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​NHRIs offered support to tackle death penalty

Graphic: NHRI staff talk with prisoners

Funding and mentoring will be available to support APF members with projects to counter the use of the death penalty in their countries.

A new report considered by Forum Councillors at the 21st APF Annual Meeting has found patchy progress towards abolition of the death penalty across the Asia Pacific, despite positive developments in other parts of the world.

The report noted that since 1999, when the APF's Advisory Council of Jurists (ACJ) completed its initial study on the issue, there has been a significant decrease globally in support for the death penalty, including:

  • An increase in the number of States formally abolishing the death penalty
  • An increase in the number of States supporting an international moratorium on the use of the death penalty
  • A reduction in the number of States supporting the death penalty and carrying out executions.

Other positive developments include a reduction in the types of crimes which carry the death penalty and greater respect and consideration for the rights of vulnerable groups – such as children, pregnant women and people with a mental illness or intellectual disability – when considering the application of the death penalty.

Despite this progress, the Asia Pacific region continues to disproportionally retain and implement the death penalty.

Prisoners walk in small outside space

In the Asia Pacific region today:

  • 19 States have abolished the death penalty
  • 10 States are considered abolitionist in practice
  • 35 States retain the death penalty
  • 19 States carried out executions

The report noted that, with regard to the imposition of the death penalty by courts in 2015:

  • The death penalty was imposed on more than 1998 people (excluding China)
  • 855 of the 1998 death penalties were imposed in countries in Asia
  • 474 death penalties were imposed in the APF members' States, including Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Afghanistan, Palestine, Qatar, Thailand, Jordan, the Maldives, Mongolia and the Republic of Korea.

These statistics indicate that advocacy by NHRIs presents a real opportunity to reduce the use of the death penalty in the region, the report said.

The report outlines a series of general recommendations for NHRIs in retentionist States to consider, including, among others, reviewing their State's criminal code, monitoring trials in all capital cases, and monitoring pre-trial and post-trial detention.

In addition, the report includes specific recommendations for NHRIs in those countries that retain the death penalty.

In line with previous ACJ references, the APF will offer practical and financial support – up to AUD 100,000 over two years – to assist member institutions in their efforts to implement the report's recommendations.

Using an approach similar to the successful Torture Prevention Ambassadors program, NHRIs will be invited to submit a project proposal to examine or counter the use of the death penalty in their respective countries.

All projects will be assessed using a merit selection process. Funding, mentoring and capacity support will be provided to successful projects.

Date: 11 November 2016

Image credits

  1. NHRI staff talk with prisoners - APF/Michael Power
  2. Prisoners walk in small outside space - APF/Michael Power