…) The illiterate woman was detained by religious police in 2005 and allegedly beaten and forced to fingerprint a confession that she could not read. Along her accusers was a man who alleged she made him impotent. Human Rights Watch said that Ms Falih had exhausted all her chances of appealing against her death sentence and she could only now be saved if King Abdullah intervened. The US-based group is asking the Saudi ruler to void Ms Falih’s conviction and to bring charges against the religious police who detained her and are alleged to have mistreated her. Its letter to King Abdullah says the woman was tried for the undefined crime of witchcraft and that her conviction was on the basis of the written statements of witnesses who said that she had bewitched them. Human Rights Watch says the trial failed to meet the safeguards in the Saudi justice system. (…)

Religious Police, just the words make my blood boil. Oh and we know about “safeguards in the Saudi justice system”.

January 30th, 2008

The war in Afghanistan

Let’s not forget, while the Canadians are now threatening to leave Afghanistan early 2009, that if we are true to “bombing rebuilding this country into our values Democracy”, there is a LOT of after care to do.

KABUL – The Meshrano Jirga (House of honored), or Afghan Senate has agreed with the death sentence of 23-year old journalism student Perwiz Kambakhshthat by a court in the province of Balkh for blasphemy.

(…) In a statement the Meshrano Jirga expressed their criticism about the international pressure revolving this case.

Just to be sure, these are not the Taliban, these are the current leaders.

January 27th, 2008

The concentration camp

Today, exactly 63 years ago, Konzentrationslager Auschwitz-Birkenau (Concentration and extermination camp Auschwitz) was liberated by the allies. About 1.1 million people were killed there, 90% Jews from Europe. 9 days earlier, the Nazi’s started to evacuate the camp’s 60.000 prisoners and had destroyed the gas chambers. 15.000 of them died during transport.

About 107.000 people of my country were sent to concentration camps on a total of 93 cattle trains, all through the deportation camp Westerbork. Of those 107.000, about 5.200 returned.