ADPAN network keeps up abolitionist fight
Members of the Anti-Death Penalty Asia Network (ADPAN) are organising events across the region this World Day, including in Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.
In Asia, the regional and global trend towards the abolition of the death penalty has been accelerated over the past ten years.
Executions have come down, governments are imposing more stringent safeguards to limit the scope of the death penalty and a more open debate on the death penalty is taking place.
Abolition in four countries
Over the past 10 years, four Asia-Pacific countries abolished the death penalty for all crimes; Bhutan and Samoa in 2004, the Philippines in 2006 and the Cook Islands in 2007.
Many retentionist countries have had periods of no executions, including countries such as India, Indonesia and Pakistan. South Korea has had no executions since 1997 and is considered “abolitionist in practice”.
Seventeen countries in the Asia-Pacific region have abolished the death penalty for all crimes; Fiji has abolished it for ordinary crimes only, 10 are abolitionist in practice and 13 retain the death penalty.
Asian activists raising awareness
In 2006, ADPAN was launched on the World Day against the Death Penalty. Its membership has more than tripled since, with members in 26 countries mainly from the Asia Pacific region.
Through the publication of its two “Unfair Trials” reports in 2011, ADPAN has raised awareness by showing how in law and practice the death penalty is being unfairly applied across the region.
Lawyers, academics and civil society groups have met in several countries across the region to discuss the death penalty and coalitions against the death penalty were built and strengthened.
“High profile death penalty cases are gradually informing the general public in Taiwan about the dangers of the death penalty,” said Hsinyi Lin, ADPAN member and Director of the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty. “The legislature is currently discussing the option of reducing the number of death penalty provisions in its laws”.
Other countries in the region have become party to international legislation against the use of the death penalty.
ADPAN welcomes these positive steps but acknowledges that the end of the death penalty across the region is an ongoing challenge.
Most executions in Asia-Pacific region
13 countries across the region still retain the death penalty. More people are executed in the Asia-Pacific region than in the rest of the world combined.
Many countries do not publish statistics on the death penalty, some regard the death penalty as a state secret and public opinion favouring the death penalty is an ongoing challenge in certain countries.
The death penalty is widely applied for drug offences in the region and thousands are sentenced to death and executed after unfair trials.
In 2010, Taiwan executed four people, ending its unofficial moratorium which had been in place since December 2005.
Thailand resumed executions in 2009, despite declaring its commitment to the abolition of the death penalty in its Human Rights Action Plan 2009-2013.
In 2011, Afghanistan resumed executions after two years with no executions and most recently, Japan resumed executions in 2012, after nearly two years of no executions.
In India, there are fears that executions may resume after a period of eight years with no executions.
On this World Day against the Death Penalty, ADPAN joins others in appealing for an end to the death penalty, supports the UN General Assembly resolution calling for a moratorium on all executions and is launching a specific appeal in support for those sentenced to death following unfair trials across Asia.