Posted on 06 February 2013.
Families of the victims rejoice after the issuance of the death penalty for 21 accused in last years Port Said football violence (NY Daily News)
On January 26, an Egyptian judge sentenced 21 people to death for their participation in a soccer game riot in February 2012. Dubbed the “massacre at Port Said,” the riot last year broke out after the Port Said-based Al-Masry team defeated Cairo’s Al-Ahly team. The riot left 74 dead, and 1,000 injured. Intended to bring justice to those responsible for these riots, the ruling has only led to more death and destruction in Egypt as it sparked deadly clashes between security forces and relatives of the convicted.
In the courtroom in Cairo, “families of victims danced, applauded, and some broke down in tears of joy when they heard Judge Sobhy Abdel Maguid declare that the 21 men would be ‘referred to the Mufti,’ a phrase used to denote execution, as all death sentences must be reviewed by Egypt’s top religious authority.” In total, 73 defendants stood trial. Those not sentenced yet will be on March 9.
With more than 30 dead and nearly 300 injured in the days after the ruling, it is clear that residents of Port Said do not believe that the ruling was warranted. While fans in Cairo cheered as verdict was announced, rampaging fans in Port Said attacked the city’s jail where the defendants were being held and cut off access to the all roads leading in and out of the city. Police responded with tear gas, rubber bullets and live ammunition aimed at the crowds. President Mohamed Morsi met with the National Defense Council, which includes the nation’s top military leaders, canceling a foreign trip in light of the crisis. Security forces could not control the violence.
Egypt’s football fans also demonstrated that they do not believe that justice has been served. In a country obsessed with its premier sport, Egypt’s football season began this Saturday without a single fan in the stands. The players took the field “to the relative silence of secure military stadiums,” a stark contrast to the normally rambunctious crowds.
The sentencing of those responsible for the riots was intended to bring justice to the victims’ families. In less than one week, however, the judgment has brought continued death and chaos to Egypt and moreover, has failed to uncover the truth of what caused the Port Said soccer massacre. Journalists are forbidden from reporting on the case, and the state has issued no official report on the massacre. Many believe that unchecked police practices were the root cause of the riots—as police failed to check fans for weapons upon their entrance to the stadium and the gates to the stadium were locked once the riots started. Until the violence is checked, and truth uncovered, there will continue to be a failure of true and lasting justice for those of Port Said.
Brianna Evans is a 3L at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and the Editor in Chief of the Denver Journal of International Law & Policy.
Posted in Brianna Evans, DJILP Staff, TVFA Posts
Posted on 16 January 2013.
Women throughout India say that their gender makes them vulnerable to attacks. (New York Times)
On Sunday, December 16, 2012, in New Delhi, six men gang raped and brutally beat a 23-year old female university student resulting in her death. These events re-ignited an ongoing debate concerning India’s sexual assault and rape laws. The Indian government indicated that in 2011 they received more than 220,000 reports of violent crimes against women. However, government officials suspect that the actual number may be much higher. Women hope that this unfortunate incident will bring stiffer penalties to deter future rapes and assaults.
New Delhi authorities charged five of the six suspects with murder and several others offenses. They are investigating whether the sixth suspect is under the age of 18 and, therefore, a juvenile under New Delhi law. Although the crimes committed are punishable by death, India has been slow to execute prisoners. Currently India has hundreds of prisoners on death row. Groups such as Amnesty International, a non-governmental human rights organization, insist that the death penalty is not the solution. They face an uphill battle as citizens are outraged at the treatment of Indian women and demand an immediate overhaul of laws regarding rape and assault.
Numerous international lawmakers consider India’s laws governing rape to be narrowly defined and rooted in tradition. In many cases, it makes the possibility of conviction unlikely. The law lacks clear and concise sentencing guidelines and provides for a judge’s discretionary judgment in sentencing. Lawmakers have expressed frustration with evidentiary matters during court proceedings. The lack of sufficient evidence has a tendency to transform the trial into a battle of the genders where the men often win. Given the issues outlined, it is not surprising that the lawyer of three of the suspects charged urged them to plead not guilty.
In representing the accused, Manohar Lal Sharma stated, “[w]e are only hearing what the police are saying. This is manipulated evidence. It’s all on the basis of hearsay and presumption.” This accusation of manipulating the evidence outraged many of India’s citizens because a companion of the victim witnessed the entire attack and suffered injuries while pleading with the six individuals to stop. Further,a DNA test confirmed that the victim’s blood matched the blood found on the clothing of the accused. In response to the DNA findings, two defendants offered to testify against the others in exchange for a lighter sentence.
The out-pour of support from around the world serves as a glimmer of hope for women in India. Although they know that the process is gradual, they are optimistic that the future will bring change. The government formed a panel of legal experts charged with the task of reviewing suggested amendments to India’s rape and assault laws. The suggestions include sentencing guidelines, harsher prison sentences, and chemical castration. Either way, India needs a definitive definition of rape and sexual assault. Hopefully these preventative changes come in time because even after this horrific incident, another Indian woman was gang raped by seven men.
Tausha Riley is a 2L at the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law and a Staff Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.
Posted in DJILP Staff, Tausha Riley, TVFA Posts
Posted on 21 September 2012.
Gambia President Yahya Jammeh (CNN)
Gambia, a small country in West Africa, was once a leader in its region working towards abolishing the death penalty in law and in practice. Up until recently, the Gambian government had not executed anyone under the death penalty for about thirty years. However, on August 19, 2012, President Yahya Jammeh announced implementation of a new execution policy, under which he planned to execute all prisoners on death row by mid-September. Since Jammeh took power in 1994, Gambia’s human rights record has grown increasingly more dismal. The government does not tolerate any political opposition, and as such, Jammeh has won every election since 1994. Amnesty International expressed great concern about this announcement, particularly because Gambia does not follow the international standards for fair trials. In particular, political opponents do not often receive fair trials.
Within days of Jammeh’s announcement, one woman and eight men were put to death on August 23, 2012, and thirty-nine more wait on death row. The United Nations spoke out against this action saying that “[t]his stream of executions is a major step backwards for the country, and for the protection of the right to life in the world as a whole.” The United Nations also echoed Amnesty International, saying that the trials that led to these executions were not performed with the requisite transparency.
One political opposition group in Gambia, the National Transitional Council of The Gambia (CNTG), said that they were “planning to create a government in exile in neighbouring Senegal” in the immediate future. This action was spurred on by the beginning of the death row prisoner executions. The group’s main goal is to end the reign of President Jammeh, as well as end many of the inappropriate practices involving arresting and convicting individuals.
Due to powerful criticism from many international organizations, as well as the general public in Gambia, Jammeh made an announcement on September 15, 2012 that he was suspending all executions. Jammeh’s office stated that “what happens next will be dictated by either a declining violent crime rate in which case the moratorium will be indefinite or an increase in the violent crime rate in which case the moratorium will be lifted automatically.” So, despite this temporary success, the tyrannical rule of President Jammeh continues. Many recognize the need to continue taking action and are still pushing to prevent the executions from resuming.
Amnesty International remains very involved in this fight against the Gambian executions. Amnesty’s Gambia researcher, Lisa Sherman-Nikolaus, stated that the Gambian National Assembly should take this time to review the use of the death penalty in the country. Such review is actually required by the Gambian Constitution. Additionally, Amnesty has expressed concern with political influences over the Gambian judiciary. Because of these serious concerns, “Amnesty International calls for a transparent review of all death penalty cases without recourse to the death penalty.” Amnesty continues to lead these efforts and is calling on other organizations to help ensure the definite end of these executions in the near future.
Rachel Sipkin is a 3L and the Training Editor of the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.
Posted in DJILP Staff, Rachel Sipkin, TVFA Posts
Posted on 14 September 2011.
Sources: The Independent, Iran Human Rights, The Guardian
Executing prisoners is not unusual in Iran. In this year alone, over 180 people have been put to death under the nation’s strict interpretation of Sharia law. Last week, however, Iranian officials executed three individuals for the crime of sodomy at the Karoun prison in the city of Ahvaz. These deaths were unusual because Iran officials typically charge men who have engaged in consensual sex with a partner of the same sex with crimes such as sexual assault or rape, rather than sodomy. Prosecutors use these charges in order to avoid international criticism and make the execution more acceptable. In 2005, Iran was strongly criticized for the public hanging of two teenagers, who were charged with sexually assaulting a thirteen year-old boy. Human rights groups argued that the teens had not assaulted the boy, but instead were being executed solely on the basis of their sexual orientation.
In this case, the three convicts were sentenced to death by hanging under articles 108 and 110 of Iran’s Islamic penal code for “lavat,” or sodomy. Article 108 defines sodomy as “sexual intercourse between men.” Article 110 states, “Punishment for sodomy is killing; the Sharia judge decides on how to carry out the killing.” A spokesman for the organization Iran Human Rights stated that these executions “might be among the rare cases were the Iranian authorities admit to having executed men convicted of homosexual acts.” The three other men who were executed with them had been convicted of trafficking heroin, rape and robbery.
Mohammed Mostafaei, an Iranian lawyer who has represented Iranian citizens accused of homosexuality, explained that there is often no proof to support these claims by prosecutors. When representing one client accused of homosexuality, Mostafaei said that the proof presented was “judge’s knowledge,” which is a “legal loophole that allows for subjective judicial rulings where there is no conclusive evidence.” Thankfully, his client, who is not gay, received a reprieve after his case received international attention. Mostafaei believes many citizens who are executed for alleged homosexuality may in fact be innocent.
Executing citizens solely because of their sexual orientation raises significant international human rights issues. Iran is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which declares that a death sentence “may be imposed only for the most serious crimes” under Article 6. This conflict between Sharia law and international laws regarding discrimination will only lead to more tension if Iran continues to persecute its citizens based on sexual preferences.
Posted in DJILP Staff, TVFA Posts