Monthly Archives: October 2014

The Death Penalty: A Case Study of State-Funded Slaughter

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In the UK, the death penalty was banned in 1965. Now a distant memory of a more brutal past, it rightly remains relegated to the pages of history books.

However, in many countries across the world, including the United States of America – a nation that prides itself on its supposed forward-thinking nature – capital punishment is still a possible ruling in a court of law. Currently 32 states of the USA still implement the death penalty, tainting more than half the 50 states on the Star-Spangled Banner.

In light of this, it is hard not to question how the self-proclaimed leader of the ‘free world’ can still carry out such a seemingly archaic form of punishment.

However, the death penalty is widely thought to be losing support across the United States, and for good reason. The recent execution in Oklahoma of Clayton Lockett on April 29th caught particular media attention and brought new scrutiny to the often mismanaged executions that are too common across the USA, causing many to question the ethics of the death penalty.

According to an article published by Time Magazine, Lockett was “injected with an untested blend of drugs obtained from an undisclosed source” and was confirmed to be unconscious by a physician, “only to then start moving his body, rolling his head from side to side and mumbling”.

Further describing the deadly torment experienced by Lockett, his attorney Dean Sanderford stated: “the writhing and twitching just got stronger and more violent. It looked like he was trying to lift his whole upper body off the table…he was mumbling things that were clearly words…his eyes opened at one point. It was the most gruesome spectacle I’ve ever seen in my life.”

After this harrowing ordeal from the cocktail of drugs, Lockett eventually died due to a heart attack after 25 minutes.

This execution was the state of Oklahoma’s first time using a new 3-drug mixture. Yes, while it is undeniable that these convicted criminals have done awful crimes and deserve punishment, it surely does not assign them the fate of a human guinea pig, as the government seems to play a version of Russian roulette with the drugs cabinet.

Alarmingly, Lockett’s suffering is not an uncommon occurrence – in fact, the USA has a history of morally questionable executions. According to a recent study by researcher Professor Austin Sarat, 7% of executions by lethal injection between 1890 and 2010 were botched, with the term “botched” alluding to executioners “depart[ing] from the official legal protocol or standard procedure – which can result in a prolonged or painful death”. With lethal injection often described as the most humane method of capital punishment, one has to question the ethical compass of these states if this inhumanely painful demise is a very possible side effect.

In reaction to the execution, Oklahoma recently announced that it plans to offer more training to staff and increase the prisoner’s sedative dosage by 5 times, whilst also intriguingly reducing media presence at executions from 12 witnesses to 5. One has to wonder whether the state has pondered if a complete abolition of the death penalty is the glaringly ‘right’ thing to do, rather than small alterations in the hope of what is effectively a more efficient slaughter.

The proposal for a decreased number of journalists allowed present is an interesting twist. Capital punishment is visibly shrouded in secrecy, as scandal and backlash are a constant threat. As Lockett’s execution began to go wrong, it is reported the curtain was lowered so witnesses could no longer see, while the audio feed was cut too.

Similarly, capital punishment is so shrouded in shame that even the drug companies themselves refuse to be associated with it, concerned by the possible backlash or boycott they could suffer. European pharmaceutical companies have banned the US from using their drugs in executions, causing a chaotic clambering for new drugs by prison officials and often blind experimentation with those acquired.

US public defender Dale Baich, who frequently represents death row inmates, recently drew light on this secrecy: “The prisoners still do not have access to information about the source of the drugs, the qualifications of the executioners, or how the state came up with the different drug combinations.”

President Barack Obama has publicly commented on Clayton Lockett’s botched execution, describing it as “deeply disturbing”, and calling for a review into the application of the death penalty in the USA. While this provides hope for change, the fight to completely ban the death penalty is still very much ongoing – although it is becoming something seemingly ever closer to our grasp.

James Pidduck

Amnesty International Society this fortnight…

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Wednesday 8th of October: We spent this meeting looking at different Amnesty campaigns and made a democratic decision to focus our next campaign efforts on: Women’s Rights.

On Friday 10th there was our fortnightly cake stall in the Forum for fundraising.
Monday evening (13th) we had a letter writing social in the Ram to write letters for the Malaysian student Ali Abdul Jalil- a prisoner of conscience, detained solely for the peaceful exercise of his right to freedom of expression.

To read more about the case or write your own letters please follow this link:
http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA28/010/2014/en

During our meeting today we made posters for the My Body, My Rights campaign as well as writing letters for a ten year old Afghan girl named Brishna who was raped in May 2014. We’re writing these letters to try to bring about change through pressuring governments to take more of an active role in ensuring these injustices do not continue!
For more info and to write your own letters for Brishna please follow this link!
http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA11/013/2014/en

Keep reading and reacting to our blog to bring about change! 🙂
HRU editors xx

JOIN THE CAMPAIGN- Amnesty International

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Case of: Moses Akatugba, Nigeria

Send letters to:

Dr. Emmanuel Uduaghan, Governor of Delta State

Office of the Governor, Government House

Asaba, Delta State, Nigeria

Your Excellency,

On 27 November 2005, 16 year old Moses Akatugba was arrested, shot in the hand, beaten by soldiers, and charged with stealing mobile phones.

At Epkan police station, he suffered further abuse: he says officers severely beat him with machetes and batons, tied and hung him for several hours in interrogation rooms, and used pliers to pull out his finger and toe nails to force him to sign two confessions. Moses Akatugba was convicted solely on the basis of the victim’s statement and these ‘confessions’ obtained through torture.

After eight years in prison, Moses Akatugba was sentenced to death by hanging and is on death row. His claims of torture have still not been investigated, even though Nigeria’s constitution prohibits torture.

I call on you to:
• Commute Moses Akatugba’s death sentence
• Institute an independent investigation into his allegations of torture.

Yours faithfully,

Background information:

On 27 November 2005, 16-year-old Moses Akatugba was awaiting the results of his secondary school exams when his life changed forever. He was arrested by the Nigerian army and, he says, shot in the hand, beaten on the head and back, and then charged with stealing mobile phones. He was initially held at the local army barracks where, he says, soldiers showed him a corpse. He couldn’t identify the dead man, so they beat him.

After being transferred to Ekpan police station in Delta State, Moses was tortured again. He says that the police beat him severely with machetes and batons, tied him up and hung him for several hours in interrogation rooms, and used pliers to pull out his finger and toe nails to force him to sign two ‘confessions’.

Moses was convicted solely on the basis of the alleged victim’s statement and ‘confessions’ obtained through torture. After eight years in prison, he was sentenced to death by hanging and remains on death row.  The use of the death penalty for crimes committed by people younger than 18 is prohibited under international human rights law. His claims of torture have still not been investigated even though Nigeria’s constitution prohibits torture.

Torture by police widespread in Nigeria

We regularly receive reports that Nigerian police routinely torture suspects to extract information, and in many police stations suspects are denied access to a lawyer. In military detention, detainees are denied access to family members and lawyers, and in most cases the military refuses to give any information about whether someone is in their custody.

Nigeria’s constitution prohibits torture, but no provisions are made for the investigation or prosecution of acts of torture. ‘Confessions’ extracted through torture are regularly used as evidence in court, contrary to both national and international law.

The power of your support

We are calling for the Nigerian authorities to commute Moses’ death sentence and investigate his claims of torture by the police in Delta state. The Delta State authorities have received a huge amount of letters, cards and emails from activists around the world so far. Because of this, the Delta State Board of Mercy visited Moses and 118 other death row inmates on 27 June 2014.

The visit is part of the due process that the Governor of Delta State must follow to exercise his constitutional powers to grant a pardon for death row inmates.This is an important step towards Moses Akatugba’s death sentence being commuted.

*This information was taken from the Amnesty International website.

Amnesty Meeting- Week One/Week Two Topic

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Moses Akatugba- A Victim of Torture Amongst Many
It was in November 2005 when Moses Akatugba of Nigeria was arrested and charged with stealing mobile phones. Since that date he has undergone various forms of abuse and torture. His very “confession” which was used to convict him, was given under duress. To be specific, he was forced to sign a confession after being tied up and hung for several hours in interrogation rooms. They even went so far as to pull out his finger nails and toenails…[1]

He has spent eight years in prison and is still on death row. We want to end this now.

During our second Amnesty meeting we ran a campaign on campus with petitions and signs (which we created on a Monday afternoon- or ‘Crafternoon’ as one member named it!).  This was both to raise awareness and to petition for Moses Akatugba’s release. Equally, we want to raise awareness of the situation in Nigeria. Stories like Moses Akatugba’s seem to be an everyday occurrence.Some members also remained in our meeting room to write letters to the Governor of the Delta state, calling on him to commute Akatugba’s death sentence and to institute an independent investigation into his allegations of torture.

Follow this link for more information on the case and the general situation in Nigeria.

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/actions/nigeria-justice-moses-facing-execution

[1] Amnesty International AFR 44/005/2014  Under embargo until May 13th STOP TORTURE Country profile: Nigeria