Death Penalty

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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

Is another drug war bloodbath just around the corner?

Update: response from former ONDCP official who worked on the US-China agreement Death sentence is passed against a
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) 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:
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 couldn’t 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 People’s 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.
Location: 
United States

Death Penalty: Two More Drug Offenders Sentenced in Vietnam, One Executed in Saudi Arabia

Nations in Southeast Asia and the Middle East continue to impose the death penalty on drug offenders, with two more people being sentenced to death and another one executed this week.

In Vietnam, two ethnic minority villagers were sentenced to death for smuggling heroin Monday. Fourteen others were sent to prison in a case involving 1.7 kilograms of heroin being smuggled in a three-month period last year.

"All of the 16 convicted were from the same village, and many of them were related to each other," said Pham Van Nam, the court's chief administrator. "They were all drug addicts."

In Saudi Arabia, authorities beheaded a Saudi citizen for smuggling hashish Thursday. Jari al-Dossari was arresting while receiving a large quantity of hashish and executed in Riyadh's al-Sulail province.

Under Saudi Arabia's strict interpretation of Islamic law, people convicted of murder, rape, armed robbery, and drug trafficking can be executed. And the Saudis are keeping busy -- 82 people have been executed so far this year, well ahead of the pace last year (38) and the year before (82).

Southeast Asia: More Death Sentences for Drug Offenses

Southeast Asia continues its macabre response to drug trafficking and manufacturing, with nine people being sentenced to death in Indonesia this week for manufacturing ecstasy and three more sentenced to death in Vietnam for manufacturing and trafficking in methamphetamines. Another four people were sentenced to death for heroin trafficking in Vietnam the same day. The region, along with China, is responsible for most drug offense death sentences.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/chinese_anti_drug_poster.jpg
Chinese anti-drug poster
In Indonesia, the Indonesian Supreme Court Tuesday pronounced death sentences on a French man, a Dutch man, two Indonesians, and five Chinese men. The Europeans were the manufacturing experts, the Indonesians ran day-to-day manufacturing, and the Chinese funded the whole venture, which produced millions of ecstasy tablets.

"The Supreme Court considers the Frenchman and Dutchman experts," said Justice Djoko Sarwoko. "If we let them be, they would be able to produce in other place, or teach others their skills. This is a threat to the next generation." [Ed: The judge's statement is Orwellian -- even if one were to agree that the defendants should be prevented from manufacturing drugs in the future, that could be accomplished by methods other than execution.]

That same day, the People's Court of Ho Chi Minh City pronounced death sentences on three men and a woman for buying methamphetamine powder in neighboring Cambodia, pressing it into pills of various colors and shapes, and selling them to customers in the city. One other man was sentenced to life in prison, while 17 other codefendants were sentenced to prison terms ranging from five to 18 years.

"They produced and sold 24,000 pills weighing up to 6 kilograms in the period between 2003 and March 2005, when the ring was busted," said presiding Judge Vu Phi Long said. "This is one of the largest non-heroin drug cases so far."

Meanwhile, in the People's Court of Son La province imposed the death sentence Tuesday on three men for trafficking in less than 35 pounds of heroin. A woman in the case was sentenced to life in prison.

Under Vietnamese sentencing guidelines, possession, distributing, manufacturing, or smuggling more than 600 grams (approximately 1.25 pounds) of heroin or 2500 grams (a little more than five pounds) of synthetic drugs is punishable by death. Vietnam has now sentenced 22 drug offenders to death this year.

Vietnam and the nine other member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand) have vowed to create a drug-free region by 2015.

Vermont Mayor Says Execute Drug Dealers, Legalize Marijuana

The increasingly obvious failure of the drug war is spawning some odd discussions this year. There's Joe Biden and Dan Burton calling for biological warfare in South America. There's a crazy former DEA agent promising a one-year turnaround if we bust all the "druggies" and force them to stop partying. Lou Dobbs is really frustrated too, and someone should talk to him before he starts racially profiling people and asking for consent to search.

But the prize might go to Barre, VT Mayor Thomas Lauzon who wants to try some of everything. From The Times Argus:
BARRE – Mayor Thomas Lauzon on Saturday said he hoped the Legislature would consider imposing the death penalty on convicted crack and heroin dealers, and to legalize marijuana.

Failing that, the mayor said, he would call for a public forum in Barre to kick off a statewide discussion about the growing drug problem in Vermont and steps – including the death penalty and legalization — to control the situation.
Sounds like an episode of South Park. If the citizens of Vermont indulge him, this could be a highly entertaining public forum. For my money, Vermont is much more likely to legalize marijuana than execute anyone (they haven’t imposed the death penalty in 50 years).

Expect to hear plenty more crazy talk of executing drug dealers and such this year. And don't be surprised to see more politicians calling for marijuana policy reform. The failure of the drug war is all around us and people are talking about it, for better or worse.

The drug war isn’t going to start working one day. Inevitably, the road to reform will be paved with crazy idiots. If they want to legalize marijuana and execute crack dealers, we'll help with the former and talk them out of killing people later.

Location: 
United States

Extreme Politics: Vermont Mayor Calls for Death Penalty for Hard Drug Dealers, Legalizing Marijuana

Barre, Vermont, Mayor Thomas Lauzon's frustration with drugs and drug policy is showing, and it's making him just a touch schizophrenic. In remarks reported in the Barre-Montpelier Times Argus Saturday, Lauzon called for the death penalty for crack and heroin dealers, and in the same breath, called for the legalization of marijuana.

He said he plans to ask the state legislature to adopt the death penalty and to legalize marijuana. Failing that, he said, he hopes to open to a statewide discussion about the state's drug problem, probably beginning with an April forum in Barre.

Barre (pronounced "berry") is an old-time boomtown that in days gone by was known as "The Chicago of New England." Today Barre is famed as an exporter of fine, granite, graveside monuments, a distinction that earned it a "ZipUSA" feature in the October 2003 issue of National Geographic.

"People who are dealing crack and dealing heroin have zero social value and should be put to death," Lauzon said. "I'm sure everyone will distance themselves from me," Lauzon said Saturday of his death-penalty call. "But if anyone tells you we're winning the war on drugs, they're lying."

Saturday evening he reiterated that stance in another interview with the Times Argus. "What social value do they have? They are dealing crack and heroin to young people, knowing full well what the effects will be," the mayor said. "What purpose do they serve in society other than to destroy lives, to destroy families?"

Vermont politicians reacted cautiously. State Sen. Richard Sears (D-Bennington), chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said he understood Lauzon's frustration, but didn't embrace either the death penalty for dealing hard drugs or legalizing marijuana. "I think the man is very frustrated, and I understand his frustration," Sears said. "The problem in my view is we've ignored this problem until it's out of hand."

Jason Gibbs, a spokesman for Gov. James Douglas, told the newspaper that while the governor was not unalterably opposed to the death penalty, he was opposed to legalizing marijuana. "He's not unalterably opposed to the death penalty, but he doesn't have any plans to introduce it. There are some circumstances he would support a death penalty, but I'm not sure this is among them," Gibbs said. "Marijuana is a gateway drug for some folks, so he would not support legalization."

Lauzon said he had discussed his proposals with some legislators, but hadn't gotten very far. "They listen politely. I would like to have a statewide conversation. The conversation I'd like to start with is 'How are we doing?' Are we happy with our progress in the war on drugs? What are we doing in Vermont with regard to the war on drugs?" Lauzon said. "Maybe we start in Barre."

While Lauzon's proposal for the death penalty for drug dealers is a first in recent Vermont history, his call for legalizing marijuana echoes one made last December by Windsor County States Attorney Robert Sand, who called for the legalization of marijuana and decriminalization of other drugs. And so goes the drug debate in Vermont.

Singapore kills two African traffickers

Location: 
Singapore
Publication/Source: 
The Irish Times
URL: 
http://www.ireland.com/newspaper/breaking/2007/0126/breaking28.htm

Europe: Moscow Mayor Calls for Harsh Drug Laws Including Death Penalty

Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov called Monday for drug dealers to be "destroyed" during a speech to law enforcement and city offficials at the Moscow headquarters of the Federal Drug Control Service, according to an account in the Moscow Times. Luzkhov suggested Russia implement drug laws like those in Singapore, where drug traffickers face execution.

https://stopthedrugwar.org/files/moscow1.gif
"In Singapore, there is no drug addiction," he said. "Let us do the same." Luzkhov somewhat wistfully noted that "these days, a democratic government does not accept" a draconian drug policy like Singapore's, but added that Russia should "accept something close to it."

But Russia has gone in the other direction in recent years. Since 2004, when a new law decriminalized simple drug possession, official drug policy has been to go after traffickers and sellers, but not users. Apparently, the increased penalties for drug dealers and traffickers under the 2004 law is not enough for Luzkhov, and the decriminalization of drug possession sticks in the craw of Russian narcs. The Federal Drug Control Service has fought bitterly to reinstate penalties against small-time possessors, first attempting to subvert the new law's intent by defining personal use quantities at ridiculously low levels, such as 0.01 grams of heroin. Instead, the personal use quantity was set at one gram, but in a small victory for the drug warriors, that was cut back to half a gram last year.

Drug use has been on the rise in Russia and other republics of the former Soviet Union since its dissolution. The country registers several hundred thousand "drug addicts" each year, with the real number being likely much greater. An estimated 70,000 Russians die from drug overdoses each year, and injection drug use is involved in many of the country's hundreds of thousands of AIDS cases.

While officials like Mayor Luzkhov see only greater repression as the answer, non-governmental organizations like New Drug Policy seek to balance the hardliners by lobbying for reasonable harm reduction policies. "Using a drug is not a criminal offense," said the group's Lev Levinson in response to the mayor's remarks. "It is punishable only by a fine. The mayor, Levinson said, had cast an envious glance on Singapore's harsh policy for at least a decade.

Indonesian drug czar supports death penalty for drug traffickers

Location: 
Jakarta
Indonesia
Publication/Source: 
Deutsche Presse-Agentur (Germany)
URL: 
http://news.monstersandcritics.com/asiapacific/news/article_1250358.php/Indonesian_drug_czar_supports_death_penalty_for_drug_traffickers

Kuwaiti royal sentenced to die; Trafficked drugs

Location: 
Kuwait City
Kuwait
Publication/Source: 
Arab Times (Kuwait)
URL: 
http://www.arabtimesonline.com/arabtimes/kuwait/Viewdet.asp?ID=9556&cat=a

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