Tag Archives: University of Exeter

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

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Exeter University Fresher’s Week September 2013 – What’s going on (so far!)…

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Freshers week: 16th-22nd September 2013

Tuesday 17th:

‘Get involved with Campaigning and Volunteering’ — Collaborative event with other volunteering and campaign societies

Afternoon tea 2-5pm at Queens Cafe

Thursday 19th:

Film screening with an informal debate/discussion (and cake!) in Queens Building, LT1

Saturday 21st:

Exmouth Beach Trip (meet 11am at Cornwall House)

Sunday 22nd:

Freshers Fair 

Contact exeterhumanrightsupdate@gmail.com or visit our facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/groups/2204550472/) for more details!

Amnesty International Society take to the Forum to petition for Women’s Rights in Afghanistan!

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Twas the 5th December, and Exeter University campus was full of Christmas cheer, tinsel… and Amnesty demonstrators?

Last Wednesday, a group of keen human rights defenders descended on the Forum to highlight the issue of women’s rights in Afghanistan. Bearing placards of solidarity, members of Exeter Amnesty International society petitioned fellow students, asking the UK’s ambassador to Afghanistan to preserve the gains made for women’s rights as the UK withdraws its presence in the country.

For many people, the war in Afghanistan is an emotive and controversial issue. As an organisation, Amnesty International is not attempting to halt the withdrawal process, but it does insist that the hard-fought freedoms reclaimed by the women of Afghanistan should not be abandoned. Prior to the Taliban regime, Afghanistan held a progressive attitude towards women’s rights; women gained the vote in 1919, ten years before the UK, and the 1964 constitution enshrined gender equality in law. Though in practice women still faced discrimination and inequality, they were still able to work freely, including as government ministers, doctors and teachers.

The Taliban’s rise to power swept away such gains. Women faced daily oppression and discrimination: their movements were restricted, their education denied, their right to employment banned and they were often subjected to violence. Ten years after the Taliban regime, Afghanistan has made steady progress in restoring the rights of women.  From 2001 to 2009, the number of girls in education has jumped from a handful to over 1 and a half million. After the 2010 election, 27% of parliamentary seats were won by women, more than the current UK parliament, and 40% of those who voted in the election were female. But with UK forces preparing to withdraw, many fear that these freedoms will be lost if women’s rights are not put on the peace process agenda. According to Brad Adams, Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, “Afghan women need and deserve a strategy of their own for the protection of their rights in the perilous years ahead.”

With the withdrawal date fast approaching, it is paramount that an effective strategy for preserving women’s rights in Afghanistan is consolidated quickly. The UK government needs to know that the public is behind freedom for the women of Afghanistan. Exeter’s Amnesty members were certainly up for the challenge, and the past two weeks of being briefed on the issue and smearing paint all over ourselves, or ‘banner making’, everyone was raring to go.

Though the Forum was initially quieter than usual, most students were highly supportive of the campaign. As Amnesty member Charlie Mackay told us, “I found people really willing to sign the petition as soon as they understood what it was about. … So many people wanted to get involved as well- it was inspiring to see just how much support is out there for the women in Afghanistan.”

Taking part on the day, I can personally testify that students’ enthusiasm concerning the campaign was incredibly “inspiring”. And this enthusiasm translated into 400 signatures in merely an hour – a fantastic achievement for a supposedly quiet afternoon. Looking at the photographs of the day, I can certainly say that the passion of Amnesty members for Afghan women’s rights must have been a factor. Let’s hope the UK government is as equally willing to stand in solidarity with the women of Afghanistan.

Amy Deakin

For more information on this campaign, check out Amnesty UK’s website!

Amnesty International Society’s First Demonstration of the Year!

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So the demonstration on Campus last Wednesday was a huge success – in just one hour the members of Amnesty International Society gathered 845 petitions! An incredible achievement for the group, and those signatures will join the flock of petitions being sent to the Russian government from all around the world, urging them to help the UN in their efforts to end the violence.

Now to decide what to tackle for our next campaign…

The Syrian Model Village outside the Great Hall

Welcome!

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Welcome to the University of Exeter Amnesty International Society blog! This will be the hub for all of the interesting and thought-provoking articles, as well as a place to share anything and everything human rights related.

If you would like to write something or share a video or article you have seen, then join the Facebook group, or come and talk to one of the committee members at our weekly meetings at 1pm in Cornwall House, University of Exeter.

 

Enjoy!

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