Death Penalty

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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

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.

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