Lebanon moving toward abolishing capital punishment – study
Aggregated by the Daily Srar – Lebanon is among a growing number of countries moving toward a complete abolition of the death penalty, a detailed report by the human rights group Amnesty International has found. The 2008 study on global death-penalty practices, published on Tuesday, paints a relatively optimistic picture of growing global reluctance to implement the death penalty. Out of 59 countries retaining the death penalty, only 25 carried out executions over the year, the international organization said in its 30 page report, Death Sentences and Executions in 2008. “The practice of states indicates that there is increasing consolidation of majority international consensus that the death penalty cannot be reconciled with respect for human rights.”
Some 51 executions have taken place in Lebanon since the country’s independence in 1943. Though prisoners have continued to face the possibility of a death sentence, a de facto moratorium on the practice has been in place since 1998, implemented at the urging of the European Commission after the public hanging of two men earlier that year. The executions were broadcast on Lebanese television and the men’s bodies remained on display for a few hours after. The moratorium was violated once in 2004, when three men convicted of murder were executed.
But like tens of other countries, Lebanon appears to be moving toward a permanent moratorium on the use of the death penalty. In October 2008, Justice Minister Ibrahim Najjar submitted to Cabinet a draft law abolishing the death penalty and replacing it with a maximum conviction of life imprisonment with hard labor. “Science has proven that there is no causal relationship between crime and the presence or absence of the death penalty,” Najjar said at the time. Despite his move, which was met with strong support from local NGOs, some Lebanese officials continue to advocate the death penalty.XX As recently as mid-March, military prosecutor Rashid Mezher announced he would seek the death penalty for two brothers – Youssef and Ali Jarrah – accused of spying for Israel and forgery. The death penalty in Lebanon is applied to those convicted of spying for the Jewish state, high treason, premeditated murder, or acts of “terrorism” that endanger state security.
But while Lebanon’s move away from the death penalty fits in with an international trend, other countries in the region continued to carry out executions in 2008 with such enthusiasm that Amnesty International ranked the Middle East as having the second highest number of reported global executions. After China, Iran and Saudi Arabia had the highest executions rates, having put to death at least 1718, 346 and 102 prisoners respectively. At least 508 executions were carried out elsewhere in the Middle East, Amnesty International said: at least 34 in Iraq, 13 in Yemen, 8 in Libya, 2 in Egypt, and one each in Bahrain, Syria and the United Arab Emirates. 609 people were also sentenced to death across the Middle East over the course of 2008, the organization said. In addition, eight members of the League of Arab States, including Lebanon, abstained from the December 2008 UN resolution calling for a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.
Arab states had also failed to ensure juvenile offenders were not executed, Amnesty International said, adding it was “concerned that the Arab Charter on Human Rights (ACHR), which entered into force on March 24, 2008, clearly fails to prohibit the imposition of the death penalty on those under the age of 18. Article 7(a) of the Charter prohibits the imposition of the death penalty against persons under 18 years of age except where it is permitted under national legislation. This, clearly, leaves room for states to execute juvenile offenders in flagrant violation of international law … but without necessarily breaching the terms of the ACHR.” Nine countries had executed prisoners under the age of 18 since 1990, said the report: China, Congo, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, the US and Yemen. The most common methods of execution were stoning, shooting, electrocution, hanging, beheading, and lethal injection.
Combined with the US and Pakistan, China, Iran and Saudi Arabia carried out 93 percent of all executions around the world, Amnesty International said. “These countries provide the greatest challenge toward global abolition of the death penalty.” Almost half of those executed in Saudi Arabia were “foreign nationals from poor and developing countries,” said Amnesty International, noting prisoners were often tried in secret and unfair trials. “They and many of the Saudi Arabians who are executed also have little or no access to influential figures such as government authorities or heads of tribes who can intercede on their behalf, or to money – both crucial factors in securing clemency.”
According to the report, China executed more prisoners than anyone else in 2008, often after unfair trials. “The continued refusal by the Chinese authorities to release public information on the use of the death penalty means that … the death penalty remains shrouded in secrecy.” In comparison, Central Asia, the Americas and Europe were now “virtually” death-penalty free, the report said. In Europe, only Belarus continues to carry out executions, after Uzbekistan abolished the practice on January 1, 2008. The US was meanwhile the only nation in the Americas to “consistently” execute, though Amnesty International noted 2008 saw the fewest number of executions in the US since 2005.
Amnesty International has campaigned to abolish the death penalty since 1977 in the belief that it “legitimizes an irreversible act of violence by the state” that has claimed the lives of hundreds of innocent people. “Research demonstrates that the death penalty is often applied in a discriminatory manner being used disproportionately against the poor, minorities and members of racial, ethnic and religious communities,” said the group, adding that executions were often the result of unfair trials. Nevertheless, the report sounded optimistic that the death penalty could soon be relegated to the history books across the world. “Those countries that choose to use this cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment are increasingly in the minority,” said the report.
Rights group urges Lebanese authorities to probe case of missing Syrian
BEIRUT: The Lebanese authorities should disclose any information they possess regarding the whereabouts of a Syrian opposition figure who disappeared after Lebanon’s military intelligence services detained him three months ago, New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch and the Lebanese Center for Human Rights (CLDH) said Tuesday.
Following a request for information by the general prosecutor, Lebanon’s intelligence services said on February 11, 2009, that they released Nawar Abboud on December 25, 2008, the joint press statement said. Abboud was reportedly released at 14:20, and all his possessions, including two cars, were returned to him. However, Abboud’s family and colleagues have yet to hear from him or locate his cars. There is no record of Abboud’s departure from Lebanon through an official border crossing, the organizations said, citing a letter dated January 14 from General Security. “Lebanon has a painful history of people being detained and illegally transferred to Syria, where they disappear,” said Nadim Houry, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch. “The best way to show that these dark days are over is for the Lebanese authorities to conduct a transparent and serious investigation of the case.”
Abboud is an accountant with the United National Alliance, a political group affiliated with Rifat Assad, a Syrian opposition figure and uncle of Syrian President, Bashar Assad. Abboud’s family and colleagues suspect he may have been forcibly transferred to Syria, the press statement said. Abboud was detained along with two Lebanese employees at the Al-Qubbeh military base on December 24 by intelligence officers. According to the statement, the two Lebanese were released shortly afterward. “The general prosecutor’s investigation cannot limit itself to what the army has said,” said CLDH head Marie Daunay. “The investigation needs to dig deeper and shed light on the circumstances surrounding Abboud’s alleged release and subsequent whereabouts.” Human Rights Watch said it had not received replies to letters sent to Lebanon’s defense, interior and justice ministers asking for details about Abboud’s whereabouts.
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