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January 14 2010 | MONGOLIA


President Tsakhigiian Elbegdorj announces an official moratorium of the executions. Path to abolition will have to tackle with Parliament's opposition

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Associated Press

Mongolia president says no to death penalty

Mongolia _ Mongolia's president announced a moratorium on the death penalty Thursday, a move that rights groups welcomed as a step toward changing Mongolian law to ban executions permanently.

«The majority of the world's countries have chosen to abolish the death penalty. We should follow this path,» President Elbegdorj Tsakhia said in a speech to parliament.

«From tomorrow, I'll pardon those on death row,» he said. «I suggest commuting the death penalty to a 30-year severe jail sentence.» His announcement is far from a permanent shift, however.

While the power to commute any death sentences rests with the president, changing the law would require help from Mongolia's opposition-dominated parliament.

After the president's speech, opposition lawmakers kept quiet in a sign of protest. Mongolia's legal system follows the former Soviet legal system, and many lawyers and legislators favor harsh punishment for criminals.

Changing the law is «clearly a harder step,» Roseann Rife, the deputy program director for Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific office, told The Associated Press. «It involves a lot more people, and the opposition party has control of the legislature.» Rife said Elbegdorj has been on record as opposed to the death penalty for some time.

«He's only been in office since May and has commuted three death sentences that we're aware of,» Rife said.

But if he is not re-elected after his four-year term Mongolia's stance on executions could change «just like that,» she added.

Information on the death penalty is a state secret in Mongolia, and it is not clear how many people the country has executed or when the most recent execution took place.

The office of Amnesty International Mongolia says at least five people were executed in 2008, and nine people were thought to be on death row as of last July.

According to Amnesty International, 95 countries have banned the death penalty, but 58 _ including Mongolia _ continue to use the death penalty for ordinary crimes.

Other countries execute people only in extraordinary cases, such as crimes under military law, or have not executed anyone in at least 10 years, the group said.

Countries that continue to execute people include China and the United States.

Execution in Mongolia is by gunshot to the back of the head. The death penalty does not apply to women or to men under the age of 18 or over 60.

Before Thursday's announcement, Mongolia had been considering changing its criminal code to limit the death penalty to cases of assassination and premeditated murder.

Currently, the eight crimes that get execution include treason, espionage and certain cases of rape.

An Amnesty statement released Thursday said families of those executed in Mongolia are not told before the execution, and bodies are not returned to the family.

It said conditions on death row are reportedly poor in the impoverished country. One-third of Mongolia's 2.7 million people live below the poverty line.



PENA MUERTE Mongolia declara una moratoria oficial a la pena de muerte

Pekín, - El presidente de Mongolia, Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj, anunció hoy una moratoria oficial para la pena de muerte en el país asiático, según recogió hoy el grupo pro derechos humanos Amnistía Internacional (AI) en un comunicado.

"A partir de mañana, indultaré a las personas en el corredor de la muerte. Sugiero conmutar la pena de muerte por penas severas de 30 años de cárcel", declaró el mandatario en una intervención en el "Gran Hural", el parlamento mongol.

Elbegdorj aseguró que con esta iniciativa Mongolia se suma a la mayoría de países del mundo que han optado por abolir la pena capital.

El número de ejecutados en el país asiático se ha mantenido en secreto, aunque el presidente ya conmutó desde mayo (cuando accedió al cargo) la pena de muerte a tres condenados, que modificó por cadena perpetua.

Amnistía Internacional se felicitó por la decisión que, según Roseann Rife, subdirectora para Asia-Pacífico, "muestra el fuerte compromiso del Gobierno mongol con los derechos humanos" y urgió a otros países como China, Vietnam y Corea del Norte a seguir el ejemplo.

Sin embargo, la moratoria presidencial todavía tendrá que traducirse en un cambio legislativo permanente contra la pena de muerte, un proceso que deberá pasar por el parlamento, dominado por la oposición comunista y que no ha apoyado la decisión de Elbegdorj.

La organización estima que al menos 1.838 personas fueron ejecutadas en 11 países de Asia en 2008, más que todo el conjunto del resto del mundo.

Se da la circunstancia de que Naciones Unidas tiene previsto este año revisar la situación de los derechos humanos en Mongolia, un país que tiene apenas 2,8 millones de habitantes, de los que un tercio vive por debajo del umbral internacional de la pobreza.

Según datos de la ONU, Mongolia ocupa el puesto 114 de 177 en el último informe de desarrollo humano, a pesar de su riqueza en yacimientos minerales, muchos de ellos aún vírgenes.



Mongolian president calls for end to death penalty

By Jargal Byambasuren

ULAN BATOR, Jan 14 - Mongolia's president called for an end to the death penalty and pledged a moratorium on executions on Thursday, an unusual step in Asia where the death penalty is an integral part of most countries' justice systems.

Information about the death penalty, including details about those awaiting death, is a state secret in Mongolia.

Mongolia executed at least one person in 2008, compared with over 1,700 in China, 111 in the United States and 15 in North Korea, according to Amnesty data.

"Mongolia is a dignified country ... and our citizens are dignified people," President Tsakhia Elbegdorj said in a speech to Mongolia's parliament, the Great Hural.

"Therefore, I ask Mongolia to put behind us this death penalty which degrades our dignity to death," he said. "The road democratic Mongolia has to take ought to be clean and bloodless."

Elbegdorj, who opposed the death penalty while member of parliament, has commuted the death sentences of at least three people since he took office in mid-2009.

Amnesty International hailed the move as a "key step toward full abolition of the death penalty" by a country it ranks alongside North Korea for the secrecy in which it veils its executions.

Amnesty, which campaigns for the complete abolition of the death penalty in all countries, has lobbied for Mongolia to eliminate the punishment as it reforms its criminal code.

A draft code reserves capital punishment for premeditated murder and assassination of a state or public official, but removes it for rape, banditry, terrorism, sabotage and genocide.

"Prison conditions for death row inmates are reported to be poor. Families are not notified in advance of the execution and the bodies of those executed are not returned to the family," Amnesty said in its statement hailing Elbegdorj's announcement.

About nine people are thought to be on death row in Mongolia.

Mongolia has had previous moratoria on executions, including one in the early 1950s.

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