Petition to the Governor Asa Hutchinson to stop the execution due this week

The rush to carry out executions in Arkansas, USA, continues apace with another one due tomorrow (Thursday 27th).  This is a petition (see below) to send to the Governor asking him to stop.  The panic to get the executions done is because the drugs being used are due to expire.  Adds a new meaning to ‘sell by date’ we see on our foodstuffs.

The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights, as it violates the right to life. It is also a cruel and inhumane punishment that may constitute torture.

Amnesty always oppose the death penalty in every case because it violates rights. The idea of lethal injection as a ‘humane’ form of execution is simply a myth. There have been numerous cases of ‘botched’ executions by lethal injection in the US in recent years, with prisoners failing to die quickly or ‘quietly’.  See our post on the process to be followed in California.

If you get time to send an urgent email that would be appreciated.

 

Petition to Arkansas

Slavery

Posted: April 25, 2017 in slavery
Tags: , , ,

Talk by Robert Key on Slavery

Robert Key. Picture: Cathedral School

Voyages to Hell: Pirates and Slaves is the title of an illustrated history the former MP for Salisbury Robert Key,  is giving on Friday 12 May.  Many people think that slavery was abolished in the nineteenth century with the end of the trade in slaves across the Atlantic.  It is however alive and well and is taking many different forms in the modern world.

The talk will take place in Stevenson Hall, Leaden Hall Campus, Salisbury Cathedral School, starting at 7:30 with a bar from 7:00.  Tickets are £10 each at the door, or to be sure of a seat, through Peter Lane 01264 771701 or phlane@btinternet.com.  Money raised will go to the Cathedral Choir Foundation.

Robert Key is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries


Anti Slavery International

 

 


UPDATE: two executed today (25 April)

‘Execution by assembly line’

The death penalty saga in Arkansas continues with a blizzard of legal writs and appeals to the Supreme Court.  The heart of the matter was the desire of the Governor, Asa Hutchinson, to execute eight inmates before the drugs run out.  Ledell Lee was executed last Thursday.  States with the death penalty are finding it harder to obtain the medication to carry out the executions.  This is partly due to the activities of anti-death penalty groups, waning support for the penalty with 49% of Americans in favour, and the refusal by drug companies to supply them.  The EU has banned European firms from exporting them.  Indeed, two firms who have supplied drugs – in particular Midazolam – have filed claims against its use on the basis that they were not supplied for that purpose.  These claims have been rejected.

A recent appeal to the Supreme Court was rejected 5 – 4 and key was the vote by the newly appointed Justice Gorsuch.  He was one of President Trump’s appointments.

One of the appeals was to re-examine crime scene materials using modern DNA techniques.  These should prove conclusively either way whether the defendants were guilty or otherwise.  These claims were denied which seems bizarre in the extreme when someone’s life is at stake.  Ledell Lee has now been executed so it is too late for him.  The inadequate nature of trials which lead to the use of the death penalty is describe in Clive Stafford Smith’s book Injustice.   The gruesome process of the death penalty is laid bare in the State of California’s procedure and protocol summarised here.

Arkansa now wants to execute two on the same day which is the first time that will have happened since 1970 in Texas.

This is a fast moving story and no doubt this item will be updated soon.

Sources:

Reuters; BBC; Arkansas Democrat-Gazette; Time; Arkansas Times; Death Penalty Information Center


 

 

 


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If you live in the Salisbury (UK) area and are interested in Human rights we would be delighted to see you.  The best way is to keep an eye on events and come along and make yourself known.  See also the Joining tab at the top of the page.


UPDATE 23 April:

Over 50 stopped to sign and we are grateful to those who did.  If you have come to this site having read the leaflet we gave out – welcome.  We hope you mark it as a favourite site and visit us from time to time.  Details of other events can be found here.

On Saturday 22 April, we asked people to sign a petition concerning the atrocious conditions and executions in Saydnaya Prison in Syria.  We were in the Library passage for an hour.

factsheet (pdf)


Minutes of the monthly meeting are available thanks to group member Lesley for compiling them.  A full meeting with a death penalty report, a report on the meeting with the North Korean escapee, social media statistics with a record number of hits, and more.

April minutes

 

North Korean speaker in Salisbury.  Picture: Salisbury Amnesty

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


We welcome support from people in Salisbury and surrounding area.  If you are interested in human rights and would like to become involved then come along to the Library passage this Saturday between 9 and noon and make yourself known.

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Death penalty report for March – April 2017

This is the death penalty update report for mid March to mid April thanks to group member Lesley for compiling it.  Some good news – even in China – where the statistics on the use of the penalty are a state secret, tempered by heavy use in Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Iran.

Report (Word)



Execution spree in Arkansas, USA

 This urgent action is for Ledell Lee who is one of a number facing imminent execution in Arkansas.  There is a spate of these planned executions in that state due to the imminent expiry of the chemicals used for the execution.  It gives a new meaning to ‘sell by date’.  If you want to read the gruesome details of execution by lethal injection, read an extract from the details sent to us by the state of California.

This case – concerning Ledell Lee – is worth reading even if you do not have the time to write which we hope you will.  It gives a bizarre insight into the legal process and the low standard of defence someone can expect in some states of the Union.  It is just another example described by Clive Stafford Smith in his book on the subject.

The USA is the only state in the Americas which still has the death penalty.

China executes more of its citizens than any other country but the statistics are a state secret.

Urgent Action: Arkansas (pdf)

 


Picture: salon.com

This is an urgent action for Chechnya in the Russian Republic and concerns a concerted attack on gay people.  The treatment of gay people in Russia is shocking and the police do little or nothing to prevent violence against them.

If you can find time to write that would be appreciated.

Urgent action (pdf)


The killing goes on

The news yesterday that the Metropolitan Police are looking into evidence of war crimes by the Saudis in the Yemen is encouraging.  It comes at a time when the prime minister, Theresa May is touring the middle East, including Saudi Arabia, in an effort to promote trade.  She is not alone as Liam Fox is in the Philippines with president Duterte and Mr Hammond is in India.   Mr Fox has received widespread condemnation having spoken of this country’s ‘shared values’ with a regime which has extra-judicially killed around 7,000 of its citizens as part of a war on drugs.

There has been a lot happening this week with the awful news of possible use of Sarin nerve agent in Syria allegedly by the Syrian government.

Starting with Yemen: the British government has authorised £3.2bn or arms sales to the Saudis a fair proportion of which have been used to bomb schools, hospitals and wedding ceremonies in Yemen.  The result has been a humanitarian disaster with nearly 10,000 killed and a million displaced.  RAF personnel are involved in the control room of the coalition although their direct involvement in the bombing is denied.  The Campaign Against the Arms Trade is currently pursuing a case against the government.

One would think that as we are selling arms to the Saudis to enable to continue the carnage in Yemen, that our politicians would be a circumspect in criticising others.  Yet both the Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Theresa May were voluble in criticising Bashar Al-Assad for the terrible events in Syria seemingly oblivious to our own activities in Yemen.

Teresa May

The activities of the prime minister, the foreign secretary and the secretary for international trade have all been widely criticised by a wide range of commentators and organisations.  It is becoming increasingly clear that to promote the idea of a ‘Global Britain’ we are going to have to deal with a wide range of unsavoury regimes.  This means that any vestige of an ‘ethical foreign policy’ is long dead.  The emphasis is now on business with any country and few questions are asked about their human rights.

To take Saudi as an example.  In addition to its activities in Yemen, it is an autocratic regime, torture is routine, its treatment of minorities and women is deplorable and it executes people in public after highly dubious trials.  But to our government none of this matters and getting them to buy more arms and list their oil company, Aramco, on the London Stock Exchange are the real prizes.

These activities go to the heart of what we are as a nation.  The European Union, for all its faults and shortcomings, is a union of countries which believe in the rule of law, democracy and liberal values.  We want to leave this union and no sooner have we sent in the letter triggering our departure, than four of our senior politicians dash off to dubious regimes grubbing around for any deal they can get.  It is deeply shaming and added to which, they want to come out of the European Convention of Human Rights, the convention we were so instrumental in setting up.

It has quickly become clear that securing trade deals is now paramount, with no questions asked.  In defence of our turning a blind eye to the Saudi regime’s lack of human rights, the prime minister says the state is crucial in saving British lives by providing valuable intelligence information, an assertion impossible to prove and extremely convenient.  The abandonment of our British values is much lamented.  Paradoxically, one of the driving forces for leaving the EU was the desire to reassert British values.  The decision to leave seems to mean that we shall have to dump them quickly to enable us to trade with a range of disreputable regimes.

Economically it makes little sense as the amount of trade with these regimes is tiny in comparison to the EU.  From the moral point of view, it lowers our standing in the world and reduces our influence.  It sets a poor example to other countries wishing to promote their arms sales.


We would welcome anyone in the Salisbury area wishing to join us in our campaigns for better human rights.  The best thing is to come to one of our events and make yourself known.  Look on this site, on Twitter or Facebook for details of events.  We look forward to meeting you.


Talk organised by the Romsey group

Dr Claire Lugarre. Picture, Salisbury Amnesty

On Monday March 19 the Romsey group of Amnesty hosted a most interesting talk by Dr Claire Lugarre who is a lecturer in Human Rights Law at the Southampton Law School, part of Southampton University.

An element of the desire of those who wish for the UK to come out of Europe is a wish to regain our (i.e. the UK’s) sovereignty.  There is also a desire, expressed most strongly by some members of the Conservative Party, to abolish the Human Rights Act and replace it with a British Bill of Rights.  This has been promised in the party’s manifestos and has been talked about for about a decade but details of what the BBoR will look like and how it will differ from the existing HRA is still largely opaque.  It seems to be a solution in search of a problem.

The Conservatives are not alone in wanting us to come out of the European Convention along with Brexit: most of the media have kept up a barrage of criticism and denigration of the Court and all its doings.  As the example on the right of the Daily Mail shows, there is talk of a ‘triumphant week for British values,’ the ‘crazy decision’ making by European Court judges – usually referred as ‘unelected’ judges and the ‘human rights farce’.

The talk

Claire Lugarre explained some of the background issues surrounding the issue of the European Court and what it might mean for the country if we left.

Her first point is that the notion of human rights is not just a western construct and similar ideas are seen throughout history even if they were actually called that at the time.  She also emphasised that the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) had a utilitarian purpose not just a moral one.  There was an urgent desire after the carnage of WWII to construct a legal basis of good behaviour between states.

States have to comply with European Court judgements.  The Human Rights Act – often referred to by critics as ‘Labour’s’ Human Rights Act which it isn’t as it received all party support – incorporates the ECHR into British law thus removing the need for litigants to go to Strasbourg to get justice.

One matter is the vexed question of prisoner voting she said.  The European Court rejected the Government’s case which banned all prisoner voting and said that to ‘prescribe general, indefinite and automatic deprivation of a right to vote’ infringed a prisoner’s article 3 rights.  Thus far the government has ignored the ruling.  The issue was one of proportionality.

She spent some time on the often confusing difference between the Council of Europe and the European Union the latter being what we wish to leave (it was announced yesterday that the Article 50 notice to depart will be served on 29th of this month).  The Council of Europe consists of 47 states and within which the European Court sits.  This deals with human rights issues.  The European Union consists – at present – of 28 states and is a political and economic union.  There seem to be many who think that Article 50 means we will no longer be subject to ‘crazy decisions’ of the European Court.  To do that we have to leave the European ConventionThere have been reports that the prime minister Theresa May wishes to do that as well.

All legislation and legal judgements have to be in accordance with the HRA she said.  Indeed, the number of judgements already made by the courts represent a considerable body of precedent based on the HRA and the European Court.  Even if we come out of the European Convention the effects will be present for a considerable period.  It is also forgotten that the European Court is not the only thing which binds us, we are also signatories to a host of other treaties which will still be in existence.

BBoR

One of the arguments frequently heard is that it is not just about rights but also about responsibilities.  It was this principle which led to the desire to have a British Bill of Rights and Responsibilities.  This is a difficult argument to fathom.  Sometimes, people talk about responsibilities in terms of the government’s responsibilities to its citizens to uphold the Act.  Others argue that the citizen has responsibilities not just rights.  There are other arguments about the need to fight terrorism because the act has undermined this ability, it is claimed, and this requires responsibilities in some ill-defined way.   Claire was unclear what the BBoR would contain.

The relationship between rights and responsibilities needs to be understood.  Most rights are qualified in any event and, in practical terms, depend on the responsibility of everyone in society to respect one another’s freedoms (so that one party’s right to free expression, for example, does not impinge too far on another’s right to a private and family life).  These rights cannot be subjected to any all-encompassing limitation, such as that they are legally contingent on performance of set of duties and responsibilities. Their application regardless of such considerations is precisely the point of their existence.

It is often claimed by critics that the European Court was ‘imposed’ on the UK.  It wasn’t and the UK was a key participant in its formation after the war with many British lawyers involved.  It is also argued that the HRA should only be used for the most serious of cases but what this would mean in practice is not clear.  Who would decide on seriousness?

If, as is threatened, we do come out of the European Convention the effects could be traumatic.  At present countries like Russia and Turkey are part of it.  Russia’s human rights record is already poor and Turkey has arrested tens of thousands of judges, lawyers, academics and police.  If the UK pulls out of the Convention, of which it was a founder member, the effects could be even more serious in those countries.

The HRA has had a steady and beneficial effect on many people’s lives in this country.  In countless day to day decisions by authorities of various kinds, its provisions have to be adhered to and lawyers regularly use it to defend their client’s interests.  Perhaps its chief problem is that it shifts some power down to the individual, a fact which those who were in control find uncomfortable.

This was a most interesting evening about a subject which is bound to be in the news for some time to come.


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If you would like to join the Salisbury group you would be very welcome.  We meet once a month for a planning meeting and perhaps the best thing is to come along to an event and make yourself known.