Shinzo Abe`s Government has executed five humans since taking office in December 2012 But “chilling” escalation in death Penalty use is growing
26 April 2013
Japan executions show ‘chilling’ escalation in death penalty use
The execution of two death row inmates in Japan shows that a “chilling” escalation of death penalty use under the new Liberal Democratic government is intensifying, Amnesty International said.
Yoshihide Miyagi, 56, and Katsuji Hamasaki, 64, were hanged in Tokyo today. The two men were convicted of murder after shooting dead rival gang members in a restaurant in Ichihara City in 2005.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government has now executed five people since taking office in December 2012. The other three executions took place in February.
“This chilling news appears to reinforce our fears that the new government is increasing the pace of executions at an alarming rate,” said Catherine Baber, Amnesty International’s Asia Pacific Director.
“With five executions already this year, it seems clear the government has no intention of heeding international calls to start a genuine and open public debate on the death penalty, including its abolition.”
Japan has executed 12 people since March 2012. No executions had been carried out during the previous 20 months.
Ten people were hanged in less than a year during Shinzo Abe’s previous time as Prime Minister between September 2006 and September 2007.
Current Justice Minister Sadakazu Tanigaki has publicly expressed his support for the death penalty, raising concerns that figure may be surpassed by the new government.
“We urge the government to immediately reverse this worrying trend and impose a moratorium on the death penalty with a view to its eventual abolition,” said Catherine Baber.
The number of death row inmates, at 134, is at one of the highest levels in Japan in over half a century.
Prisoners are typically given a few hours’ notice before execution, but some may be given no warning at all. Their families are typically notified about the execution only after it has taken place.
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature or circumstances of the crime, guilt, innocence or other characteristics of the individual or the method used by the state to carry out the execution. The death penalty violates the right to life and is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment.
- 2 yakuza members on death row hanged for murder (japandailypress.com)
- Two inmates hanged for yakuza slayings (japantimes.co.jp)
- Japan Executes 2 Inmates; 5 Put to Death… – ABC News (abcnews.go.com)
- Death penalty use falls, report says (bbc.co.uk)
- Amnesty International applauds Ghana for accepting to abolish death penalty (ghanabusinessnews.com)
- Two Japanese death row inmates executed (upi.com)
- Japan executes 2 inmates; 5 put to death this year (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
A Lie about Angola 3! Fact is: Wallace, now 71, and Woodfox, 66, have been in solitary for nearly 41 years, quite possibly longer than any other human beings on the planet.
Louisiana Attorney General Says Angola 3 “Have Never Been Held in Solitary Confinement”
James “Buddy” Caldwell, attorney general of the state of Louisiana, has released a statement saying unequivocally that Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox, the two still-imprisoned members of the Angola 3, “have never been held in solitary confinement while in the Louisiana penal system.”
In fact, Wallace, now 71, and Woodfox, 66, have been in solitary for nearly 41 years, quite possibly longer than any other human beings on the planet. They were placed in solitary following the 1972 killing of a young corrections officer at Angola, and except for a few brief periods, they have remained in isolation ever since.
The statement from Caldwell follows on the heels of a ruling by a federal District Court judge in New Orleans, overturning Albert Woodfox’s conviction for the third time–in this instance, on the grounds that there had been racial bias in the selection of grand jury forepersons in Louisiana at the time of his indictment. Subsequently, Amnesty International, along with other activists, mounted a campaign urging the state of Louisiana not to appeal the federal court’s ruling. In the absence of an appeal, Woodfox would have to be given a new trial or released.
Caldwell’s statement–which was rather mysteriously sent out to an email list that included numerous prisoners’ rights advocates who have supported the Angola 3–begins: “Thank you for your interest in the ambush, savage attack and brutal murder of Officer Brent Miller at Louisiana State Penitentiary (LSP) on April 17, 1972. Albert Woodfox and Herman Wallace committed this murder, stabbing and slicing Miller over 35 times.”
Caldwell clearly states that he has every intention of appealing the District Court’s decision to the notoriously conservative Fifth Circuit: “We feel confident that we will again prevail at the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. However, if we do not, we are fully prepared and willing to retry this murderer again.” Caldwell asserts that the evidence against Woodfox is ”overpowering”: “There are no flaws in our evidence and this case is very strong.” This statement belies the fact that much of the evidence that led to Wallace and Woodfox’s conviction has since been called into question.
In particular, the primary eyewitness was shown to have been bribed by prison officials into making statements against the two men. (For more details on the case, see our earlier reporting in Mother Jones, here, here, here, and here.) The two men believe that they were targeted for the murder, and have been held in solitary for four decades, because of their status as Black Panthers and their efforts to organize against prison conditions. (The third member of the Angola 3, Robert King, convicted of a separate prison murder, was released after 29 years in solitary when his conviction was overturned in 2001).
But Caldwell’s most controversial assertion is that Wallace and Woodfox’s conditions of confinement over the past 40 years do not qualify as solitary confinement:
Contrary to popular lore, Woodfox and Wallace have never been held in solitary confinement while in the Louisiana penal system. They have been held in protective cell units known as CCR. These units were designed to protect inmates as well as correctional officers. They have always been able to communicate freely with other inmates and prison staff as frequently as they want. They have televisions on the tiers which they watch through their cell doors. In their cells they can have radios and headsets, reading and writing materials, stamps, newspapers, magazines and books. They also can shop at the canteen store a couple of times per week where they can purchase grocery and personal hygiene items which they keep in their cells.
These convicted murderers have an hour outside of their cells each day where they can exercise in the hall, talk on the phone, shower, and visit with the other 10 to 14 inmates on the tier. At least three times per week they can go outside on the yard and exercise and enjoy the sun if they want. This is all in addition to the couple of days set aside for visitations each week.
These inmates are frequently visited by spiritual advisors, medical personnel and social workers. They have had frequent and extensive contact with numerous individuals from all over the world, by telephone, mail, and face-to-face personal visits. They even now have email capability. Contrary to numerous reports, this is not solitary confinement.
Caldwell’s description does not, in fact, refute the fact that the two men are held for 23 hours a day in closed cells that measure approximately 6 x 9 feet–smaller than the average parking space. CCR, or Closed Cell Restricted, is the Louisiana prison system’s euphemism of choice for solitary confinement.
In addition to challenging their convictions, Wallace and Woodfox have filed a civil suit in federal court, arguing that their 40 years in solitary confinement violate the U.S. Constitution. Their lawyers argue that both have endured physical injury and “severe mental anguish and other psychological damage” from living most of their adult lives in lockdown. According to medical reports submitted to the court, the men suffer from arthritis, hypertension, and kidney failure, as well as memory impairment, insomnia, claustrophobia, anxiety, and depression. Even the psychologist brought in by the state confirmed these findings.In his statement, Caldwell warns that if they win their civil suit, “these convicted murderers…could possibly receive money and a change in their housing assignments.” Any move out of solitary has been firmly opposed by the warden of Angola, Burl Cain. In a 2008 deposition, attorneys for Woodfox asked Cain, “Let’s just for the sake of argument assume, if you can, that he is not guilty of the murder of Brent Miller.” Cain responded, “Okay, I would still keep him in CCR…I still know that he is still trying to practice Black Pantherism, and I still would not want him walking around my prison because he would organize the young new inmates. I would have me all kind of problems, more than I could stand, and I would have the blacks chasing after them.”
Caldwell himself has even more vociferously opposed releasing the men from solitary. An ambitious Democrat-turned-Republican known for his Elvis impersonations, Caldwell took office in 2007 and was reelected in 2011. He has characterized the Angola 3 as political radicals and called Woodfox “the most dangerous person on the planet.”
In the fall of 2008, after Woodfox’s conviction was overturned for the second time, a federal court judge ordered him released on bail pending the state’s appeal. Caldwell opposed the release “with every fiber of my being.” Woodfox planned to stay with his niece, but his lawyers uncovered evidence that the state had emailed the neighborhood association of the gated community where she lived to say that a murderer would be moving in next door. Caldwell soon convinced the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals to revoke Woodfox’s bail. He also brought Woodfox’s habeas case to the full Fifth Circuit, which reversed the lower court ruling and reinstated his conviction.
Now that a federal judge has ruled, for the third time, that Woodfox did not receive a fair trial, Caldwell apparently feels the need to reiterate his position. “Let me be clear,” his statement concludes. ”Woodfox and Wallace are GUILTY and have NEVER been held in solitary confinement” (emphasis in the original).
- 41 Years Solitary Confinement!! (radicalglasgowblog.blogspot.com)
- Albert Woodfox’s 40 Years of Solitary Confinement (truthdig.com)
- Albert Woodfox’s 40 Years of Solitary Confinement (rinf.com)
- Louisiana Attorney General Says Angola 3 “Have Never Been Held in Solitary Confinement” (solitarywatch.com)
- Freedom for Albert Woodfox of the Angola 3, After 40 Years in Solitary Confinement? (indybay.org)
we petition the obama administration to:
Pardon Leonard Peltier
We, the undersigned citizens of the United States of America, the Citizens of the world, do hereby appeal and in fact DEMAND the unconditional release of Leonard Peltier, an Anishinabe-Lakota Indian currently serving 2 life sentences for the murders of two Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents.
It is our belief, that Leonard Peltier is, in fact a U.S. Political Prisoner who should be immediately and unconditionally released through a long awaited presidential pardon.
Supporters include over 30 million people, human rights organizations such as; Amnesty International, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, National Congress of American Indians, the Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Center for Human Rights, Nelson Mandela, Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
- Please Sign the Petition: Clemency for Leonard Peltier (dogmaandgeopolitics.wordpress.com)
- Please, please, Help Obama pardon Leonard Peltier (dogmaandgeopolitics.wordpress.com)
- Free Leonard Peltier! (earthfirstnews.wordpress.com)
- Free Leonard Peltier – the Case That Does Go Away (bonjupatten.wordpress.com)
- Grandma Edna Gordon, 91, asks for Leonard Peltier: (inprisonedwomen.wordpress.com)
- Grandma Edna Gordon, 91, asks for Leonard Peltier: (colouredjustice.wordpress.com)
UN General Assembly Committee adopts draft moratorium resolution
Article by Maria Donatelli published on November 20th, 2012
A majority of the world’s nations have approved a text calling for a global moratorium on executions, with stronger support than in a previous vote two years ago.
On 19 November 2012, the UN General Assembly’s Third Committee, which addresses social, humanitarian and human rights issues, voted in support of its fourth resolution for a “Moratorium on the use of the death penalty”.
The resolution, sponsored by 91 member states, was approved with 110 votes in favor (+1 compared to the vote on the last resolution in 2010), 39 votes against (-2) and 36 abstentions (+1). Eight states were not present at the moment of the vote.
The text includes a call “upon all States” to “establish a moratorium on executions with a view to abolishing the death penalty”.
Five amendments aiming at modifying the text of the resolution preceded the debate and the vote. The majority of UN member states rejected all five amendments through a recorded vote.
According to the rules of procedures, member states can take the floor for a general statement on the resolution they are about to vote on, and after voting to explain their position.
The vote was preceded by statements by Croatia (for the resolution), India (against), Vietnam (against), Singapore (against) and Sudan (against). Once the results were announced the following states took the floor: Malaysia (against), Indonesia (abstention), Bangladesh (against), Suriname (abstention), Japan (against), Morocco (abstention), Cuba (abstention), Egypt (against) and Botswana (against).
Of particular interest for the World Coalition and its members was the statement delivered by the Moroccan representative. While explaining why his country had abstained, he mentioned the efforts made in country to raise the debate on the issue of the death penalty and the Regional Congress recently organized in Rabat by ECPM, OMDH and the Moroccan Coalition.
More support from Africa and Asia
The voting chart shows that there were important steps forward especially in Africa were the Central African Republic, Niger and South Sudan voted in support of the resolution for the first time.
Signs of change also came from Asia, the largest retentionist region in the world, with Afghanistan, Indonesia and Papua New Guinea passing from opposition to abstention. Unfortunately Sri Lanka and Maldives moved from a positive vote to abstention.
In the Arab World, Tunisia participated in the vote for the first time and supported the resolution. This important development in the region was balanced by the withdrawal of Oman and Mauritania’s support for the resolution. They switched from abstention to a negative vote.
This vote is a first step in the life of the resolution that now needs to be voted on by the General Assembly plenary towards the end of December. It will then become an official UN resolution.
The World Coalition, together with its members will continue its campaign to increase this already positive result.
- Record number back UN vote against death penalty (dawn.com)
- 110 UN countries back ending death penalty (refreshingnews99.blogspot.com)
- You: Resolution submitted to end death penalty (japantimes.co.jp)
- South Sudan: Campaign to abolish death penalty goes global (sudantribune.com)
- Pakistan: Execution Ends Moratorium on Death Penalty (hrw.org)
- UN vote against death penalty a record (bigpondnews.com)
- The Slow Demise of DEATH PENALTY (inprisonedwomen.wordpress.com)
- Record number back UN vote against death penalty (nation.co.ke)
- India votes against resolution banning death penalty (ibnlive.in.com)
- A day before Kasab’s hanging, India voted against abolition of death penalty at UN (ndtv.com)