Update: response from former ONDCP official who worked on the US-China agreement
One of the sick annual rituals in the global drug war has been China's annual round of executions of supposed drug offenders marking the occasion of the UN's "International Day against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking," held June 26th of every year. We wrote about this last year and in most previous years. I wrote an editorial about it in 2000, which went over some of the highly troubling information Amnesty International has published about China's drug death penalties, and in which I criticized then-drug czar Barry McCaffrey for putting in place an arrangement with China for cooperation in drug enforcement between our two countries, and the UN for holding this international event year after year even though they obviously are aware that it continues to prompt such carnage. I believe that handing over criminal defendants to totalitarian regimes with limited due process rights and draconian death sentences for nonviolent offenses is immoral, and makes us complicit in the human rights abuses that those nations may commit against people we wind up sending into their clutches. But the UN's annual Day doesn't even have a law enforcement justification. We have a statement from UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon about the upcoming Day online here.
I'm posting a few examples from Amnesty that illustrate why I really feel this is an important human rights issue that we as taxpayers should not be indirectly supporting, even if that puts some obstacles in the way of global policing efforts or puts a crimp in the UN's promotion of prevention and treatment programs:
The Death Penalty in China: Breaking Records, Breaking Rules, August 1997 AI report:
woman who was immediately executed
with three other people on drugs charges.
(UN International Anti-Drugs Day, 6/26/03)
www.sina.com.cn via AI web site)
In a case that is illustrative of many more, a young woman, returning to Guangzhou province from her honeymoon in Kunming in January 1996, agreed to take a package for an acquaintance in return for some money. Acting as a courier in this manner is common practice in China. It was reported that during the train journey she became suspicious about the contents of the package and tried to open it. When she found she couldnât open it she began to realize it was drugs. She then allegedly became so nervous and agitated that the ticket checker on train became suspicious and discovered the package. She was sentenced to death on 26 June 1996 by Guangxi High Peopleâs Court.AI 1998 Annual Report on China:
Ji Xiaowei, a Hong Kong citizen sentenced to death in southern China for alleged drug-trafficking, claimed on appeal that he had confessed under torture during police interrogation. The appeal court ignored his claim and confirmed the death sentence. He was executed on 18 July.AI Report 2005:
Ma Weihua, a woman facing the death penalty on drugs charges, was reportedly forced to undergo an abortion in police custody in February, apparently so that she could be put to death "legally" as Chinese law prevents the execution of pregnant women. She had been detained in January in possession of 1.6kg of heroin. Her trial, which began in July, was suspended after her lawyer provided details of the forced abortion. She was eventually sentenced to life imprisonment in November.There has been some talk in China recently of making the use of the death penalty more transparent and reducing its use, and that is welcome. Reportedly there has been about a 10% drop. But China is still the world leader in this. So is anyone interested in an international campaign to get the UN to cancel International Anti-Drugs Day and to subject global law enforcement cooperation to human rights standards? China is by no means the only country executing people for drug offenses. Write me through the site or send me an email. I'd appreciate any links you have to especially important articles or web sites dealing with this topic. Lastly, we have a topical archive on the site for the Death Penalty, here and also available via RSS.
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