Death Penalty

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Southeast Asia: Indonesia Constitutional Court Upholds Death Penalty For Drug Offenses

Indonesia's Constitutional Court ruled Tuesday that sentencing drug offenders to death does not violate the constitution. The ruling came in a case lodged by three Australians who face execution for trying to smuggle heroin out of Indonesia.

The three were among the "Bali Nine," a group of Australians busted together. Six were sentenced to death, two got life in prison, and one got 20 years. The ruling will be a blow to them, as well as to the 134 other people on death row in the archipelago, most of them there for drug offenses.

The Australians argued that the Indonesian constitution's clause on the right to life overrode the criminal code's stipulation that serious crimes can be punished by death. The constitutional court disagreed.

The death penalty for drug offenses continues to have strong support among Indonesian government officials, judges and prosecutors, and law enforcement. At least eight people have been executed there since 2000.

Death Penalty: Iran Executes Five More Drug Traders, Australian Faces Ultimate Sanction Over Half Ounce of Hash in Bali

Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian countries continue to set the pace when it comes to executing drug offenders. Iran appears to be on an especially torrid pace, but this week Indonesian prosecutors were the most outrageous.

In Bali, 50-year-old Australian businessman Barry Hess could face the death penalty after prosecutors there decided to charge him with drug trafficking upon his being caught with 14 grams of hashish and 2.7 grams of marijuana in his home. It is only one of the offenses prosecutors have charged him with; the most lenient, being an unregistered drug addict, carries a six-month jail sentence. Prosecutors will present their case, then tell judges what charge and penalty they think is most appropriate. The judges, however, are not bound by those recommendations.

Meanwhile, the international death penalty abolitionist group Hands Off Cain reported that authorities in Birjand in northeast Iran had tried and executed five men for trafficking in opium and opiates. They had been caught traveling from Zahedan with nearly 3,000 pounds of opium, 120 pounds of morphine, and 16 pounds of heroin. The men were put to death after "official formalities," the correspondent noted.

The International Coalition Against the Death Penalty reports that Iran has executed 265 people so far this year, well ahead of the 140 executed all of last year. It is unknown how many of them were drug law offenders.

Death Penalty: Four More Drug Offenders Sentenced to Death in Vietnam, 17 Hung in Iran

Four more people have been sentenced to death for drug trafficking offenses in Vietnam in the past week. Meanwhile, Iran reported that it had executed 17 drug traffickers earlier this month.

Under Vietnamese law, anyone convicted of possessing or trafficking more than 600 grams (about 1 ¼ pounds) of heroin or 44 pounds of opium is eligible for the death penalty. Under Iranian law drug trafficking is one of numerous offenses that can garner the death penalty.

In Hanoi People's Court on September 14, three members of the same extended family were sentenced to death for trafficking four pounds of heroin. Two other members of the organization received life sentences, while four others received sentences ranging from 10 months to 20 years. All were convicted of bringing heroin from northern mountainous Son La province to Hanoi between June and August of 2006.

On Tuesday, the Ho Chi Minh City People's Court announced it had sentenced a 40-year-old Australian citizen to death for heroin trafficking. Nguyen Hong Viet was arrested at the Ho Chi Minh City airport with nearly 950 grams of heroin in his clothing as he waited to board a flight to Sydney. Viet told police he was paid $10,000 to carry the drugs to Australia.

"Prosecutors find that with the amount of heroin trafficked, the defendant deserved the highest and most severe punishment so that society can prevent this crime and have educational impact on others," the Ho Chi Minh City People's Court said in a statement.

Viet is one of at least five Australians of Vietnamese descent who have been sentenced to death for drug trafficking in Vietnam. None have yet been executed.

Meanwhile, Iranian state television tersely announced another round of executions. "After legal procedures, 17 individuals were hanged on the charges of drug smuggling in Khorasan Razavi province this morning," the official outlet reported, on September 5.

Along with Iran and Saudi Arabia in the Middle East, Vietnam and its Southeast Asian neighbors Malaysia and Singapore are world leaders in executing drug offenders.

Death Penalty: Two More Drug Offenders Executed in Iran, Six Sentenced to Die in Vietnam

The death penalty continues to be inflicted on drug offenders, primarily in Southeast Asia and the Middle East. According to Hands Off Cain, a Rome-based anti-death penalty organization affiliated with the nonviolent Radical movement, Iran executed two drug offenders last week, while Vietnam sentenced six others to death.

In Iran, two men identified only as Ali D. and Karim T. were hanged September 6 in the port city of Bandar Abbas for trafficking in heroin and opium. Under Iranian law, the death penalty can be inflicted for possession of more than 30 grams of heroin or five kilograms of opium. Iranian law also allows the death penalty for murder, armed robbery, apostasy, adultery, prostitution, homosexuality, and plotting to overthrow the government. Iranian authorities say most executions are carried out against drug offenders, but human rights groups believe many people executed for drug crimes in Iran may in fact be political opponents of the regime.

Meanwhile, a court in northern Vietnam has sentenced six men to death and two others to life in prison for trafficking in heroin. The sentences were handed down in the People's Court of Thanh Hoa province in a case involving 4.66 kilograms of heroin. Under Vietnamese drug laws, among the toughest in the world, possession or smuggling 100 grams of heroin or five kilograms of opium is punishable by death. The Vietnamese People's Supreme Court issued slightly more lenient sentencing guidelines in 2001 -- capital punishment only for smuggling more than 600 grams of heroin -- but those guidelines are not strictly implemented.

Middle East: More Drug Executions in Saudi Arabia

Three drug offenders were among five people executed in Saudi Arabia last Friday, one of the busiest days for the executioner there in some time. According to the Saudi interior ministry, the total number of executions so far this year now stands at 117, four more than the number executed in all of 2000, the previous record high year.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/saudi-arabia-map.jpg
In Riyadh, Pakistani national Omar Sardar was executed for "smuggling heroin concealed in his stomach." His compatriot, Jahangir Zarin Bin Adam Khan Mhanid was executed in Jeddah for the same offense. Nigerian Nureddin Mohammed was also executed in Jeddah, for cocaine trafficking.

The other two people executed last Friday were Pakistani nationals convicted of robbing taxis.

In an International Harm Reduction Association report on drug executions issued last month, the author cited Amnesty International as finding that 26 of 50 Saudi executions in 2004 were for drug offenses and "at least" 33 more occurred in 2005. There are no figures yet available for last year.

According to the IHRA report, the number of countries that have death penalty provisions for drug offenses has climbed from 22 in 1985 to 34 this year. While nearly three dozen countries, including the US, have the death penalty for some drug offenses, actual executions have only been carried out in China, Egypt, Indonesia, Kuwait, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

10 Ugandans face death in China over narcotics

Location: 
China
Publication/Source: 
The Monitor (Uganda)
URL: 
http://www.monitor.co.ug/news/news07021.php

Feature: UN Releases Annual Drug Report, Countries Mark International Day Against Drugs With Bonfires, Propaganda Exercises, Death Sentences

The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) issued its 2007 World Drug Report Tuesday, the same day as it marked its annual International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. While the UNODC claimed it was making substantial progress in the fight against drugs by "stabilizing" global drug use levels, critics pointed out that that was a far cry from UNODC's mission of substantially eradicating all drug crops by next year and that "stability" meant only the continuation of the repressive status quo.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/chinadrugburning.jpg
drug burning in China marking the UN's International Anti-Drugs Day
Part of that status quo is UNODC's annual anti-drug day. While it appears to have been pretty well ignored in Europe and North America -- either no events took place or they were deemed unworthy of coverage by the media -- anti-drug day is an occasion for public meetings, ceremonial drug burnings, and sometimes, worse, in those parts of the world with the stiffest anti-drug postures, particularly the Middle East and Asia.

And so it was this year, with ceremonial drug burnings to mark anti-drug day taking place in Mozambique, Myanmar, Thailand, and Uzbekistan.

Meanwhile, authorities in Iran, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Tanzania,
the United Arab Emirates, and Vietnam marked anti-drug day with public assemblies, educational events, and special ceremonies. In Vietnam, authorities celebrated anti-drug day by ordering a crackdown until September 26.

But once again, it was actions by China that were the most dramatic and drew the most concern from drug reform, harm reduction, and human rights activists. In past years, China celebrated anti-drug day with executions of drug trafficking offenders -- as many as 460 in recent years, according to press reports compiled by the US-based Harm Reduction Coalition.

This year, there were no anti-drug day executions reported in China. But Chinese authorities did announce death sentences for seven drug traffickers on anti-drug day eve and announced one more on anti-drug day itself.

"We have observed a declining resort to the death penalty in both the US and China," said Richard Dieter, head of Death Penalty Information Center. "Although China uses it much more than the US, they have agreed to be more discerning and review more cases in their high courts. I think we will see a decline in the death penalty in China," he predicted.

"We don't want to see drug offenders executed," said Allan Clear, head of the Harm Reduction Coalition. "But we also don't want the UN to set up this day without drugs and then have member states run out and execute people as a show of good faith. We want the UN to step up and say that is not what they intended. UN Secretary-General Moon has made comments to the effect that it should be up to member states, and we think that is appalling," Clear said.

In fact, the Harm Reduction Coalition wrote a letter to Moon last month urging him to take action. The letter called on Moon to "condemn China's use of executions and death sentences to commemorate International Day Against Drugs as severe human rights violations and to make a public call to halt this practice. Progress against the problem of drugs and related issues, including the HIV epidemic, must be founded upon a solid respect and enforcement of human rights for all," the letter stated.

"It's good that there have been no reported executions," said Clear, "but I don't think we can actually claim a victory if they are still using the day as a reason to sentence people to death."

Clear said that a number of regional human rights and harm reduction groups joined the Harm Reduction Coalition in sending letters to the UN urging it to intervene against states using the death penalty to mark anti-drug day. But a number of other groups decided to wait.

While there is some dissension in the harm reduction and human rights ranks about how best to go after the use of the death penalty in drug cases, an international movement against it is forming. The International Harm Reduction Association and Human Rights Watch are spearheading a campaign centered on October 10, the international day against the death penalty.

"We've agreed to work with all the regional networks in an effort coordinated by Human Rights Watch and IHRA," said Clear. "That will happen later this year."

If the excesses of the international anti-drug day are drawing criticism, so is UNODC's annual report, with critics calling it everything from rose-tinted to meaningless. UNODC claimed that coca production was down in the Andes, a claim undercut by US figures released just weeks earlier that showed an increase. Similarly, UNODC claimed success in eradicating opium production in Laos, which pales in significance compared to the massive increase in production in Afghanistan, which accounts for nearly 95% of the global supply.

"The methods of estimating global drug use and drug production are very imprecise and notoriously unstandardized," said Dutch drug policy researcher Peter Cohen. "The text will say what is needed at the moment. It is tailored to cater to global moods and UN funding needs. All of these UN drug reports are political expressions, and the UNODC's trick is to somehow make people believe their Politburo reports have some significance," he argued. "It's best to ignore them."

The European Coalition for Just and Effective Drug Policies (ENCOD) was similarly scathing, noting that while UNODC claimed overall stability, "repression is rising." Stability means the status quo, ENCOD complained: "Stability in this case means that current drug policies place the heaviest burden among those who are already among the most marginalized in the first place… Stability means an escalation of law enforcement and repression… Stability means a war against minorities," the group continued, mentioning both Laos, where the internal resettlement of indigenous ethnic communities that formerly grew opium has pushed mortality rates through the roof, and the United States, where racial minorities are much more likely to be incarcerated on drug charges.

The UNODC looks at global drug supplies and consumption and claims victory by running hard just to stay in the same place. The harm reduction, human rights, and drug reform community looks at the same data and sees the latest installment of a disastrous global drug prohibition regime.

(Click here for commentary by David Borden on this issue.)

Let's Celebrate UN Anti-Drug Day...By Killing People

Yesterday was the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) annual International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. Most countries that actually observe the day (mainly in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia), generally celebrate it by burning piles of drugs and holding propagandistic anti-drug events. But China really knows how to put on an anti-drug day show. Every year, it executes drug offenders on anti-drug day. This year was little different, as this headline indicates: China Approves Death Penalty for Seven Drug Traffickers:
BEIJING, June 25 (Xinhua) -- The Supreme People's Court (SPC) on Monday announced its approval of the death penalty for seven drug traffickers, a day before the International Day Against Drug Abuse and Illicit Trafficking. Gao Guijun, presiding judge of the Fifth Criminal Court under the Supreme People's Court, said that since the SPC took back the power of review over the death penalty on Jan. 1, the SPC had strictly examined death penalty cases involving drug trafficking. "Our approval of the death penalty regarding drug trafficking could stand the test of history," said Gao. Ni Shouming, the SPC's spokesman, reiterated the court's resolute stance on fighting drug trafficking, saying the court would show no leniency in handing down heavy penalties to the kingpins of drug trafficking gangs and those who participate in cross-border drug crimes.
No word yet on whether China actually executed any drug offenders yesterday, but stay tuned--I will be writing a feature article on this annual exercise for this week's Chronicle. In the meantime, happy UN anti-drug day, y'all.
Location: 
United States

Middle East: Iran Hangs Four for Drug Trafficking

Iranian authorities hanged four convicted drug traffickers Saturday in the southern port city of Bandar Abbas, according to a report from the ISNA news agency. The hangings bring the number of executions in Iran this year to 102. The Islamic republic executed 177 people last year, according to a report from Amnesty International.

The executed were Malek S., convicted of trafficking 2.3 pounds of heroin; Javad S., convicted of possessing 63 pounds of opium; and Qasem and Kavoos (no last name or initial provided), both convicted of possessing weapons and 339 pounds of opium.

Under Iranian law, capital crimes include not only murder, treason, and espionage, but also rape, armed robbery, apostasy, blasphemy, repeated sodomy, adultery, or prostitution, and serious drug trafficking offenses.

Response from former ONDCP official to my China/death penalty post

On Friday I posted a piece on China's use of the death penalty for drug offenses, criticizing the UN, and secondarily the US, for programs that I believe are inadvertently feeding into this. My criticism of the US related to a drug enforcement cooperation agreement with China that was put in place in 2000 by then-Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP) Barry McCaffrey. I got an email over the weekend from Bob Weiner, who served as ONDCP's Director of Public Affairs from 1995-2001, submitting these comments for the blog:
David, Saw your piece… The arrangement with China never was intended to mandate or magnify their death penalty -- they are choosing their own enforcement tools, which as so many human rights abuses in China are excessive. The arrangement—and I was there and organized the news conference with US (including Gen. McCaffrey) and Chinese officials—was simply to get them to agree with us in enforcing international drug laws and treaties. What we saw there, including thousands of people in treatment factories but not getting real treatment, and the unbridled flow of methamphetamine and opium, was unconscionable.
Location: 
China

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