I have just received this report from Mark Warren:
JEDDAH: The Shoura Council has made a major decision toward reducing instances of capital punishment in the Kingdom by stipulating that a death sentence issued on the basis of a judge's discretionary power becomes final only if the verdict is unanimous."The ruling of an appeals court on a lower court's decision to kill by execution, stoning, amputation, or qisas (legally entitled retribution for a victim or his relatives) etc... will not be final except after it is endorsed by the Supreme Court. The court's endorsement of the death penalty on taazir (a judge's discretion in situations where no religious punishment is prescribed) should not be made final unless it is by unanimous agreement," the council stipulated while discussing recommendations on criminal regulations made by the Committee for Islamic & Governmental Affairs.The council voted down the committee's recommendation that the implementation of taazir for death punishment can be implemented even if the decision is made without unanimity.
This is useful evidence that the trend to reduction and abolition of the death penalty manifests itself even in some countries that have the worst records on the subject.
Last week, I attended the Regional Conference on Capital Punishment held in Rabat, Morocco. Participating on the keynote panel, I expressed the view that by presenting the issue in terms of retentionist and abolitionist states there was a danger that we would conceal an important truth, namely that the death penalty is in sharp decline in the relatively small number of states that still employ it.
This week, the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary and Arbitrary Executions and the Special Rapporteur on Torture will be presenting their recent reports on capital punishment to the General Assembly. It will be interesting to see the response from some of the States that traditionally try to defend the death penalty on such occasions. Foremost among them are Egypt and Singapore. But political changes in Egypt may influence its tone. And Singapore’s rate of execution has declined dramatically in recent years. Let us see what happens.
Next month, the bi-annual resolution on a moratorium on capital punishment returns to the General Assembly. Two years ago, there were some slight changes in the vote (compared with 2008) that revealed a shift in the Arab world. A perceptive observer might have seen this as a sign of more dramatic developments, but I don’t think anybody did at the time. Yes only a few weeks after the resolution, the Arab Spring began.
The bi-annual resolution on capital punishment provides a way to take the temperature not only with respect to the status of the death penalty in the world but, in a more general sense, on progressive developments in the field of human rights.