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?Death penalty 2014: Alarming rise in death sentences

As governments resorted to capital punishment to combat crime and terrorism, States used the death penalty in a flawed attempt to tackle crime, terrorism and internal instability.


Amnesty International has observed a sharp spike in death sentences largely due to Egypt and Nigeria – at least 2,466 imposed globally, up 28% on 2013. The organisation says 607 executions recorded, down almost 22% on 2013 (excluding those carried out in China, which executed more than the rest of the world put together), 22 countries known to have executed, the same number as 2013.
 


An alarming number of countries used the death penalty to tackle real or perceived threats to state security linked to terrorism, crime or internal instability in 2014, Amnesty International found in its annual review of the death penalty worldwide.



The number of death sentences recorded in 2014 jumped by almost 500 compared to 2013, mainly because of sharp spikes in Egypt and Nigeria, including mass sentencing in both countries in the context of internal conflict and political instability.

“Governments using the death penalty to tackle crime are deluding themselves.

There is no evidence that shows the threat of execution is more of a deterrent to crime than any other punishment,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

 “The dark trend of governments using the death penalty in a futile attempt to tackle real or imaginary threats to state security and public safety was stark last year.

It is shameful that so many states around the world are essentially playing with people’s lives – putting people to death for ‘terrorism’ or to quell internal instability on the ill-conceived premise of deterrence.”

 But there was also good news to be found in 2014 – fewer executions were recorded compared to the year before and several countries took positive steps towards abolition of the death penalty.



Top executioners



China again carried out more executions than the rest of the world put together. Amnesty International believes thousands are executed and sentenced to death there every year, but with numbers kept a state secret the true figure is impossible to determine.

 The other countries making up the world’s top five executioners in 2014 were Iran (289 officially announced and at least 454 more that were not acknowledged by the authorities), Saudi Arabia (at least 90), Iraq (at least 61) and the USA (35).

Excluding China, at least 607 executions were known to have been carried out in 2014, compared to 778 in 2013, a drop of more than 20 per cent.
 
Executions were recorded in 22 countries in 2014, the same number as the year before.

This is a significant decrease from 20 years ago in 1995, when Amnesty International recorded executions in 42 countries, highlighting the clear global trend of states moving away from the death penalty.

“The numbers speak for themselves – the death penalty is becoming a thing of the past. The few countries that still execute need to take a serious look in the mirror and ask themselves if they want to continue to violate the right to life, or join the vast majority of countries that have abandoned this ultimate cruel and inhuman punishment,” said Salil Shetty.



State security



The disturbing trend of states using the death penalty to combat threats against state security was visible around the world, with China, Pakistan, Iran and Iraq all executing people accused of “terrorism”.

Pakistan resumed executions in the wake of the horrific Taliban attack on a Peshawar school. Seven people were executed in December, and the government has said it will put hundreds more convicted on “terrorism”-related charges to death. Executions continued at a high rate in 2015. 

In China authorities made use of the death penalty as a punitive tool in the “Strike Hard” campaign against unrest in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

Authorities executed at least 21 people during the year related to separate attacks, while three people were condemned to death in a mass sentencing rally conducted in a stadium in front of thousands of spectators.

“In a year when abhorrent summary executions by armed groups were branded on the global consciousness like never before, it is appalling that governments are themselves resorting to more executions in a knee-jerk reaction to combat terrorism and crime,” said Salil Shetty.

In countries including North Korea, Iran and Saudi Arabia, governments continued to use the death penalty as a tool to suppress political dissent.



Other states made use of executions in similarly flawed attempts to tackle crimes rates. Jordan ended an eight-year moratorium in December, putting eleven murder convicts to death, with the government saying it was a move to end a surge in violent crime. In Indonesia, the government announced plans to execute mainly drug traffickers to tackle a public safety “national emergency” – promises it made good on in 2015.



Spike in death sentences



There was a dramatic rise in the number of death sentences recorded in 2014 compared to the previous year – at least 2,466 compared to 1,925 – a jump of more than a quarter. This was largely due to developments in Nigeria and Egypt, where hundreds of people were sentenced to death. 

In Nigeria, 659 death sentences were recorded in 2014, a jump of more than 500 compared with the 2013 figure of 141.

Military courts handed down mass death sentences against some 70 soldiers during the year in separate trials. They were convicted of mutiny in the context of the armed conflict with Boko Haram.

In Egypt, courts handed down at least 509 death sentences during 2014, 400 more than recorded during the previous year. This included mass death sentences against 37 people in April and 183 people in June following unfair mass trials.



Methods and crimes

Methods of executions in 2014 included beheading, hanging, lethal injection and shooting. Public executions were carried out in Iran and Saudi Arabia.

People faced the death penalty for a range of non-lethal crimes including robbery, drug-related crimes and economic offences. People were even sentenced to death for acts such as “adultery”, “blasphemy” or “sorcery”, which should not be considered crimes at all. Many countries used vaguely worded political “crimes” to put real or perceived dissidents to death.




Regional breakdown



THE AMERICAS



The USA continued to be the only country to put people to death in the region, although executions dropped from 39 in 2013 to 35 in 2014 – reflecting a steady decline in the use of the death penalty in the country over the past years. Only seven states executed in 2014 (down from nine in 2013) with four – Texas, Missouri, Florida and Oklahoma –responsible for 89 per cent of all executions. The state of Washington imposed a moratorium on executions in February. The overall number of death sentences decreased from 95 in 2013 to 77 in 2014.



ASIA PACIFIC



The Asia Pacific region saw a mixed bag of death penalty developments in 2014. Executions were recorded in nine countries, one fewer than the year before. Pakistan lifted a moratorium on execution of civilians. Thirty-two executions were recorded in the region, although these numbers do not include China or North Korea, where it was impossible to confirm numbers. Indonesia announced plans to resume executions mainly of drug traffickers in 2015.

The Pacific continued to be the world’s only virtually death penalty free zone, although the governments of both Papua New Guinea and Kiribati took steps to resume executions or introduce the death penalty.



SUB-SAHARAN AFRICA



Sub-Saharan Africa saw particular progress in 2014. Fourty-six executions were recorded in three countries compared to 64 executions in five countries in 2013 – a drop of 28 per cent. Only three countries – Equatorial Guinea, Somalia and Sudan – were known to have carried out executions.

Madagascar took a progressive step towards abolition when the country’s National Assembly adopted a bill abolishing the death penalty on 10 December, although the bill has to be signed by the country’s president before becoming law.



EUROPE AND CENTRAL ASIA



Belarus – the only country in the region that executes – put at least three people to death during the year, ending a 24-month hiatus on executions. The executions were marked by secrecy, with family members and lawyers only being informed after the fact.



MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA



The widespread use of the death penalty in the Middle East and North Africa continued to be extremely troubling. Iran, Iraq and Saudi Arabia accounted for 90 per cent of all recorded executions in the region, and 72 per cent of all recorded executions globally (excluding China). 

In 2014 executions were recorded in eight countries, two more than in 2013. Sixteen countries imposed death sentences – a large majority of countries in the region.



The overall number of executions recorded in the MENA region dropped from 638 in 2013 to 491 last year. These figures do not include hundreds of executions that are known to have occurred in Iran but which were not officially announced. In 2014 the Iranian authorities acknowledged 289 executions, however reliable sources reported another 454 executions – bringing the total to 743.

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Botswana still weighing in on Maseko’s assassination

27th January 2023

The Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Lemogang Kwape says Botswana has not taken any position regarding the killing of a renowned human rights lawyer, Thulani Maseko, who was gunned down at his house in Mbabane, Eswatini.

In a brief interview with WeekendPost, Dr Kwape said Botswana has not yet taken any position regarding his death. He said the purported incident should be thoroughly probed before Botswana can form an opinion based on the findings of the inquiries.

“Botswana generally condemns any killing of human life by all means,” says Dr. Kwape. He wouldn’t want to be dragged on whether Botswana will support the suspension of Eswatini from SADC.

“We will be guided by SADC organ Troika if they can be an emergency meeting. I am not sure when the meeting will be called by Namibian president,“ he said.

However, the Namibian president Hage Geingob notes with deep concern reports coming out of Eswatini about the killing of Mr. Maseko. In a statement, he called upon the “Government of the Kingdom of Eswatini to ensure that the killing of Maseko is swiftly, transparently and comprehensively investigated, and that any or all persons suspected of committing this heinous crime are brought to justice.”

Maseko was chairperson of the Multi-Stakeholder Forum which was established as a coalition of non-State actors to advocate for a process of national political dialogue aimed at resolving the security and political challenges confronting the Kingdom.

“SADC expresses its deepest and heartfelt condolences to the family of Mr. Maseko, his friends, colleagues, and to the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini for the loss of Mr. Maseko. In this context, SADC further calls upon the people of the Kingdom of Eswatini to remain calm, exercise due care and consideration whilst the appropriate structures conduct the investigations and bring the matter to completion,” the statement says.

Geingob reiterated the need for peaceful resolution of the political and security challenges affecting the country.

Meanwhile political activists are calling on SADC to suspend Eswatini from the block including the African Union as well.

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Kopong Murder: Accused interferes with witnesses again!

27th January 2023

State prosecutor, Seeletso Ookeditse revealed before the Broadhurst Magistrate Jobbie Moilatshimo that the third accused involved in the murder of Barulaganye Aston, has interfered with the State witnesses again.

The second and third accused (Lefty Kosie and Outlwile Aston) were previously accused of interference when they were caught in possession of cellphones in prison. They were further accused of planning to kill the deceased’s brother, who is currently the guardian to the children of the deceased.

Ookeditse indicated that Outlwile had earlier went to challenge the magistrate’s decision of denying him bail at the High Court before Judge Michael Motlhabi.

“The third accused approached the High Court and made a bail application, which was dismissed on the same day,” Ookeditse said.

However, even after the High Court verdict on their bail application, the duo (Kosie and Aston) has once again applied for bail this week.

Ookeditse plead with the court to stop the accused from abusing the court process.

“Yesterday, Directorate of Public Prosecutions (DPP) received papers of his bail application filed before the Broadhurst Magistrates Court. However, the papers do not speak to changed circumstances, therefore this back and forth about bail must be put to a stop,” said the State prosecutor.

While giving evidence before court, the Investigations Officer, Detective Inspector Quite Zhalamonto, said his investigations have proved that there is interference continuing regarding the accused trio.

He told the court that on the 12th of January 2023, he received a report from Thato Aston, who is the son of the accused and the deceased. The son had alleged to the Investigation Officer that he received a call from one Phillip Molwantwa.

According to Zhalamonto, Thato revealed that Molwatwa indicated that he was from prison on a visit to the Outlwile Aston and went on to ask where he was staying and where his siblings (Aston’s children) are staying.

“Thato revealed that Phillip went on to ask if he or his siblings saw their father murdering their mother, and he was referring to the crime scene. Thato told me that he, however, refused to answer the questions as he was afraid especially because he was asked about where him and his siblings stay,” said Zhalamonto.

Zhalamonto alluded to the court that he then went to Orange to confirm the communication between Thato and Molwantwa where he found the case.

“I have arrested Philip yesterday and when I interviewed him, he did not deny that he knows Aston and that he has indeed called Thato and asked questions as to where him and his siblings resides even though he failed to give reasons for asking such questions,” Zhalamonto told the court.

He further revealed that Molwantwa indicated that he had received a call from an unknown man who refused to reveal himself.

“Phillip told me that the unknown man said he was sent by the accused (Aston), and that Aston had instructed him to tell me to check if there was still some money in his bank accounts, and he also wanted to know where the kids were residing, the unknown man even asked him to meet at Main Mall” the Investigation Officer told the court.

He further informed the court that he is working tirelessly to identify the “unknown caller” and the route of the cell number.

Furthermore, the fourth accused, Kebaleboge Ntsebe, has revealed to the court through a letter that she was abused and tortured by the Botswana Police Services. She wrote in her letter that she suffered miscarriage as a result of being beaten by the police.

Ntsebe is on bail, while a bail ruling for Aston and Kosie will be delivered on the 6th of next month

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Ngamiland Cattle Farmers Gain Green Zone Revenue

27th January 2023

Cattle farmers from Eretsha and Habu in the Ngamiland district, supported by the Community Based Trade (CBT) project, recently generated over P300 000.00 for sales of 42 cattle to the Botswana Meat Commission (BMC) in Maun. This milestone was achieved through support from various stakeholders in conservation, commodity-based trade and the government, in collaboration with farmers. Ordinarily, these farmers would not have made this direct sale since the area is a designated Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Red Zone.

Traditional livestock farming contributes toward livelihoods and formal employment in the North-West District (Ngamiland) of Botswana. However, primarily due to the increase in FMD outbreaks over the past two decades and predation by wildlife, the viability of livestock agriculture as a source of income has declined in the region. This has led to a greater risk of poverty and food insecurity. Access across the Okavango River (prior to the construction of a bridge) restricted access for farmers in Eretsha. This lack of access hampered sales of cattle beyond Shakawe, further discouraging farmers from investing in proper livestock management practices. This resulted in negative environmental impacts, poor livestock health and productivity.

To address this challenge, farmers are working with a consortium led by Conservation International (CI), with funding secured from the European Union (EU) to pilot a CBT beef project. The project focuses on supporting and enabling communal farmers to comply with standards and regulations that will improve their chances to access markets. An opportunity to earn higher income from cattle sales could incentivize the adoption of restorative rangelands management practices by farmers.

These collaborative efforts being piloted in Habu and Eretsha villages also include the Pro-Nature Enterprises Project for the People of Southern Africa, funded by Agence Française de Développement (AFD) and Le Fonds français pour l’environnement mondial (FFEM). This complementary funding from AFD and FFEM supports the implementation of the Herding4Health (H4H) model and Rangeland Stewardship Agreements across four rangeland sites in Southern Africa, including Habu and Eretsha, to incentivize best practices that could offer sustainability in the long term for livelihoods, conservation and human-wildlife coexistence.

“We spend a lot of money getting our cattle to Makalamabedi quarantine site, the herder spends on average two months taking care of the cattle before they are taken into quarantine – that needs money. All these costs lead to us getting less money from BMC,” said one of the farmers in the programme, Mr Monnaleso Mosanga.

Farmers that participate in the project agree for their cattle to be herded and kraaled communally by fulltime professional herders (eco-rangers). At the core of this pilot is the use of predator-proof bomas (cattle kraals), planned grazing systems and mobile quarantine bomas (electrified enclosures) for the cattle, facilitated in support with the Department of Veterinary Services. The first successful exit from the mobile quarantine bomas in the Habu and Eretsha villages, in December 2022, saw cattle quarantined on-site and directly transported to BMC in Maun. Farmers received almost double the average sales within this region, as costs including transportation to quarantine sites, herder’s fees and other associated costs incurred before qualifying for BMC sales were no longer included.

“This pilot mobile quarantine is leveraging the techniques and protocols we are using at our current permanent quarantine sites, and we are still observing the results of the project. The outcome of this pilot will be presented to the World Organisation of Animal Health to assess its effectiveness and potentially be approved to be used elsewhere,” said Dr Odireleng Thololwane, the Principal Veterinary Officer (Maun).

Through co-financing of almost P1 billion from the Botswana government and Green Climate Fund, these interventions will be replicated, through The Ecosystem Based Adaptation and Mitigation in Botswana’s Communal Rangelands project, across the country. Both projects aim to improve the economic benefits of cattle owners and multitudes of Batswana households, while contributing to land restoration and climate change efforts by the Botswana government

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