Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Capital punishment for drug traffickers

I'm writing about this because of the news today that a 56 year old British woman has been sentenced to death for being caught with almost 5 kilos (over 10 lbs) of cocaine concealed in the lining of her suitcase on arrival on a flight in Bali from Bangkok.

Firstly, let me state very clearly that I am opposed to capital punishment - killing is wrong and state sanctioned killing (which is what capital punishment is) is no different.

However, the laws on this matter that apply in the UK, the EU and many other countries around the world, which forbid capital punishment, do not apply in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, China or indeed the USA, however much I may find their justice systems appalling - I live in the real world, though, and know that sovereign countries do what they think is correct. Nobody travelling to countries in the Far East which operate a very harsh criminal justice system with regard to drug smuggling is left in any doubt about it - the first time I flew into Kuala Lumpur, for example, I recall that although I was well aware of their laws on this matter, I was still somewhat 'thrilled' in a morbid kind of way by the warning printed in heavy red ink on the landing card that the consequence of carrying more than 10 grams (grams, not kilos) of drugs was a MANDATORY death sentence; it certainly focusses the mind. Many of the countries in that part of the world, such as Indonesia have similarly harsh policies. There is no secret about it - everyone who travels there is made aware of the consequences. I got a similar 'thrill' the first time I flew into the USA and had to complete the landing card which asked one to state whether one 'was now or had ever been a member of the Communist Party' - I knew long before I travelled there that this was one of the landing-card questions.

The bottom line is that if you travel to a country that imposes capital punishment for trafficking in drugs, and you carry almost 5 kilos of cocaine in your luggage to that country, then you must be prepared to live (or in this case die) with the consequences.

Lindsay Sandiford, the British woman in the Indonesia incident, has apparently apologised for her crime, fair enough, and has stated in 'mitigation' that she "would never have become involved in something like this but the lives of my children were in danger and I felt I had to protect them", which is put into context by the British human rights charity Reprieve being quoted as stating that she had been: "targeted by drug traffickers who exploited her vulnerability and made threats against her children". As an appeal is apparently going to be lodged by the condemned woman, I imagine that these factors will be investigated and taken into consideration, if this was not done [adequately] at the trial.

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