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Why Texas’ ‘death penalty capital of the world’ stopped executing people

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Since the Supreme Court legalized capital punishment in 1976, Harris County, Texas, has executed 126 people. That's more executions than every individual state in the union, barring Texas itself.
Harris County's executions account for 23 percent of the 545 people Texas has executed. On the national level, the state alone is responsible for more than a third of the 1,465 people put to death in the United States since 1976.
In 2017, however, the county known as the "death penalty capital of the world" and the "buckle of the American death belt" executed and sentenced to death a remarkable number of people: zero.
This is the first time since 1985 that Harris County did not execute any of its death row inmates, and the third year in a row it did not sentence anyone to capital punishment either.
The remarkable statistic reflects a shift the nation is seeing as a whole.
“The practices that the Harris County District Attorney’s Office is following are also signifi…

Police claims there are up to 1.2 million drug users in Jakarta

Drug user
President Joko Widodo recently made headlines around the world when he told the Indonesian police they shouldn’t hesitate to shoot foreign drug smugglers if they resist, seemingly echoing the policy espoused by Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in his bloody drug war. 

Jokowi, like Duterte, often speaks about his country’s supposed “drug emergency” to justify such harsh talk, but how bad is the drug situation in Indonesia really?

According to the director of the Jakarta police narcotics unit, Nico Afinta, the situation is pretty bad, but especially in the capital.

“In Indonesia, there are 1-5 million drug users, while there are 600,000-1.2 million drug users in Jakarta,” Nico said at Jakarta Police Headquarters yesterday as quoted by Kompas.

The notion that there could be as many as 1.2 million drug users in Jakarta is especially worrying considering the capital has an estimated population of just over 10 million, meaning over 10% of all Jakartans could be drug users.

But if instead of worry you are feeling skeptical that the percentage of illegal narcotic users could possibly be that high in the capital, well, you’d be right to think so.

Nico said the estimate was based on information from the National Narcotics Agency (BNN) but did not elaborate on what data was used to calculate those numbers.

However, it’s likely that those figures were derived from similar data to the kind cited by President Joko Widodo and others officials to claim that the country’s drug crisis is causing up to 50 Indonesians to die from illegal narcotics every day. 

Statisticians have demonstrated that the data used to produce that scary statistic is terribly flawed, being based not on verified medical cases but rather indirect, unverifiable data from survey questions such as “Do you know anybody who ever died because of drugs?”

Similarly flawed methods and cherry picked data have been shown to been used in estimating the number of drug users in the country in the past.

Surveys show stiff drug punishments and especially the death penalty for foreign drug smugglers are popular policies amongst Indonesians and many have accused President Joko Widodo of exaggerating the country’s drug problems and reviving the use of the death penalty for his own political benefit. (Is it purely coincidence that Jokowi’s talk of shooting drug dealers came soon after mounting criticism regarding his presidential decree to unilaterally ban radical groups?)

So how many drug users are there in Jakarta? We have no idea, but we’d recommend you take any figures from the government with a grain of salt.

Source: Coconuts Jakarta, July 25, 2017


Philippine President Duterte Doubles Down on Abusive ‘Drug War’


Rodrigo Duterte Joko Widodo - posters
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte vowed on Monday that his “war on drugs” will continue “unremitting as it will be unrelenting” into his second year in office.

Duterte issued a stark warning to suspected drug dealers, whom he characterized as “beasts and vultures,” that they had a choice of “jail or hell” if they persisted in allegedly illegal activities.

In his second State of the Nation Address, Duterte accused activists who have documented serious human rights violations linked to his drug war of “trivializing” the campaign by demanding respect for legal process. He also declared he would require presidential approval for any investigations by the official Commission on Human Rights of alleged security forces abuse and the Office of the Ombudsman. He also pledged to push for the reinstatement of the death penalty, justifying it as “not only about deterrence, but also retribution.”

Duterte’s drug war, which Human Rights Watch research has shown to be a police-led extrajudicial execution campaign, has resulted in the deaths of more than 7,000 people since he took office in June 2016. Duterte has glorified those deaths as proof of the “success” of anti-drug measures that have disproportionately targeted urban slum dwellers. Human Rights Watch has shown government claims that the deaths of suspected drug users and dealers were lawful are false. Interviews with witnesses and victims’ relatives and analysis of police records show a pattern of unlawful police conduct designed to paint a veneer of legality over extrajudicial executions.

More positively, Duterte expressed strong support for the enforcement of the country’s Reproductive Health Law and for women to be able to obtain family planning hormonal implants, the sale and distribution of which are currently under a Supreme Court restraining order. He also urged the full implementation of the Magna Carta of Women, a comprehensive women’s rights law, and made a commitment to increase assistance for overseas migrant workers. With respect to the environment, he promised to strictly check the operations of mining companies.

With President Duterte, it seems calls to enforce the law can share the same speech with exhortations to run roughshod over it.

Source: Human Rights Watch, Carlos H. Conde, July 24, 2017

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