International News and Developments: 2002
International Community Praises Governor Ryan's Actions
Legal scholars and lawmakers from around the world have voiced their support for Illinois Governor George Ryan's recent decision to clear the state's death row. Walter Schwimmer, secretary general of the Council of Europe, said, "On making this decision, he proves a shared commitment and belief with the Council of Europe, that the death penalty has no place in a civilized society. I sincerely hope that this is a step forward in the abolition of the death penalty in the whole of the United States." Ryan also received high praise and congratulations from Mexican president Vincente Fox and Kenyan justice minister Kiraitu Murungi. Kenya, where more than 1,000 people have been sentenced to death even though there have been no executions since 1984, is now working to abolish the death penalty. "We think the fundamental human right to life should be respected, and no human being should have the authority to take the life of another. Capital punishment is a barbaric punishment," said Murungi. (New York Times, January 14, 2002)
Germany Urges U.S. to Drop Death Penalty Prosecution
Germany's interior minister, Otto Schily, urged the U.S. to drop its plans to seek the death penalty against Zacarias Moussaoui, who has been charged with involvement in the September 11 terror attacks. Germany has refused to turn over its intellingence files on Moussaoui, a French citizen, as long as the U.S. insists on pursuing the death penalty in the case. (N.Y. Times, Oct. 26, 2002).
Philippines Halts Executions as Legislators Consider Abolition of the Death Penalty
Foreign Affairs Secretary Blas Ople recently told European Union ambassadors that the Philippines is suspending executions while its Congress "is still debating the merits of the death penalty." In honor of the decision, Rome's government and the Sant' Egidio religious group lit up the Colosseum for two days. Rome's Colosseum is bathed in golden lights for two days every time a death penalty is suspended or commuted or a nation abolishes capital punishment. (Kyodo News, October 1, 2002, and Reuters, October 1, 2002).
EU Justice Ministers, Ashcroft to Discuss Death Penalty, Extradition
U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft is scheduled to meet with European Union justice ministers in Copenhagen this week to try to boost cooperation in extraditions and to address EU concerns about the United States' use of the death penalty. While EU member nations have expressed a willingness to cooperate more closely with the United States in the fight against terrorism, officials do not want any extradition deal that could lead to their citizens facing the death penalty. Nations belonging to the EU enforce a mandatory ban on capital punishment. (Reuters, September 4, 2002)
Earlier this month, Germany - a EU member nation - told the United States it will withhold evidence against Sept. 11 conspiracy defendant Zacarias Moussaoui unless it receives assurances that the material won't be used to secure a death penalty against him.
Germany Seeks Assurances that Death Penalty Will Not Be Sought
Germany has told the United States it will withhold evidence against Sept. 11 conspiracy defendant Zacarias Moussaoui unless it receives assurances that the material won't be used to secure a death penalty against him, Germany's justice minister said in remarks released Saturday. Justice Minister Herta Daeubler-Gmelin said Germany would provide documents on Moussaoui to the United States on condition that they "may not be used for a death sentence or an execution." (Associated Press, Sept. 1, 2002.)
Business Leaders Criticize U.S. International Record
The decision by Mexican President Vincente Fox to call off a visit to Texas and a meeting with President Bush due to the state's recent execution of a Mexican foreign national prompted the Latin America Advisor to probe how professional business leaders view the U.S.'s record on honoring its international treaty obligations. The following responses were among those featured in the newsletter:
- James R. Jones, Co-chair of Manatt Jones Global Strategies LLC: "The U.S. government needs to enforce the right of immigrants and other foreign visitors to contact their native country's consular offices at times of arrest much better than we do presently. . . . [W]e should do it for the benefit of U.S. citizens traveling abroad who should expect the same legal rights."
- Tony Smith, Partner at Schmeltzer, Aptaker & Shepard: "The U.S. record is terrible . . . . Clearly, Americans are at risk, as more and more travel and do business in foreign countries."
- Robert C. Helander, Managing Partner of InterConsult LLP: "Observing a suspect's Miranda rights is not sufficient in the case of a foreign national from a country with which the U.S. has diplomatic relations . . . [T]here needs to be better training and communication between the federal authorities and the local and state levels of policing."
(Latin America Advisor, August 27, 2002). See also, New Voices.
Support for Death Penalty Has Declined in the United Kingdom
An article in The Guardian noted that British support for capital punishment has dropped since 1995. A MORI poll of residents in the United Kingdom found that, even in the wake of revelations about the recent murder of two young girls, public support for the death penalty remains low. In 1995, when the issue of reinstating the death penalty was debated and subsequently defeated in Parliament, 76% of British respondents supported the death penalty. A poll taken after the highly-publicized child murders found only 56% support for capital punishment. (The Guardian, August 21, 2002). See also, Public Opinion.
Turkish Parliament Passes Legislation to Abolish the Death Penalty
Turkey's parliament approved a package of rights, including abolishing the death penalty, in an effort aimed at increasing its chances of joining the European Union. The legislation will replace the death penalty with life in prison without parole, although capital punishment will remain on the books during times of war. After Turkey became a candidate for membership in the European Union in 1999, the Union made abolition of the death penalty a condition for membership. (New York Times, 8/4/02)
Juvenile Offenders on Pakistan's Death Row Get Life Sentence
As Pakistan's federal government enforces the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance 2002 in Punjab, 74 juvenile offenders had their death sentences converted to life imprisonment, according to Punjab Law Minister Rana Ijaz Khan. (Pakistan News, July 25, 2002.) According to the American Bar Association, in the last three years, the number of nations that execute juvenile offenders has dropped significantly to only three: Iran, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and the United States. See also Juveniles and the Death Penalty.
Montenegro Abolishes Death Penalty
The Montenegrin parliament has abolished the death penalty, clearing the way for Yugoslavia's admittance to the Council of Europe. Yugoslavia, comprised of Montenegro and Serbia, had previously applied for admission to the Council of Europe, but abolition of the death penalty was a condition for the country's acceptance. The federal and Serbian parliaments had already abolished the death penalty. (Agence France-Press, June 19, 2002).
Council of Europe Ends War-Time Death Penalty Exception, Urges U.S. to Halt Executions
During a recent meeting in France, the 44-member Council of Europe discarded a 1982 clause in its original protocol that allowed capital punishment during war time. The ban was supported by 36 members of the council. "It's a strong political message...to our friends outside Europe," said Walter Schwimmer, Secretary General of the Council of Europe. The members also urged the United States and Japan, which both have observer status on the Council, to halt executions. (Agence France Presse, May 3, 2002).
Mandatory Death Penalty in Caribbean Countries Found Unconstitutional
On March 11, 2002, the Privy Council's Judicial Committee unanimously ruled that mandatory death penalty laws are unconstitutional. The Committee, which is the court of final appeal for many of the United Kingdom's overseas territories, found that the laws violate Belize's Constitutional prohibition against "inhuman and degrading punishment or treatment." The ruling is not limited to prisoners in Belize, but extends to include hundreds of prisoners in the Eastern Caribbean countries of St. Christopher and Nevis, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Grenada, and Dominica. (Daily Telegraph, 3/12/02 and Amnesty International, AI Index AMR 05/004/2002)
Serbia Abolishes the Death Penalty
On February 26, 2002, Serbia's parliament abolished the death penalty. Last year, the Yugoslav federal parliament abolished the death penalty, and the two republic parliaments of Serbia and Montenegro had been expected to pass similar legislation. Serbia's abolition will become effective once it is announced in the official government gazette. A proposal to end the death penalty has been introduced in Montenegro's parliament. Yugoslavia has had a de facto moratorium on executions for the past 10 years. (Associated Press, 2/26/02)
De Facto Moratorium on Executions in Cuba
The Cuban Commission on Human Rights and Reconciliation has reported that the Cuban government has applied a de facto moratorium on executions. Currently, about 50 prisoners are under sentence of death in Cuba, but the country has not executed anyone since 2000. "This represents a very important and positive change from the macabre record of thousands of executions carried out during the first 42 years of the current government," said the Commission. The Commission is urging Cuban authorities to switch to a formal moratorium and commute the sentences of all death row inmates as soon as possible. (Agencia EFE, 1/9/02)
Kyrgyszstan Announces Plan to Abolish the Death Penalty
Kyrgyszstan President Askar Akayev signed into law an extension of the country's moratorium on executions and announced plans to eliminate capital punishment in an effort to confirm the nation's "commitment to basic human rights and freedoms." Earlier this year, the Central Asian country adopted a human rights program which provided that the death penalty would be abolished by 2010. (New York Times, 1/17/02)
Taiwan Abolishes Mandatory Death Penalty Law
On January 8, 2002, Taiwan's legislature abolished a 1944 law that required the death penalty for certain violent crimes, including kidnapping and gang robbery. "[W]e failed to deter crime even by imposing the severest criminal punishment," said the Justice Ministry, which sees the move as a crucial crucial step that could lead to total abolition of the death penalty within the next few years. (Associated Press, 1/8/02)