Death penalty executions on the rise: Amnesty International

Amnesty International reports that there was a dramatic 54 per cent increase in executions globally in 2015, with Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia responsible for nearly 90 per cent of the killings.


The human rights organisation said that the figure of at least 1,634 people executed last year – up from 1,061 in 2014 – does not include executions in China where data on the death penalty is considered a state secret.

Amnesty International’s secretary general Salil Shetty told several reporters on Tuesday that for China “our estimate is that they execute as much as the rest of the world”.

He said China is currently reviewing crimes punishable by the death penalty so there is “a slim ray of hope” that the number of executions may be reduced.

On the upside, Shetty said, four countries abolished the death penalty for all crimes in 2015 – Republic of Congo, Fiji, Madagascar and Surinam – bringing the global total of countries now banning executions to 102.

Other countries have also made progress: Mongolia is set to abolish the death penalty this year, China and Vietnam reduced the number of offences that can be punished by death, and Malaysia announced legislative reforms to review the country’s mandatory death penalty laws, Amnesty said.

In addition, Burkina Faso, Guinea, Kenya and South Korea considered legislation to abolish the death penalty, it said.

When Amnesty International began campaigning against the death penalty in 1977, only 16 countries had fully abolished the death penalty.

“The overall trend is very clear,” Shetty said, “more than half the world’s nations have abolished the death penalty.”

According to the report, the number of executions recorded in Saudi Arabia increased by 76 per cent to 158. Executions in Iran rose 31 per cent to 977 and the 326 executions in Pakistan were the highest ever recorded by Amnesty International.

Amnesty said it received information that both Iran and Pakistan executed people in 2015 who were under the age of 18 when their crimes were committed, and it said juveniles face the death sentence in several other countries.

In the United States, 28 people were executed in 2015, nearly half in Texas, the most active death penalty state, which put 13 people to death, the report said. Missouri executed six people, Georgia five, Florida two and Oklahoma and Virginia one each. Amnesty said 60 per cent of those executed were black or Hispanic, double their percentage in the population.

On the plus side, Amnesty pointed to the governor of Pennsylvania establishing a moratorium on executions last year and the legislature in Nebraska overriding the governor’s veto of a bill abolishing the death penalty.

Arrium future bleak after shares suspended

Troubled steel and mining group Arrium has moved closer to the edge after suspending trading in its shares on the ASX.


Shares in the cash-starved company have been in a trading halt since Monday, after its lenders rejected the firm’s $US927 million ($A1.23 billion) funding deal with Blackstone’s alternative asset manager GSO Capital Partners.

Its shares were due to come out of the trading halt on Wednesday morning, but instead Arrium said a voluntary suspension would remain in place until further announcement in relation to the discussions with its lenders.

“The company expects to make that further announcement within a week,” Arrium said in a statement to the ASX, indicating a struggle to reach an agreement with the lenders about the recapitalisation of the company.

The South Australia-based steel group has been weighed down by a $2.1 billion debt load amid a prolonged commodities downturn.

In February, it warned it might mothball its Whyalla steel plant and mining operations in South Australia – putting thousands of jobs at risk – if it couldn’t reduce costs. The company had reported a first-half net loss of $235.8 million.

Arrium’s lenders – which include Australia’s four major banks, several global banks and US bond holders – this week rejected the GSO rescue package that would have involved them taking a sharp haircut on their debt.

The banks have instead pushed the struggling company to go into voluntary administration, with the administrator to be handpicked by the lenders, the Australian Financial Review newspaper has reported.

Arrium’s directors have also offered to resign, the paper said on Wednesday.

A company spokesman declined to comment on the media reports.

Arrium, formerly known as OneSteel, operates a 1.2 million tonnes a year steel plant at Whyalla on SA’s Eyre Peninsula, which is bleeding cash in the face of a collapse in steel prices and cheaper Chinese imports.

It also owns smaller but more modern plants in Melbourne and Sydney.

Arrium’s board previously considered, and rejected, the sale of its only profitable division – the Moly-Cop mining consumables business.

Moly-Cop is the world’s largest supplier of grinding media used for crushing and grinding in the mining and construction industries.

Earlier on Wednesday, Arrium said it had appointed Anthony Brooks as interim finance head after chief financial officer Robert Bakewell resigned to move to building products group Brickworks.

Arrium shares, which have lost more than 80 per cent of their value in the past three months, last traded at 2.2 cents.

Court rejects divisive Gold Coast mosque

Opponents of a proposed Gold Coast mosque have had a major victory after a court rejected the Muslim place of worship because it’s simply “too big”.


Queensland’s Planning and Environment Court dismissed an appeal from the mosque’s proponents on Wednesday, 18 months after the proposal was knocked back by the Gold Coast City Council.

The plan to convert a Currumbin Waters warehouse into a mosque had sparked massive outcry in the community, with thousands submitting objections to the development.

It would have been the second mosque on the Gold Coast, with the region’s Muslims already served by the Arundel mosque in the city’s north.

It was estimated the proposed mosque would have needed to accommodate 650 people for compulsory Friday prayers in 10 to 15 years.

Planning and Environment Court Judge William Everson said while there was a clear and demonstrable need for the mosque, the one proposed conflicted with planning scheme provisions.

“It is simply too big for the site,” Judge Everson said in his judgment.

“There would be a massive demand for off-site car parking during Friday prayers.

“The peak demand for off-street parking would occur during business hours … this would interfere with the operations of these (nearby industrial) businesses in a major way.”

The mosque’s proponents, Salsabil Charitable Organisation, took the case to court after the Gold Coast City Council rejected the proposed mosque at a heated meeting in September 2014.

Opponents are already celebrating Wednesday’s court judgment, with some describing it as great news on Facebook.

“Our community owes a debt of gratitude to the small group of Currumbin Residents who kept this fight alive right to the end to save our wonderful community from unwelcome and unwanted change,” one wrote.

Bring back the WA derby biff, says Lyon

“Bring back the biff.


Let’s get it rocking.”

This war cry from Fremantle coach Ross Lyon on Wednesday would have filled the hearts of western derby traditionalists with a warm and fuzzy feeling.

Could the derby fisticuffs of old be making a return?

But, well, he’s only joking. We think so anyway.

Not since the demolition derby in round 21, 2000 have things gotten totally chaotic between West Coast and Fremantle.

Sure there’s been flashpoints since then, but the all-out brawls have been left behind.

Or have they?

Both teams will enter Saturday night’s derby at Domain Stadium feeling like they’ve got a score to settle.

In the last match between the two sides, Fremantle defender Alex Silvagni copped a four-match ban for his crude off-the-ball hit on Jamie Cripps.

But the biggest controversy was the biting incident involving Chris Masten and Nick Suban.

Masten copped a two-week ban after being found guilty of biting Suban’s arm, with the Docker requiring antibiotics to avoid infection.

The tribunal meeting became a frosty affair, with Suban later accused of breaking the players’ code of silence.

The bad blood from that derby could very well carry over into Saturday night.

And even though Lyon was only tongue in cheek when talking about bringing back the biff, he did little to play down the potential for emotions to spill over.

“Anything’s possible,” Lyon said.

“I’m not out there mate. I sit in the comfort of the box. I’ll leave it to the players to sort out. I’m sure they’ll be fine.”

Masten is almost certain to return for the derby after tallying 28 disposals in the WAFL last week in his first match back from an ankle injury.

West Coast coach Adam Simpson said he wouldn’t need to talk to Masten about the biting incident ahead of the midfielder’s potential re-match with Suban.

“It’s a long time ago. And every game presents different issues and energies,” Simpson said.

“I’m not going to touch on that.”

Both sides enter the match desperate for victory on the back of poor performances on the weekend.

Fremantle are in danger of slipping out of the premiership race after opening their season with losses to the Western Bulldogs and Gold Coast.

West Coast are licking their wounds following Sunday’s 46-point loss to Hawthorn in the grand final re-match at the MCG.

Eagles midfielders Luke Shuey (ankle) and Liam Duggan (ankle) face fitness tests this week, while Lyon will consider handing Jon Griffin a recall to help counter the influence of West Coast ruck duo Nic Naitanui and Scott Lycett.

Dockers veteran Matthew Pavlich is expected to play despite copping a knock to the hip in last week’s 26-point loss to the Suns.

Sydney siege: Manager’s last words emerge at inquest

Not long before Lindt Cafe gunman Man Haron Monis executed manager Tori Johnson, another Sydney siege hostage heard him order someone to drop to their knees.


What are believed to be Mr Johnson’s final words have emerged at the inquest into the December 2014 ordeal, with captive Selina Win Pe saying she heard a male voice with an Australian accent slowly say “Oh my God” moments before a shotgun blast.

“It was an absolutely fearful (plea),” she said on Wednesday.

“A very dire, sad, frightened last call for help.”

Hostage Julie Taylor also gave evidence on Wednesday, the first time she has spoken about the ordeal, breaking down when asked to describe Mr Johnson.

“He showed amazing bravery and was very calm,” she said.

Ms Taylor said she thought Mr Johnson could have easily escaped, given his knowledge of the building, and praised his enormous strength of character for remaining with the hostages.

The inquest also heard Ms Taylor almost walked from the Sydney siege in its early moments but was stopped close to the exit and ended up running for her life hours later.

As Ms Taylor and friend Katrina Dawson were about to leave the cafe, Monis ordered staff to lock doors and told the 18 people inside the cafe they couldn’t go.

Soon after Monis appeared to change his mind and said the two female barristers were “nice” and could leave.

But as they neared the door he yelled “stop, put your hands up”, Ms Taylor told the inquest.

“We were almost at the door,” she said.

Ms Taylor, who was pregnant at the time, and Ms Dawson had almost escaped with colleague Stefan Balafoutis, but froze facing out of the cafe after Monis screamed for them to halt.

From what she heard, Ms Taylor believed Monis then moved his captives about the cafe, trying to position people in windows to increase attention on his attack.

“I was frightened that he was going to shoot us in the back,” she said.

While the trio were near the doors, Mr Balafoutis suggested they should escape, but Ms Taylor was too scared to leave.

Monis had threatened to kill one hostage for every one which escaped.

“I couldn’t live with someone being shot because of our escape,” Ms Taylor said.

Monis kept Ms Taylor close to him all day and she didn’t believe escaping was a possibility.

But when a group of hostages made a dash for safety in the early hours of December 16, Ms Taylor decided to run too.

She was wearing stockings and slipped on the polished marble floors as she sprinted out of the cafe.

Monis fired at the group as they were fleeing.

“It felt like there were bullets next to my head,” she said.

Mr Johnson, Ms Dawson and the gunman died in the final moments of the siege as police stormed the cafe.

The inquest continues.

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