In a series of notices published this week, the death penalty abolitionist group Hands Off Cain reported on both bad news and good when it comes to drugs and the death penalty. In two countries that frequently execute drug offenders, there was more of the same, but in another, there was a rare show of leniency.
In the Middle East, Saudi Arabia reported executing two men for "trafficking large amounts of drugs" on January 20. The two, Abdul Rahman Rashid and Qashaan al-Sabiee, were beheaded by swordsmen in the kingdom's Eastern Province. A third man, Mansur Jrad, a Yemeni citizen, was executed two days later in southern Jizan Province for smuggling an unspecified amount of hashish. Saudi Arabia follows a strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law, which provides for the death penalty for murder, apostasy, rape, highway robbery, sabotage and armed robbery, as well as drug trafficking.
In Southeast Asia, Vietnam sentenced three people to death for heroin trafficking on January 25. The Ho Chi Minh City Court imposed the death sentences on Van Toan, 35; Nguyen Thanh Mai, 40; and Nguyen Thuy Ngoc Bang, 25, for their role in a ring that trafficked five kilograms of heroin. Two others were given life sentences, while six remaining ring members got sentences of between 13 and 20 years. This brings to around 50 the number of death sentences announced for drug traffickers in Vietnam since the end of November.
If it was business as usual in Saudi Arabia and Vietnam, China departed from its normal practice on January 22 to pardon two Ugandan women sentenced to death for drug trafficking. The pair, Sarah Basiima and Bonita Nagai, were among 15 Ugandans awaiting execution in China for drug trafficking offenses, but were reportedly spared because of poor health and because one is pregnant and the other is the mother of an infant child. They will be deported, according to reports cited by Hands Off Cain.
The continuing executions of drug offenders by countries around the world has led to the emergence of an international campaign to end the practice. Read more about it here.