Tag Archives: execution

This Is The Man In India Who Is Selling States Illegally Imported Execution Drugs

When states ran out of execution drugs, they started paying tens of thousands of dollars to Chris Harris, a salesman in India with no pharmaceutical background.

Eight thousand miles from the execution chamber at the Nebraska State Penitentiary is Salt Lake City — a planned satellite town in Kolkata, the capital city of India’s West Bengal state. It’s a modern mecca of swanky office complexes, colleges, shopping malls, and restaurants. Here, on the eighth floor of a plush glass building overlooking a lake, is an office where Nebraska’s lethal injection drug supplier says he makes his drugs.

A laminated paper sign stuck on the door of room 818 reads “Harris Pharma – manufacturer and distribution.” The office, with powder-blue walls and a frosted glass facade, is one of 61 spaces on the floor rented out to various companies.

This is the facility in India where a man named Chris Harris, a salesman without a pharmaceutical background, claims his manufacturing and distribution business is based. He has sold thousands of vials of execution drugs for corrections officials in the U.S. who are desperate to find drugs to carry out the death penalty.

An employee who works at the facility, however, said the office is not being used to make drugs.

Saurav Bose, a customer relations officer at the office rental company who has met Harris twice since he started working here a few months ago, said Harris did not manufacture drugs in this rented office.

Left: The building in Salt Lake City in India. Right: The office Harris rents. Tasneem Nashrulla

Harris’s office, which was shut on a Tuesday morning when a reporter from BuzzFeed News visited, is much like the other ready-to-use, standardized workspaces available to rent by Regus — an international firm operating in 900 cities across the world, including the more well-known Salt Lake City in Utah. It appeared highly unlikely that the rented office would accommodate laboratory equipment required to manufacture pharmaceutical drugs.

“He comes only two to three times in a month,” Bose said, adding that most of his communication with Harris was limited to email. Bose, who described Harris as being “fickle” with his visits to the office, said he rarely had any clients or other people in the office.

BuzzFeed News identified several such inconsistencies after reviewing thousands of pages of court records, emails, and invoices; interviewing his past business partners; and visiting the locations in India from which Harris claims to run his business.

Chris Harris Facebook

BuzzFeed News spent more than four months trying to talk to Harris over emails, via phone calls and during a visit to his office in India. Each time, Harris refused to talk.

“Quote me on this. I don’t speak to reporters as they always say what is not true,” Harris told BuzzFeed News when first contacted for comment in June.

After months of reporting on his sale to Nebraska, Harris again declined to talk with BuzzFeed News in September, writing, “Do and say what you want. But I will never give a reporter 2 min of my time. As all print what they want. Not the true story. They need a scandal to get sales and keep they jobs.”

BuzzFeed News has been able to confirm four times that Harris sold execution drugs illegally to four death penalty states, and documents indicate there is likely a fifth. His sales follow a typical script: The legal issues are fixed this time, don’t worry about it. Other states are buying it, too. You aren’t the only one. You just need to make it a “minimum order” to make it worth the while. Payment in advance.

The documents show little effort by states to investigate Harris’s qualifications or the legalities of importing drugs.

Harris has gotten states to pay tens of thousands of dollars for his drugs, but each time, after concerns were raised over the legality of the purchase, the drugs have gone unused.

Somehow, states are still falling for it.

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Nebraska Bought 300 Executions’ Worth Of Illegal Execution Drugs From A Foreign Supplier

The FDA says it will seize Nebraska’s drugs when they arrive from India. But the seller says he’s sold to “a few” other states as well.

The seller behind Nebraska’s illegal execution drug shipment says Nebraska isn’t the only state to have bought drugs from him.

Nebraska announced in May that it had purchased drugs from HarrisPharma, a small distributor in India run by a man named Chris Harris, although Nebraska admitted that the drugs are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

Harris has sold execution drugs in the past, but each time the drugs have gone unused after questions were raised over the legality of the drug deal.

This time, an FDA spokesperson indicated in a statement to BuzzFeed News that the agency will seize Nebraska’s shipment.

But as part of his sales pitch to Nebraska, Harris tells employees several times that other states are also buying from him, according to 140 pages of emails and invoices obtained by BuzzFeed News.

Nebraska Department of Correctional Services

A day later, Harris approached another Corrections employee.

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UN Funds Iran’s Record Breaking Execution Spree

 

Prayer-Image

 

A note by the Author:

Today marks the World Day against Death Penalty and provides the international community a chance to reflect on the effectiveness and morality of capital punishment. Of particular concern is Iran, which not only leads the world in per capita executions, but receives substantial funding from the United Nations and the West in support of a drug program that executes hundreds with little to no due process. Ironically the UN Secretary General put out a call today to end the use of executions in cases involving drug crimes, yet UNODC continues to support and fund Iranian authorities as they undertake a record pace of executions.

By Hamid Yazdan Panah

“The death penalty has no place in the 21st century.” These words were spoken last year by the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. Many would agree. In fact, more than 140 countries worldwide have abolished capital punishment, including every country in the European Union. Yet the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and EU member states havefinanced Iran’s drug war, a program that has allowed Iran to be a global leader in per capita executions.

The regime in Iran is one of the most repressive governments in the world. In 2015, Iran received close to the lowest possible rating for political rights and civil liberties in a Freedom House report, and was ranked 173 out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index. Dissidents are routinely arrested and tortured; freedom of speech is limited; and the judiciary provides little if any due process to prisoners. Yet the UNODC has given Iran more than US$15 million since 1998 to support operations by the country’s Anti-Narcotics Police. This is despite significant evidence that Iran’s governmental drug policies violate international law, and fall short of UNODC’s own standards.

A 2014 report by Ahmad Shaheed, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iran, quoted an experienced Iranian lawyer who said that drug trials “never last more than a few minutes.” Prisoners are often denied accessed to counsel, and claim that confessions are forced under torture. By Iran’s own admission 93 per cent of the 852 reported executions between July 2013 and June 2014 were drug related. Iran has already executed more than 750 individuals this year, and is on pace to reach 1,000 executions by the end of the year.

Human Rights Watch has accused Iran of using drug charges against political prisoners and dissidents, raising further concerns about the implications of the UNODC’s support for the country’s anti-drugs program. In 2011, Zahra Bahrami, a citizen of both the EU and Iran was arrested and accused of drug trafficking – a charge she denied. She claimed her confession was extracted under duress, and activists contend that her arrest was based on her political views.

Despite the limited scope of the UNODC, Iran’s policy of executions is about more than combating drug problems. Instead of focusing primarily on endemic problems such as poverty and a lack of opportunities for youth that foster drug abuse, Iran continues to enact draconian punishments on individuals, including publicly executing them. It appears these ritualistic killings are a strategy by the regime to maintain political authority through intimidation. These killings are part of Iran’s policy of death, which seeks to terrorise and subdue a population, the majority of which is under the age of 30.

Violations of International Human Rights Law

From a legal perspective there is ample evidence that Iran’s executions are a violation of international human rights law, as enshrined in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ICCPR, to which Iran and every EU member state is a party, explicitly reserves capital punishment for only “the most serious crimes.” Article 6 of the ICCPR explicitly states that the death penalty cannot be imposed if a fair trial has not been granted. This statute has strong resonance given the lack of due process in Iran.

The UNODC has also released a position paper that appears to critique its own involvement in Iran. The paper notes that cooperation with countries which use capital punishment “can be perceived as legitimising government actions.” It concludes that in such circumstances the organisation, “may have no choice but to employ a temporary freeze or withdrawal of support.” Yet the UNODC has never publicly expressed a desire to withdraw support from its Iran program.

Political Hypocrisy and Human Rights

The hypocrisy aiding Iran is not lost on all EU member states. The UK, Denmark and Ireland have withdrawn funding for UNODC’s Iran program, citing human rights concerns. However other countries including Norway and France continue to provide funding. Earlier this year, the UNODC was rumoured to be finalising a five year deal with Iran, however no official announcement about the deal has been made.

Unfortunately, these policies appear to be part of a larger failure by many Western countries to consider human rights as one of their negotiating points with Iran. It appears that they are willing to champion human rights as a reason for intervening in certain states, while relegating it to a footnote when it may negatively impact foreign policy interests. The attitude suggests that the executions of thousands of Iranians is part of the necessary collateral damage to keep the EU free of increased drug trafficking. This stance not only estranges those who reside outside of Europe’s borders, as if their human rights are beyond the interests of international organisations, but it places Western states at the height of hypocrisy.

One need look no further than the current discourse surrounding the nuclear deal with Iran to see a clear example of this. Recently, the EU’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini visited Iran to endorsed the agreement and did not express concerns over Iran’s human rights record. This meeting took place while the regime made preparations to execute Salar Shadizadi for crimes he committed when he was 15 years old.

If international standards and human rights are to have universal application, the UNODC should suspend support for Iran’s drug program and demand judicial reform and a moratorium on executions. EU member states should demand accountability in how their contributions are spent. Lastly, any nuclear deal should have also included recognition of the legitimate demands of Iranian society for civil and political rights, and underscored the egregious human rights conditions in Iran.

This is not about interfering with the domestic affairs of a sovereign state, but holding true to the human rights values upon which the UN was founded. It is also about giving real force to international human rights law, which in this case should carry more weight. The death penalty can come to an end, but only if we have the political will to practice the ideals we have long preached.

Hamid Yazdan Panah is an attorney, writer and human rights activist from the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Bali nine men brace for execution on Tuesday

April 26, 2015 – 11:27PM

 

Jewel Topsfield

Jewel Topsfield
Indonesia correspondent for Fairfax

Myuran Sukumaran has painted what could be his last self-portrait: a torso with a palm-sized black hole over the heart dripping with blood.

The eerie painting, brought back from Nusakambangan by their lawyer Julian McMahon, is a portent of Bali nine pair’s  ghastly fate –  death by firing squad.

Michael Chan and Chinthu Sukumaran, brothers of the two Australians facing execution, give a press conference at Wijaya Pura, Cilacap.

Michael Chan and Chinthu Sukumaran, brothers of the two Australians facing execution, give a press conference at Wijaya Pura, Cilacap. Photo: James Brickwood

Sukumaran and Andrew Chan were officially given 72 hours warning of their executions on Saturday.

 

Chinthu Sukumaran said his brother’s last wish was to paint for as long as possible. Chan’s was to go to church with his family in his final days.

The Indonesian government has not officially announced the execution date but the men are bracing for Tuesday night  – the earliest it could be held.

 

The government had previously said it was waiting on the outcome of Indonesian marijuana trafficker Zainal Abidin’s court case before setting a date.

However on Sunday Attorney General spokesman Tony Spontana told Fairfax Media the Supreme Court had rejected Abidin’s request for a judicial review late on Friday.

The Chan and Sukumaran families were once again forced to make the grim ferry trip to Nusakambangan to visit their loved ones..

Lawyer Julian McMahon carries a self-portrait painted by Australian death row prisoner Myuran Sukumaran.

Lawyer Julian McMahon carries a self-portrait painted by Australian death row prisoner Myuran Sukumaran. Photo: Reuters

Chan’s fiancée, Feby Herewila, brother Michael, mother Helen and long-term friend and supporter Senior Pastor Christie Buckingham all boarded the ferry.

Michael Chan said the two Australians  are still holding up “pretty well considering they feel that it is unjust given what has has happened over the last 10 years with their case”.

Michael Chan and Myruran Sukumaran’s brother, Chinthu, pleaded with Indonesian President Joko Widodo to intervene and spare their brothers’ lives. 
“it still doesn’t have to be this way,” a tearful Chinthu Sukumaran said.

“I would ask the president to please, please show mercy. There are nine people with families who love them – mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters. We ask the president to please intervene and save their lives.”

Somewhere in the legal system in Indonesia, Michael Chan said, there has got to be mercy. “The president needs to show that now. He’s the only one that can stop it and it’s not too late to do so. so I ask the president please show mercy.”

Sukumaran’s mother Raji, brother Chinthu and sister Brintha also visited Besi prison.

They will be allowed to visit every day until the final hours when only a spiritual counsellor of their choice can be present.

The lawyer of another condemned man, Martin Anderson, described scenes of desolation and crying as the nine prisoners on death row began to say their goodbyes.

Anderson, Filipina maid Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, and Brazilian Rodrigo Gularte all refused to sign their notification of exemptions, although this will have no effect on the execution.

Anderson’s lawyer, Casmanto Sudra, said his client kept repeating in disbelief: “Fifty grams. Death”.

He was convicted of possessing just 50 grams of heroin in Jakarta in November 2003.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has made a last-ditch bid for mercy for the Bali nine pair.

Mr Abbott made the appeal to the Indonesian president while in Turkey on Saturday to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Gallipoli campaign.

He asked the president to extend clemency to Chan and Sukumaran, describing them as reformed individuals and asking for them to not be executed.

Mr Abbott said the government had been making representations “at every possible level to the Indonesian government for many months now”.

“We abhor the death penalty, we oppose it at home we oppose it abroad and I want to reassure Australians that even at this late hour we are continuing to make the strongest possible representations to the Indonesian government that this is not in the best interests of Indonesia let alone in the best interests of the young Australians concerned,” he said.

“I know that this is obviously a late hour and so far our representations haven’t been crowned with success – so again I simply make the point that it is not in the best interests of Indonesia, it is not in accordance with the best values of Indonesia.

“This doesn’t accord with the Indonesia that I know well and respect very greatly to go ahead with something like this.”

He said the topic was likely to come up in discussions on Monday with the French government, and he expected all like-minded countries would stand together in wanting to uphold “the best values of civilisation”, which did not accord with the death penalty.

The Prime Minister has had limited success in his attempts to speak to Mr Widodo about the pair; after an initial phone call, Mr Widodo said he was too busy to take the second and third calls.

Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, who is also in Turkey, said the news that Chan and Sukumaran could be executed as soon as Tuesday was a “deeply worrying development”.

“No one thinks they deserve to escape punishment, but they don’t deserve this,” he said.

“Labor opposes the death penalty in every circumstance, in every country. I believe it demeans us all.”

Earlier on Sunday, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop spoke to Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi about the pair during a brief stop in the Middle East while flying back to Australia.

Ms Bishop stressed the need for all legal processes to be determined before any action is taken.

Evangelist preacher Matius Arif Mirdjaja, a former drug addict and prisoner in Bali’s Kerobokan jail who was baptised by Chan, said Indonesia would be remembered as a nation that killed a pastor and an artist, not drug kingpins.

“History will write that we are a nation that killed all the repented, a nation that loses empathy and compassion for people who have transformed their lives and helped others,” he said.

On Monday Amnesty International will spell out the words #KeepHopeAlive with thousands of flowers at Blues Point Reserve, overlooking Sydney Harbour.

A public protest will be held outside the Indonesian Consulate General in Sydney at 4pm on Monday.

Indonesia Institute president Ross Taylor said retribution in the wake of the Bali nine executions would not be in the best interests of Australia or the region.

“With (the Australians’) deaths will come calls for retribution, including withdrawal of aid funding, trade and tourist sanctions and perhaps even the withdrawal of Australia’s new ambassador to Indonesia, Paul Grigson,” Mr Taylor said.

“To impose retribution of this kind would be counter-productive to Australia’s interests in the region, and such action will invite an increase in the already high level of nationalistic sentiment, and a ‘tit-for-tat’ response from the new Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo government.”

Meanwhile, lawyers for Gularte, who has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, will lodge a request for a judicial review into his case on Monday.

They say Gularte was mentally ill when he tried to smuggle six kilograms of cocaine into Indonesia hidden inside surfboards and should be hospitalised not executed.

Gularte’s lawyer, Christina Widiantarti, said he became angry and upset when he was notified of his execution on Saturday.

“He said, I’ve been here for seven years, I did one mistake, everybody uses illegal narcotic, why do I have to be executed?” Ms Widiantarti said. “Everybody there knows Rodrigo is mentally ill. He refused to sign the notification of his death. “Because he was angry, he didn’t say what his last request was, he didn’t say what to do after the execution.”

On Friday lawyers for Veloso lodged a request for a second judicial review on the grounds she was “primarily a human trafficking victim in the first place, and therefore, must be protected”.

However Foreign Ministry spokesman Arrmanatha Nasir told Fairfax Media that under Indonesian law only one judicial review was allowed.

Veloso maintains she was tricked by her godsister into carrying a suitcase lined with heroin into Yogyakarta, where she was seeking employment as a domestic helper.

Veloso’s plight has captured the sympathy of Indonesians still reeling from the beheadings of two Indonesian domestic workers in Saudi Arabia earlier this month.

The hashtag #SaveMaryJane has been trending on Twitter with several local celebrities supporting her case for mercy.

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It’s time for the US supreme court to declare a death penalty moratorium

Clayton Lockett’s agonizing final minutes were the results of a failed experiment, proving states can no longer be trusted to run their laboratories. Let’s stop tinkering with the machinery of death

lethal injection chamber In 1972, the supreme court issued a moratorium after determining that the death penalty was being imposed in an arbitrary and capricious manner. What’s happening now is certainly capricious. Photograph: T Woodard / Flickr via Creative Commons

My recollections of the one execution I attended amount to memories of a ghastly, surrealistic encounter with justice. The condemned prisoner lay covered with a sheet, which hid from the witnesses the intravenous lines threaded into both of his arms.

Sitting just a few yards away, I held the hand of his wife, who wept, prayed and spoke in tongues as the ritualistic killing unfolded. The inmate said goodbye to her, to his lawyers, to his spiritual advisors. Then the series of poisons entered his bloodstream, and he breathed in a labored manner, gradually turning a deep purple, and died.

In all respects it was a calm, orderly, cold-blooded and super-premeditated killing of one human being by another. Stripped of the sanction of law, the execution could have served as a perfect example of first-degree murder, punishable by death in 32 states in America.

Needless to say, the execution of that man, in 1995, was vastly different from Oklahoma’s ghoulishly botched attempt to execute Clayton Lockett on Tuesday night.

As the world is now well aware, my state’s effort to execute two prisoners in the same day for the first time since 1937 turned into a horrible miscarriage. We should have seen it coming, of course, as the secrecy and the scarcity of the drug cocktail in the execution mixed with the bickering and the borderline constitutional crisis in the halls of Oklahoma government, where all hell was breaking loose. Until, that is, hell came to the death chamber.

Lockett’s body twitched before he attempted to sit up, began to nod, mumbled and writhed, was injected with a failed sedative, revived, then suffered a “vein failure”, and died, of a massive heart attack, nearly 45 minutes later.

Botched lethal injections are hardly rare, and the protocols and drugs used vary from state to state – from a gasping inmate in Ohio, to the Oklahoma man whose last words were “my whole body is burning”, to Texas and Florida and beyond.

In 1972, the US supreme court declared a moratorium on executions after determining that the death penalty was being imposed in an arbitrary and capricious manner. The lack of standards in capital cases caused the high court to equate being sentenced to death to being struck by lightning.

When the supreme court reinstated the death penalty four years later, it didn’t establish a one-size-fits-all process for capital cases. Instead, as is true of criminal justice in general, the court recognized that states were free to craft their own death penalty procedures, and each state could serve as a laboratory.

By submitting different processes to the crucible of adversary testing at the state level, the legal thinking went, surely the best and most reliable decisions about who deserved to die would be made – of course the most humane method of execution would emerge. The past 38 years have demonstrated that this undeniably laudable goal, to let America’s laboratories of democracy kill as they see fit, has been far from realized.

The constitutional prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, as understood by the 2008 US supreme court decision in Baze v Rees, is designed to prevent the gratuitous infliction of unnecessary pain and suffering on those each state seeks to kill. The notion, again, appears to be that states which choose to kill killers should endeavor to occupy a higher moral plane than those whose crimes have merited their extermination.

However, as execution drugs become increasingly scarce, death states are forced to experiment with substitute drugs, to tinker with dosages, to rely on questionable suppliers. Shielding these drugs and their sources from public scrutiny greatly enhances the risk of an unnecessarily painful and consequently unconstitutional execution.

In a tragic sense, Clayton Lockett’s agonizing death was the result of a failed experiment. He was convicted of shooting of 19-year-old Stephanie Neiman and reportedly watched as accomplices buried her alive, but justice requires better than bad chemistry. Given that lethal injection is the execution method in all 32 death states, as well as the military and federal government, we can expect that other human science experiments will result in unconstitutional executions.

Now is the time to ask: what progress has really been made since the supreme court’s short-lived moratorium on executions? Today, blacks, who comprise roughly 13% of the American population, account for 42% of the death row population. Since 1973, around 140 prisoners have been released from death row with evidence of their innocence. The death penalty remains a punishment most likely to be imposed in cases involving poor minority defendants accused of killing white victims.

Governors in two death penalty states – Washington and Oregon – have imposed moratoriums on executions. Five other states (Kansas, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and New Mexico) have either performed no executions or have only executed volunteers.

The former supreme court Justice Harry Blackmun was right about what he said way back in 1994: the time “to concede that the death penalty experiment has failed” and to “stop tinker[ing] with the machinery of death” is long overdue.

Now is the time for the supreme court to step in, once again, and impose a nationwide moratorium on executions. These justices may never end capital punishment themselves, but America has more than enough reasons for pause. When the majority of death sentences are reversed, the efficacy of the entire capital punishment system gets called into question. A majority of justices agree that the death penalty does not deter would-be killers. In economic terms, death penalty cases are far more expensive than cases which result in life without parole sentences.

The exercise by a state of its most awesome power – the power to deprive a citizen of his life – must be accompanied by due process and complete transparency. A government which seeks to kill its citizens by way of a process veiled in secret – that is a government which does not deliver justice.

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