G.Uyanga, former Member of Parliament and Civil Society and Human Rights advisor to President Kh.Battulga, sat down with Unuudur to defend Kh.Battulga’s proposal to reinstate capital punishment.
The President’s wish to reinstate the death penalty has been the subject of much debate and division in Mongolia. As an advisor to the President, what is your stance on the death penalty?
People expressing their opinions on a controversial topic and taking sides is one thing. For us, finding a solution is what’s important. The President has proposed his solution.
First of all, President Kh.Battulga has made it clear that at no point during his term as President will he pardon any individuals convicted of heinous crimes against children. There are many convicted criminals who ask for pardons from the President. From 2014 until November 2017, the President’s Office received more than 400 requests for pardons, 22 of which were granted. Starting from now, those who have committed horrible crimes will not be considered for pardons. This is one solution.
Second, the President has proposed to reinstate the death penalty. In order to reinstate capital punishment, Parliament needs to legislate it. Whether it does or not is up to Parliament.
After a 13-year-old girl was reported to have died as a result of rape, there were many calls from the public to reinstate the death penalty. There has been criticism that the President has made an irrational decision based on emotion in light of the news. Is this true?
The President took these cases that have shocked the whole country very seriously from the start. He has met with the National Human Rights Commission and the National Institute of Forensic Science to get information on specific cases, international experience, and he has paid close attention to public opinion.
As the sum of all this, the President officially sent a formal letter of request to the Minister of Justice and Internal Affairs. President Kh.Battulga mentioned a few of the statistics from the National Human Rights Commission in his letter to Minister (of Justice and Internal Affairs) Ts.Nyamdorj.
In 2016 alone, more than 298 children aged two to seven had become victims of sexual abuse. We do not know how many similar cases go unreported. This is a horrific statistic for Mongolians. The most recent decision by the President was based on research and designed to reverse what the previous President enacted based on emotion. It would be irrational to conclude that President Kh.Battulga’s decision was driven by emotion or overreaction. The reality of the situation demands this type of action.
It has been said that many people have demanded the President to reinstate the death penalty. If it is not a secret, how many requests did the President receive? In other words, would it be correct to say that the number of those in favor of reinstating the death penalty outnumber those that oppose it?
Targeted surveys showed us that the majority of participants supported the reinstatement of the death penalty. In a survey amongst lawyers, legal researchers, and legal professionals, 83 percent voted that it was necessary to reinstate the death penalty while only 13 percent voted against.
In another survey asking participants whether it was necessary for Mongolia to abolish the death penalty, more than 22 percent of experts said that it was necessary to abolish it immediately, while 24 percent said it was right to gradually abolish and 50 percent said it was not necessary to abolish it.
In studies amongst citizens, the number of those supporting the reinstatement of the death penalty was much higher. But this is only one statistic. As I have mentioned, these types of decisions are not made by the public’s will. We have looked and taken into consideration the opposition’s arguments.
Even at a time when Mongolia still imposed capital punishment, there were horrific cases reported such as one involving a six-month-old baby. Is there any guarantee that reinstating the death penalty will make Mongolia peaceful and decrease rape?
The thinking and the end goal behind the death penalty is not to ensure peace in society and to reduce rape. Action needs to be taken by the government to improve the lives of the Mongolian people and to help improve their mentality. In any great society, there are horrific cases. Therefore, it is simply a matter of what punishment will be imposed on those convicted. Ensuring justice means imposing the appropriate punishment for those convicted of crimes.
It has been said by many academicians that the reputation of Mongolia internationally had improved substantially as a result of the abolishment of the death penalty. As a result, the push to reinstate it has been criticized as reckless. What do you say to this?
The death penalty was a legal form of criminal punishment in accordance to the Constitution, and in 2010, when President Ts.Elbegdorj said that Mongolia would not be employing the death penalty, he was violating the Constitution. At the peak of our legal system is the Constitution, all other legislature is drafted in accordance to the Constitution. If the head of state does not follow the Constitution, who will? A guideline that needs to be regarded by everyone is the Constitution.
Mongolia does have some experience in reinstating the death penalty. Two times has Mongolia abolished the death penalty only to reinstate it. In a decree on August 5, 1953, it was stated that Mongolia would not be using the death penalty in peacetime. But in light of heinous crimes, one year and four months later in June 1954, death by firing squad was reinstated for punishment of severe crimes.
In 2012, Mongolia ratified enrollment into the Second Protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. In accordance to the Second Protocol, Mongolia is obligated to abolish the death penalty. If Mongolia backs out of the Second Protocol, there are those who say that it will damage Mongolia’s reputation internationally. Isn’t it too late to back out now?
In order to exit out of an international agreement or protocol, an explanation must be sent to all member states in the protocol. If no member states outright oppose the decision in the minimum period of three months, the member country may secede out of a protocol. The UN Charter states that if any member states oppose the decision, there are other ways of compromise and negotiation.
The President has reiterated sentiment that moving forward, Mongolia must not accede into various international agreements and protocols driven by emotion but based on research and facts.
The reputation of Mongolia is not measured by what conventions it joins or exits but the competence of Mongolia and how its citizens are living. The children who are victims of sexual abuse are more of a pressing issue.
In Article 16.1 of the Criminal Law of Mongolia, it states that the government may not execute any individual with the expectation of a death sentence ruled by a court. In Article 10.4 of the same law, it states that Mongolia will not be obliged to abide by conventions, agreements, or protocols that are in conflict with the Constitution.
In Article 29 of the Law on International Conventions, it states that a move to null, exit, or suspend Mongolia’s obligation to an international convention will be proposed by Cabinet and ultimately decided by Parliament.
Do you believe that reinstating capital punishment is a solution to helping reduce sexual abuse and rape? Is there any guarantee that it will not be used to execute an innocent individual or kill individuals based on political motivations?
The President has clearly differentiated which crimes would warrant the death penalty. It is not necessary to try and pervert the purpose of the President’s proposal. It is irrelevant to discuss political prosecution and genocide when we are discussing the issue of imposing a just punishment for those who have committed horrific crimes. Mongolia is a democracy; there are not instances of individuals executed for their political beliefs.
There is criticism that you are a human rights advisor to the President that actively advocates for the death penalty. What do you say to this?
This issue is not a matter of one person’s wish. It is not based on somebody’s wish. It is a discussion that was born out of reality.
In fact, it is not something that can be decided based on the will or wish of one individual. The body that will ultimately make the decision in regards to the death penalty is Parliament. It is not logically sound to be discussing the rights of a victim and a person who has committed murder in the same breath. It is the duty of the government to instate the correct system. Through this, it is the best way to ensure that justice and human rights are upheld. The Mongolian government has the discretion to take all and any measure to ensure that Mongolia does not become a country where children are the victims of horrific perverted crimes and murder.
The rule of law does not only punish but determines justice. It is more appropriate to look at the issue from its core. In the end, we are not talking about taking someone’s life but rather establishing and ensuring justice in Mongolia.