New Zealand Law Society - Human rights lawyer appalled by death penalty report

Human rights lawyer appalled by death penalty report

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A New Zealand human rights lawyer, who has represented people facing execution says he is appalled by an Amnesty International report on the death penalty.

The report was released recently and shows executions in 2015 by states throughout the world reached their highest toll in 25 years.

Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia were responsible for 90% of the recorded executions, Amnesty International found in its review of the global use of the death penalty.

At least 1,634 people were executed last year – a rise of more than 50% on the year before and the highest number the human rights group has recorded since 1989.

Amnesty International says the figure does not include China where thousands more were likely executed, but where death penalty data is treated as a state secret.

Tauranga-based international human rights lawyer lawyer, Craig Tuck represented Antony de Malmanche.

Following a 6-month trial de Malmanche was jailed in June 2015 for 15 years after being caught with 1.7kg of methamphetamine when he flew to Bali from Hong Kong in December 2014.

He was facing the possibility of the death penalty.

Mr Tuck also acted for Lindsay Sandiford who was sentenced to death in Bali for drug trafficking involving nearly 5-kilograms of cocaine.

On his regular visits to Kerobokan Prison in Bali, he  met Andrew Chan and Myu Sukumaran, who were members of the Bali 9 drug smuggling syndicate, and were executed last year.

More recently he has been acting for New Zealander, Peter Gardner, who was arrested at Guangzhou International Airport in 2014, after he was caught carrying nearly 30 kilograms of methamphetamine.

That trial process is on-going and his case is up for review by Chinese authorities towards the end of this month.

A verdict is yet to be delivered for the  young man who also potentially faces the death penalty if convicted.

Craig Tuck says the latest Amnesty International report showing a surge in executions last year is indicative of how bad things are in many criminal justice systems. Many of the jurisdictions carrying out the state sponsored killing can best be described as random, dysfunctional and often completely lacking the basic pillars of fairness and justice that we take for granted in NZ.

Mr Tuck is part of a small team of lawyers who are involved in various potential death penalty cases and serious drug related offending

Breaking down the execution figures, Pakistan continued the state-sanctioned killing spree it embarked on when it lifted a moratorium on civilian executions in December 2014. More than 320 people were sent to the gallows in 2015, the highest number Amnesty International has ever recorded for Pakistan.

Iran put at least 977 people to death in 2015, compared to at least 743 the year before – the vast majority for drug-related crimes. Iran is also one of the world's last executioners of juvenile offenders, in flagrant breach of international law. The country put to death at least four people who were under 18 at the time of the crime for which they were convicted in 2015.

In Saudi Arabia, executions rose by 76% on 2014's figures, as at least 158 people were put to death last year. Most were beheaded, but authorities also used firing squads and sometimes displayed executed bodies in public.

There were notable jumps in the number of executions recorded in some other countries as well, including Egypt and Somalia.

The number of countries executing rose, from 22 in 2014 to 25 in 2015. At least six countries who had not put anyone to death in 2014 did so in 2015, including Chad where executions were carried out for the first time in more than a decade.

The top five executioners in the world in 2015 were China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the USA – in that order.

Several states, including China, Iran and Saudi Arabia, continued to sentence people to death for crimes – including drug trafficking, corruption, "adultery" and "blasphemy" – that do not meet the international legal standards of "most serious" to which the use of the death penalty must be restricted under international law.

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