March 24, 2017
IDPN 2017 Issue 12
Belarus: Thirty-two-year-old Aliaksei Mikhalenya has become the first individual sentenced to death in the nation in 2017. Belarus is the only European nation to still retain capital punishment, despite repeated calls to abolish it. Aliaksei was sentenced to death on March 17, for murdering two individuals with particular cruelty.
Ethiopia: In June 2014, Andargachew “Andy” Tsege was kidnapped while transitioning in an international airport and taken to a death row prison in Ethiopia. Andy was an outspoken critic of the Ethiopian government who lived in London, England with his partner and their three children. The death sentence was handed down in absentia while Andy resided in London. So far, British diplomats have been unable to secure Andy’s release, although they have secured a promise that Andy will now have regular access to a lawyer. The Ethiopian Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, however, have both confirmed that Andy has no appeal options.
India: A bill has been introduced that would ensure all defendants convicted and sentenced to death would have the “natural and unrestricted right appeal in the Supreme Court in all cases.” Currently, there are stipulations on an appeal to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Court can dismiss death penalty cases without consideration. Nearly 30 years ago a similar bill was introduced and then withdrawn when the Minister of Law promised to take the bill into consideration. The bill was not brought forward again until recently.
Japan: Forty-two-year-old Tatsuhiko Hirano has been sentenced to death for the murder of five individuals on Awaji Island in 2015. Hirano’s lawyers allege that Hirano is mentally incompetent and cannot be held responsible for his crime. They are appealing his conviction. Hirano had previously spent five years in a psychiatric institution due to him being judged a danger to the public due to mental illness. Since his release, he has continued to taking psychotropic drugs.
Malaysia: Courts will no longer be required to give mandatory death sentences to those convicted on drug charges. Judges may now give those convicted of drug related charges jail time. The death penalty remains an option for other serious crimes. There are approximately 800 prisons on death row for drug trafficking crimes.
Saudi Arabia: Nassar Harshan and Namtallah Khasta Qul were executed on Thursday, March 23, 2017, on drug related charges. Harshan, a Saudi national, was a repeat offender convicting of dealing hashish. Qul, a Pakistani national, was convicted of dealing heroin.
Palestine: Two Palestinian national have been sentenced to death for drug smuggling by a Hamas military court. A third suspect was sentenced to hard labor. This is the first time that someone has been sentenced to death for drug smuggling on the Gaza Strip.
Trinidad and Tobago: Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has announced that he supports the death penalty. Rowley says that the current system of incarceration is not working, as those convicted of murder are still able to run criminal empires from inside the jail. While the nation does have the death penalty, anyone on death row for more than five years cannot be executed. The Prime Minister, along with other government officials, want to speed up the appeals, allowing the executions to take place before the five years are up. The last execution occurred on July 28, 1999.
United States of America: Legislatures in Arkansas have rejected several bills related to the death penalty, one month before the state is scheduled to begin executed eight men. A House Judiciary Committed voted against a bill that would vacate the death sentence for any inmates with serious mental illness and prevent anyone with a serious mental illness from being sentenced to death. Currently, an inmates must be proven incompetent to avoid execution. A bill to end capital punishment has been withdrawn to be amended, although the bill is likely to fail. A bill to raise the standard for applying the death penalty to “beyond any doubt” from “beyond reasonable doubt,” has also failed. The sponsor of the bill claimed that his would reduce the possibility of an innocent person being executed, however, the bill failed in committee.
In the November 2016 election, 61 percent of Nebraska voters voted to reinstate the death penalty, which had been abolished earlier in the year by Nebraska legislators, led by Senator Ernie Chambers. Now, Senator Chambers is ignoring the message sent by the voters and once again attempting to abolish the death penalty. According to the Senator the death penalty is an issue that should not be decided by a popular vote.
The Florida Supreme Court has continued to grant new sentencing trials for inmates on death row. Randall Deviney, Cornelius Baker, and Kenneth Jackson, were all sentenced to death by non-unanimous juries, and have been given new sentencing trials. In compliance with the recent law that requires all capital punishment cases to be decided by unanimous juries, and the United States Supreme Court decision in Hurst v. Florida, declaring Florida’s death penalty sentencing procedure unconstitutional, many inmates are requesting that they be given new sentencing trials.
Vietnam: Nine men have been sentenced to death for trafficking and smuggling heroin, while nine others were sentenced to life in prison. The men were attempting to transport the drugs from neighboring Laos to sell in China.