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December 2004
Libya: Confirmation of Sentencing of Prisoners of Conscience is a Step Backwards

1 December 2004

News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International

AI Index: MDE 19/020/2004 1 December 2004

Libya: Confirmation of sentencing of prisoners of conscience is a step backwards

The decision by the People's Court of Appeal to uphold scores of sentences, including two death sentences, issued today is a new blow to freedom of expression and association in Libya, Amnesty International said.

Death sentences against two university professors, Salem Abu Hanak and Abdullah Ahmed 'Izzedin, handed down at first instance in 2002, were upheld on appeal. According to Libyan law, this latest verdict must now be reviewed by the Supreme Court. If confirmed, it cannot be implemented without the consent of the Supreme Council of Judicial Bodies, Libya's highest judicial body.

Some 83 prisoners of conscience, sentenced in the same case in 2002 to prison terms ranging between 10 years and life imprisonment, also had their sentences confirmed. They have no further chance to appeal. A further 66 men, also on trial, had their earlier acquittal confirmed.

"These men should not have been tried in the first place. We are shocked by the decision to uphold the sentences against these prisoners of conscience and call for their immediate and unconditional release," Amnesty International said.

The sentences were reportedly pronounced in absentia after the accused apparently refused to attend today's hearing as a mark of protest. This followed earlier protests in the form of hunger strikes in April and October 2004, calling for an end to their continued detention, among other things. Those on trial were professionals and students, who were arrested in and after June 1998 on suspicion of supporting or sympathizing with the banned Libyan Islamic Group - also known as the Muslim Brothers.

During their visit to Libya in February 2004, Amnesty International delegates had extensive discussions with the Libyan authorities about the case of the Muslim Brothers. In all discussions, it was confirmed that the men had not been charged with any activities relating to the use or advocacy of violence. They faced charges under Law 71 of 1972 banning political parties solely for the peaceful expression of their ideas and for meeting to discuss those ideas with others in secret.

In February 2004, Abdullah Ahmed 'Izzedin told Amnesty International, "I am not against the regime, nor do I have any political aims. I just wanted to work towards reforming society and to making it a better place".

Over the six-and-a-half years of their detention, the rights of those accused were flagrantly violated, even in instances where these rights are guaranteed in Libyan law. They have been cut off from the outside world, denied the right to appoint a lawyer of their own choosing and the right to trial within a reasonable time. Their trial before an exceptional court known to try political cases fell short of international standards for fair trial.

The men were held in incommunicado detention for almost three years. During this period, some of the defendants alleged that they were tortured, including being beaten on the soles of the feet (falaqa), after their arrest by members of the Internal Security Agency. Defendants were also reportedly forced to sign confessions. Since the opening of the appeal in the summer of 2002, it has been repeatedly adjourned, with hearings approximately every three months and reportedly lasting just a few minutes.

Amnesty International welcomes statements by the Libyan authorities since the organization's visit in February, which point towards their intention to increase the protection of human rights, for example by abolishing the death penalty and the People's Court. A draft law to abolish the People's Court is apparently being examined by Libya's local and national legislative bodies.

"It is now time for the authorities to take concrete steps to put into effect those promises in order to achieve a tangible improvement in the lives of all those residing in Libya without delay."

View all documents on Libya at


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New Jersey Governor Calls for Death Penalty Moratorium

7 December 2004

New Jersey Governor Richard Codey (pictured) proposed a moratorium on executions until a study commission could determine whether the state's death penalty system is fair and cost effective. The governor announced his moratorium proposal as the legislature began considering a bill to initiate the study. "The governor does not think it makes sense to do a study without a moratorium. So he does support a moratorium right now, and he supports it for 18 months to two years," Codey's spokeswoman, Kelley Heck, stated. Codey, who is also President of the New Jersey Senate, called for the halt to executions as he stalled a Senate vote on legislation that would have created a 13-member death penalty study commission. The bill would create a panel to determine whether the death penalty is consistent with "evolving standards of decency," whether it is discriminatory, and whether it is worth its cost - both in money for lawyers and the risk of executing an innocent defendant. Senator Shirley Turner, sponsor of the study commission legislation, echoed Codey's call for a moratorium and added, "If we're going to study the death penalty, I think we should not allow anyone to be executed until the report is in." New Jersey has not executed anyone in 41 years, and executions in the state are currently on hold as the Department of Corrections devises new lethal injection rules. The current execution procedures were struck down in February because they shrouded executions in secrecy and made no provisions for halting one once it was started, even in the event of a last-minute reprieve. (Star-Ledger, December 7, 2004). See Innocence and Costs (from the Death Penalty Information Center).

Cited in: NEW VOICES: New Jersey Governor Calls for Death Penalty Moratorium, Death Penalty Information Center, 7 December 2004.


Survivors of Murder Victims Opposed to the Death Penalty to Launch New Group on International Human Rights Day

9 December 2004


Renny Cushing
MVFHR executive director
2161 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02140
[email protected]

Dec. 8, 2004 – Survivors of murder victims who oppose the death penalty will observe the launching of a new organization at 11 a.m. Friday at the United Nations in New York City.

The new organization, Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights, will be unveiled as part of International Human Rights Day, celebrated Dec. 10 of every year. On hand to welcome the new organization will be leaders of the abolition movement, both in the United States and abroad.

Renny Cushing, executive director of Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights and himself a murder victim survivor, said the decision to launch the new organization was made at the Second World Congress Against the Death Penalty, which was held this past October in Montreal. At that conference, a recommendation was made to launch an international network of family members who oppose the death penalty.

“Our organization is both pro-victim and anti-death penalty,” said Cushing, a former New Hampshire state legislator whose father was murdered. “When I was a lawmaker, I was an advocate for laws that benefited victims. And I also sponsored legislation to abolish the death penalty. I believe in victims’ rights and I believe in human rights. Both go hand in hand.”

The new group will include relatives of murder victims as well as relatives of those who have been executed. Among the speakers at Friday’s event will be Bud Welch, whose daughter Julie died in the Oklahoma City bombing; Robert Meeropol, whose parents, Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, were executed during the McCarthy era for allegedly spying; and Bill Pelke, chairman of the board of directors of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, who lost his grandmother to murder.

At the ceremony, national abolition leaders will discuss the important role MVFHR will play in the abolition movement as well as the importance of bringing a national and international human-rights focus to the death penalty debate in the United States.

NOTE TO REPORTERS: The founding ceremony will take place on the top floor of the Church Center for the United Nations at 777 UN Plaza. To get there, enter the building on the 44th Street side of the UN Church Center Building, sign in with the security guard and take the elevator to the 12th floor.


Supreme Court Accepts Certiorari on Medellin Case

10 December 2004

The U.S. Supreme Court has accepted certiorari in the case of Medellin v. Dretke. Medellin is on death row in Texas and is one of fifty-one Mexican nationals in the U.S. whose death sentence has been impacted by an International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision earlier this year. The ICJ found that the U.S. violated the rights of the Mexican nationals under the Vienna Convention on Consular Affairs (Vienna Convention) and found that the U.S. should provide an "effective review" of their sentences and convictions. The Vienna Convention requires ratifying governments to notify any foreign citizens who are detained of their right to request consular assistance from their home country. The U.S. ratified the Convention in 1969.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit responded to the ICJ decision by rejecting Medellin's request for a writ of habeas corpus. The court ruled that because Medellin failed to raise the issue of the Convention at his 1994 murder trial, he was procedurally barred from raising it in federal court. The issue to be decided is whether the Fifth Circuit was correct in applying the usual procedural rules under which a defendant forfeits a claim not raised at at the appropriate stage to a case based on international law. The case, Medellín v. Dretke, No. 04-5928, will be argued in March.

Compiled from: Linda Greenhouse, Justices to Hear Case of Mexican on Death Row, New York Times, 11 December 2004.


West Africa: Senegal Abolishes the Death Penalty, Who’s Next?

13 December 2004

News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International

AI Index: AFR 49/001/2004 10 December 2004

West Africa: Senegal abolishes the death penalty, who’s next?

Amnesty International welcomes the adoption today by the Senegalese Parliament of the bill abolishing the death penalty. Senegal becomes the fourth member state of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) to outlaw recourse to capital punishment (after Cape Verde, Guinea Bissau and Ivory Coast).

Under the lead of President Wade, the bill had been adopted unanimously by the government in July 2004. It was passed today with an overwhelming majority. Senegal has not carried out executions since 1967 but has continued to hand down death sentences, most recently in July 2004.

"Senegal should be a source of inspiration for all ECOWAS and other African countries which have not yet abolished the death penalty. Other African states should now follow the example of Senegal and respect the fundamental right to life," the organization said today.

Amnesty International also welcomes the important steps taken by Sierra Leone and Nigeria towards the abolition in the past months.

In October 2004, the Sierra Leone Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) finally published its report. Among its key recommendations, the TRC asked the government: "to abolish the death penalty by repealing immediately all laws authorising the use of capital punishment". This recommendation is categorized as "imperative", that is, the government ought to implement it "without delay". The TRC further recommended the introduction of a moratorium on all executions pending a vote on abolition of the death penalty by Parliament. It also urged that any pending death sentences should be immediately commuted by the President.

In October 2004, the National Study Group on the Death Penalty - in charge of conducting a national debate in Nigeria - presented its report to the Federal Government of Nigeria. It called on the Federal Government to impose a moratorium on executions and commute to life imprisonment the sentences of all death row prisoners whose appeals have been concluded. President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is personally opposed to the death penalty, had launched a national debate on the issue in November 2003.

Amnesty International has been actively campaigning for the abolition of the death penalty in West Africa since October 2003. The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. It violates the right to life. It is irrevocable and can be inflicted on the innocent. It has never been shown to deter crime more effectively than other punishments.

View all documents on Senegal at

The death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. It violates the right to life. More information:


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Pakistan: Death Penalty for Juveniles Reintroduced

13 December 2004

News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty International

AI Index: ASA 33/025/2004 9 December 2004

Pakistan: Death penalty for juveniles reintroduced

The recent decision by the Lahore High Court that the Juvenile Justice System Ordinance (JJSO) be revoked so that children can once again be sentenced to death, is a retrograde step which flies in the face of the worldwide movement towards the abolition of the death penalty for juveniles.

"The government of Pakistan must abide by its commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and take immediate action to appeal to the Supreme Court to review the judgment and stay its implementation," Amnesty International said.

A full bench of the Lahore High Court on 6 December 2004 revoked the JJSO, reportedly finding it "unreasonable, unconstitutional and impracticable". The High Court decision means that juvenile courts will be abolished and children will once again be tried in the same system as adults and can be sentenced to death. Convictions of juveniles who were spared the death penalty while the JJSO was in force between 2000 and December 2004, will not be affected by this judgement but cases pending against juveniles in juvenile courts will be transferred to regular courts.



Implementing obligations under the CRC which Pakistan ratified in 1990, President Pervez Musharraf on 1 July 2000 promulgated the JJSO which prescribes trials of juveniles separate from adult accused and prohibits the imposition of the death penalty on anyone who has not attained the age of 18 years at the time of the alleged offence. In December 2001, following a meeting with Amnesty International Secrary General Irene Khan, President Musharraf commuted the death penalty of all those juveniles who had been sentenced to death before July 2000.

Implementing the JJSO has been slow; the setting up of juvenile courts took time and police and many judges of the lower judiciary remained unaware of its provisions. While the number of juveniles sentenced to death declined, such cases continued to be reported. In 2003, two Afghan refugee boys were sentenced to death in Quetta. Ziauddin, a handicapped boy was 13 and Abdul Qadir was 16 at the time of a murder alleged to have been committed by them. They are held in a small cell in Much Jail, Balochistan, together with six adult men sentenced to death, most of them for murder. The safety and physical integrity of the boys are a matter of concern for Amnesty International. The Juvenile Justice System Ordinance which came into force in July 2000, abolished the death penalty for people under 18 at the time of the offence, in most parts of the country. However, the Ordinance was not extended to the Provincially and Federally Administered Tribal Areas in the north and west. One young man, Sher Ali, was executed in the Provincially Administered Tribal Area in November 2001 for a murder committed in 1993 when he was 13 years old. To Amnesty International's knowledge, no other juvenile has been executed in Pakistan since 1997.

Only in October 2004, Amnesty International welcomed the extension of the JJSO to the The Provincially Administered Tribal Areas (PATA). Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), the Northern Areas and Azad Jammu and Kashmir remained outside its ambit.

The commutation order of December 2001 remained only partially implemented, partly on account of difficulties in determining the age of the juveniles in the absence of adequate documentation.

The judgement of 6 December 2004 of the Lahore High Court arose from the petiton filed by Farooq Naqvi, whose son had been sodomized and burned alive by several young men including a juvenile who was sentenced to life imprisonment. Farooq Naqvi believed that the juvenile should have been sentenced to death as well and had been unduly protected by the JJSO.

The Lahore High Court judgment stated that legal provisions existing before the promulgation of the JJSO were adequate to protect juveniles and that courts were sufficiently sensitive to the needs of juvenile offenders which rendered the JJSO superfluous. It also stated that the ban on the death penalty had led to adults instigating juveniles to carry out capital offences on their behalf in the knowledge that they would be treated leniently under the JJSO. This it said, had led to an increase in the crime rate. Moreover, the JJSO had encouraged corruption on a large scale as families of accused had procured fake birth, school and medical certificates to establish that the accused were juveniles.

The judgment further challenged the definition of a juvenile as a person below 18 years, saying this was arbitrary. Social, economic, climatic and dietary factors in Pakistan, it said, accelerated maturity. Laws derived from Islamic understanding link majority to the attainment of puberty and differentiate between male and female ages of majority. The judgement moreover held that the preferential treatment of juveniles violates the constitutional guarantee of equality before the law and equal protection of the law. It held that "what is relevant is the capacity of an accused person to understand the nature and consequence of his conduct and if an accused is found of sufficient understanding then no special treatment is warranted by the law."

The judgment also said that in practical terms trying a juvenile separately from an adult presented diffuculties as juvenile courts and courts trying adults had on occasion reached different conclusions.

Stop child executions! Ending the death penalty for child offenders:

View all documents on Pakistan at


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Kansas Supreme Court Strikes Down Death Penalty Law; 14 States Now Without Capital Punishment

17 December 2004



David Elliot, NCADP Communications Director
202-543-9577, ext. 16
cell phone: 202-607-7036
[email protected]
920 Pennsylvania Ave. SE
Washington, D.C. 20003


Dec. 17, 2004 – The Kansas Supreme Court Friday struck down that state’s death penalty law, making 14 states free of capital punishment, the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty said today.

Earlier this year, a New York state court took similar action. Kansas and New York are the two most recent states to reinstate the death penalty, with Kansas reinstating it in 1994 and New York in 1995. Neither state has executed anyone since reinstatement. Today’s ruling vacates all six death sentences in Kansas.

“Today’s development should not surprise anyone,” said NCADP Executive Director Diann Rust-Tierney. “Our experience in looking at the death penalty teaches us that it is exceedingly difficult to craft a system that is both procedurally fair and mistake-free. Without the death penalty, we hope Kansas will be able to focus its resources on providing more support for crime victims as well as crime prevention efforts.”

The Kansas Supreme Court struck down the state’s death penalty law on a 4-3 vote because it said the law gave the state an unfair advantage over defendants during the sentencing process. Rust-Tierney noted that Kansas has a history of antipathy toward the death penalty; the state abolished capital punishment in 1907, brought it back in 1935 and then observed a moratorium in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when the Republican governor at the time said, “I just don’t like killing people.”

One year ago, Kansas officials released a cost study that showed the state’s death penalty system costs approximately 70 percent more than comparable non-death penalty cases. The study found that the median cost of a death penalty trial and appeals was $1.26 million while non-death penalty cases cost a median of $740,000.


The National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty was founded in 1976 and is the only fully-staffed national organization devoted specifically to abolishing the death penalty. NCADP is comprised of more than 100 local, state, national and international affiliates.