Varied choice of Asian executioners

Ulhas Joglekar uvj at
Tue May 29 09:32:17 PDT 2001

Friday 25 May 2001

Varied choice of Asian executioners TOKYO: The impending execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh has focused attention on the death penalty in the United States. But from Japan to Afghanistan, the executioner's methods vary widely and at least one grisly death sentence ordered by a judge in Pakistan embarrassed even the country's military regime. In Afghanistan, under the fundamentalist Islamic Taliban regime, women found guilty of adultery are stoned to death. Homosexuals are buried under the debris of a wall crushed by a tank or tractor. Taliban sources say a person convicted of sodomy is kept under a crushed wall for 30 minutes and is exonerated if he survives. A murderer is blindfolded and shot dead by a close relative of the victim. Women are encouraged to witness executions. In China, death sentences are carried out with a bullet to the back of the neck. Amnesty International says lethal injections have also been used. Many convicts are executed the very day they are sentenced. The number of executions shoots up ahead of major holidays such as the Chinese New Year to give the public a sense of security and warn would-be offenders. Only a fraction of the sentences and executions in China are publicly reported, Amnesty and diplomats say. Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam prefer the firing squad. In the Philippines, lethal injection is the executioner's choice. Hanging prevails in Bangladesh, India, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan and Singapore. In South Korea, military criminals may be shot and in Taiwan, police shoot bullets into the convict's chest. In an unprecedented verdict last year, a Pakistani judge ordered that alleged serial killer Javed Iqbal, who was convicted of murdering 100 children and dissolving their bodies in acid, be strangled in public, his body cut into 100 pieces and then dissolved in acid. Pakistan's military government was none too pleased with the mode of execution ordered and said it would be challenged. Iqbal's appeal is pending in the Lahore high court. Affluent Japan has drawn flak for the way it treats death row inmates. Akira Ishikawa, a campaigner for Amnesty International Japan, said: "The justice ministry's secretive manner of carrying out executions is strikingly different from other countries. In Japan, the execution announcements come without notice for lawyers who are preparing for requests of reviews, or amnesties... The way death row inmates are treated in the prisons is extremely close to torture." The head of the Council of Europe's human rights committee Gunnar Jansson has said Japanese authorities only announce the time of execution to the condemned an hour or two in advance. "This means that every morning the prisoner wakes up wondering if that day will be his last," Jansson said. In the Philippines, a generation of journalists unused to the death penalty which was restored in 1994, made a macabre spectacle of one execution. When decorator Leo Echegaray, convicted of raping his stepdaugther, became the first to be executed in 23 years on February 5, 1999, reporters and photographers followed the hearse to a mortuary. A radio reporter peeled off the shroud and grabbed the corpse's legs while reporting live. In Tonga, which last hanged a man in 1978, the minister of police is also the hangman but the incumbent's skills as an executioner have never been tested. (AFP)

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