ADPAN: tearing down Asia’s death penalty veil of secrecy in 2008
This year, with the Beijing Olympic Games followed by the World Day Against the Death Penalty on 10th October, the World Coalition has decided to focus on Asia.
It has a worthy partner for its actions in ADPAN (Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network) of which it is a member. Their first joint action is an open letter to the Chinese authorities, sent in February to coincide with the National People’s Congress, to demand more transparency on the use of the death penalty in China, to denounce the high number of crimes subject to the death penalty, and to demand a moratorium on executions.
Throughout the year, ADPAN will also pursue its own programme based on regional themes, on which it has concentrated its action since its creation two years ago: drug offences subject to the death penalty, transparency on the use of the death penalty, unfair trials, the fate of sentenced persons with mental illnesses, the automatic death penalty, and the recognition of victims’ needs.
On this last issue, ADPAN is closely supported by the American group Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights, a member of the World Coalition.
Stirring Chinese opinion
In China, ADPAN will focus on the cases of innocents executed. “We are going to speak on issues where we know people will be moved”, explains Louise Vischer, ADPAN’s coordinator at Amnesty International’s international secretariat in London.
On the eve of a parliamentary meeting in April, ADPAN will publish a report on the death penalty in India, compiled by one of its members, Bikram Jeet Batra. The document, whose aim is to reveal transparency problems and the conservation of the automatic death penalty in Indian law, will be the subject of two publications: a detailed version will target the Indian public, while a shortened one will lead the campaign in neighbouring countries. “People want to use examples from other countries”, states Louise Vischer.
Pervading climate of secrecy in Japan and Mongolia
In Japan and Mongolia, ADPAN will target the secrecy surrounding executions, which prevents citizens from forming their own opinions. As part of an Amnesty International campaign, the network also works on the cases of mentally-ill persons sentenced to death in Japan. In all places, the organisation relies on the UN resolution adopted in December in favour of a moratorium on executions; the objective now is to ensure its application.
Success in South Korea
ADPAN already prides itself on some success, for example in South Korea, where the debate on abolition is progressing, mostly thanks to a letter-writing campaign. The fact that they are quoted in political debates and in the press is proof of their impact. The country has not carried out any executions for the last ten years. A recent ceremony during which 64 doves – representing 64 sentenced persons whose lives were saved – was a success (see photo).
* Automatic death penalty is the term used when a country’s laws provide for the systematic use of the death penalty for certain crimes, without giving the judge the option of another punishment.