President Kh.Battulga went ahead with his stated effort to reinstate the death penalty for individuals charged with rape, murder, torture, and aggravated murder against children.
On November 27, the President sent an official letter to the Minister of Justice and Internal Affairs Ts.Nyamdorj advocating for the reinstatement of the capital punishment in severe cases involving children as victims.
In October, the President made a statement to the media outlining his efforts to reinstate capital punishment in Mongolia, explaining that Mongolia had not yet reached a stage of development socially where it can afford to abolish capital punishment.
“Mongolia’s society has not reached a stage where it can abolish capital punishment. We cannot talk about abolishing capital punishment when individuals in our society have not been fully adapted to society. Only when our society stabilizes, can we discuss abolishing capital punishment,” stated the President.
“Up until 2012, Mongolia imposed capital punishment on those found guilty of rape or sexual assault against a minor. Capital punishment was abolished in 2012, becoming approved in December 2015 and coming into effect on July 1, 2017. Capital punishment has been removed from the newly amended Criminal Law,” the President’s statement continued.
Surprisingly, President Kh.Battulga mentioned Ikh Zasag, a secret written code of law created by Chinggis Khaan, when justifying the use of capital punishment. He described how people caught washing their clothes in flowing rivers and traitors were punishable by death in Chinggis Khaan’s empire.
The main basis on the President’s efforts to push for a reinstatement of the death penalty has been a string of publicized cases of rape, murder, and aggravated murder involving children. The majority of pundits and the Mongolian public agreed that the heinous crimes that have taken place recently have been a shock to the Mongolian people.
In his letter to Minister Ts.Nyamdorj, the President referenced the National Human Rights Commission’s report which indicated that a child as young as a year and four months old had been a victim of rape. The President also mentioned in his letter that the same report showed that 298 children aged from two to seven have been victims of rape.
However, one peculiar statistic that the President brought up was the rate of abortions of women aged 20 or younger. Specifically, he mentioned that 1,613 girls between the ages of 12 and 17 had given birth, and that 1,668 abortions were reported among individuals younger than 20. Kh.Battulga linked these rates to unwanted pregnancies and rape committed against children.
The President mentioned that more than 58 countries around the world still employ the death penalty, specifically naming Russia, China, and South Korea. He also brought up chemical castration used in countries such as France, Poland, Germany, and Switzerland.
How to address the issue and specifically how to punish the convicted has been where many have diverged from the President’s stance. One vocal advocate against the reinstatement of the death penalty is O.Munkhsaikhan, doctor of law and associate professor at the School of Law, National University of Mongolia.
O.Munkhsaikhan he actively sought to abolish capital punishment in 2015 and succeeded. In light of President’s Kh.Battulga’s efforts to undo much of what has been accomplished in the last 10 years, Doctor O.Munkhsaikhan has been actively advocating against the President’s efforts to reinstate the death penalty.
O.Munkhsaikhan stated that Mongolia is obligated by the Second Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to abolish the death penalty. However, President Kh.Battulga has stated that Mongolia has the right to reservations and does not have to be obligated by the Second Protocol that abolishes the death penalty.
Outside of Mongolia’s obligations in terms of international conventions and covenants, Doctor O.Munkhsaikhan has outlined seven reasons why the death penalty should remain abolished.
One crucial factor according to O.Munkhsaikhan is that the death penalty has been and can be imposed wrongfully on someone innocent. He brought up specific cases mentioned in a book by attorney L.Ninjbat, where a brother was accused of raping his sister and subsequently executed. Five years later, it was determined that the brother was innocent and the real perpetrator was found.
Another case was an individual named Erdene-Ochir in Zavkhan Province who was in prison for six years and had been called for the death penalty three times. Eventually, he was found innocent and not executed. O.Munkhsaikhan said that a study showed that criminal cases have a 20 to 30 percent chance of reaching the wrong verdict.
“Even if we improved our courts and our legal system greatly, it is still impossible to create a system without any flaws,” said O.Munkhsaikhan.
On that basis alone, many have advocated for Mongolia to not reinstate the death penalty based on emotions. The Mongolian public has sympathized with the victims and their families and some have gone further to call for the death penalty, what many have called a knee-jerk reaction to the horrendous crimes.
Many have criticized the President for using the death penalty as a political tool to appease the Mongolian public. Indeed the President’s statement that Mongolia had not developed enough as a society is far from the truth. It is not as if Mongolia is the only country to fall victim to these types of crimes. It happens all around the world and countries only vary on how they handle the situation. Referencing the Ikh Zasag of the 13th century to justify the use of the death penalty in Mongolia’s modern democratic society is simply not conducive to the country’s values.
It is hard to fault the families of victims and the Mongolian people in general for wanting justice for the horrific crimes that have occurred recently. However, it would be a short-sighted and irrational to reinstate the death penalty based on emotion with all things considered. The absence of the death penalty does not equal the absence of justice.