Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Could Akmal Shaikh's Execution have been avoided - 2 questions for the Goverment to answer

Like many others I went to sleep last night fearful that there was little hope that 53 year old mentally ill British citizen Akmal Shaikh would avoid the executioner in China this morning and, sadly, my fears were confirmed when I woke up this morning.

I don't think the use of the death penalty is ever justified. Murder carried out by the state is still murder. No exceptions. Having said that, murder carried out by the state of someone who is mentally ill takes brutality to a whole new level.

The charities Amnesty International and Reprieve should be commended for their valiant attempts to save Akmal Shaikh, but their efforts were probably always doomed to failure without meaningful intervention by the British Government. As far as I can see, all the Foreign Office and Gordon Brown did was to ask nicely for the Chinese Government to show clemency. That was never going to work with a regime that doesn't value human rights in any way. I want to know exactly what went on and how much diplomatic pressure was put on China and whether it was threatened with any meaningful consequences if it went ahead with this execution.

The statement the BBC has published from the Chinese this morning makes sickening reading:

"We express our strong dissatisfaction and opposition to the British government's unreasonable criticism of the case. We urge [them] to correct their mistake in order to avoid harming China-UK relations,"

You can sense the swaggering of the bully in those words. The Chinese regime clearly thinks it can do what it likes, not just on human rights, but on climate change, too.

But perhaps this wasn't the first time Akmal Shaikh had been failed by the British authorities. I don't know much about his personal treatment, but I do know that many people with mental health problems don't get the support that they need. Mental health support is very much the poor relation in the NHS family and the quality of care a person gets varies according to what's available in their area. What sort of care did Akmal Shaikh get and if it had been more effective, would he ever have been in such a vulnerable state that he was duped into smuggling the drugs?

Akmal Shaikh's death is shocking because of its manner, but it should make us all think about how people with mental illnesses are treated, and we should maybe also wonder why his name wasn't on the page of every tabloid newspaper from the time he was arrested. It couldn't possibly be because he was mentally ill and not white, could it?

UPDATE: I thought I'd draw your attention to three fantastic posts on this and the wider issues surrounding drugs policy and the death penalty, two from Sara Bedford who fisks Leo McKinstry beautifully and one from Jeremy Rowe.


Anonymous said...

"As far as I can see, all the Foreign Office and Gordon Brown did was to ask nicely for the Chinese Government to show clemency. That was never going to work with a regime that doesn't value human rights in any way. I want to know exactly what went on and how much diplomatic pressure was put on China and whether it was threatened with any meaningful consequences if it went ahead with this execution."

So what realistically could the British goverment have done? Sent a gunboat? Personally I don't think there was the slightest chance of China taking any notice whatsoever of anything siad or done by the UK - especially in the fatermath of Copenhagen.

Anonymous said...

I would just like to say that it would appear that every British drug smuggler that gets caught trafficing drugs in the far east, where they appear to have much stricter punishments always seems to have been duped. They also would also appear to also have a undiagnosed mental conditions. That said he should not have been executed for his crime, but the people that think that the British minnow complaining to China about human rights would make them change their minds about the execution must be living in dreamland.

Gareth said...

The Chinese are so backwards in there ways, that they would never give in to anyone. It makes me sick that they can get away with this.
Oh and the NHS do a job in my area as i suffer from depression and the help iv got saved me.

Anonymous said...

The man lived in the UK for years with no mention, treatment or diagnosis of mental illness - where was his relatives and the government then?? I am manic depressive and at no time do you become delusional enough to become a drug mule and having your photo taken sitting on a bench is in no way any proof. It is also my understanding that the Chinese government were fed up waiting for the requested proof from the UK that he was indeed mentally ill - guess what - there was nothing. So no-one gave a hoot about this man until he got in deep trouble and suddenly the flies are out in force. Have we all forgotten Tony B-liar and the absolute illegal invasion of Iraq by OUR COUNTRY - we have participated in the mass murder of tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens. In my eyes that gives the UK government absolutely NO RIGHT to critisize anyone and actually makes them worse than China because they pretend to be good guys! At least with the Chinese, what you see is what you get.

Anonymous said...

Why does the author have to raise the subject of Akmal Shaikh's ethnicity? Does being non-white give you the right to commit crime? Dealing drugs is evil. I don't care what colour you are.

I object to China executing this man on the grounds that Britain should have done it for them. We are too soft on criminals. People are throwing all sorts of excuses about how this guy was mentally ill (which is disputed). It's too easy for lawyers, psychiatrists et al to sleaze people out of having to accept responsibility for their own actions. I also suffer with bi-polar, you don't see me smuggling drugs across two continents. I feel nothing but sympathy for his family, but Akmal Shaikh got what was coming to him.

Anonymous said...

Don't buy PRC made goods. Pass it on.

Anonymous said...

Why must the UK Goverment answer for a Pakistani born person trying to Smuggle Contraband in a foreign country? This guy got what was coming to him, now we all want to moan about human rights. China and any other country that Executes people for breaking certain laws, have that right as a country, and the EU must just live with it. Hopefully individuals will think twice before commiting this crime in a foreign country. Akmal Shaikh is the person that brings drugs into th UK, that cause mayhem and millions of pounds in taxes to fix. I cant believe people want him back here alive. The UK did the best thing for this guy, nothing.

Anonymous said...

"Could Akmal Shaikh's Execution have been avoided?"

The simple answer is yes. All he had to do was not try and smuggle enough drugs in sufficient quantity to kill almost 30,000 people into a country that executes drug runners.

Anonymous said...

some years ago, when 2 british nurses (christian & non-asian) commited murder in Saudi arabia, the UK media, and almost all Uk public were of the view that they would not recieve a fair trial, and there was practically no one in UK saying that they should accept Saudi law (death penalty),indeed, the question of whether they were likley guilty or not was not even debated (i.e they question of their likely guilt was glossed over)

But in the case of Akmal shaik, (british, but asian and muslim), there are many in the UK (well at least on blogs), happy to find every reason to accept that he should be guilty & that he/we should accept Chinese 'justice system' - few even raise the issue of whether the trial being fair or not, as an issue, let alone the fact that a vulnerable mental person could be manipulated (of course, the crux is what is the evidence for his mental condition, but the Chinese didnt want to look at any evidence

Having said all that, there are still decent folk (i hope the majority) & organisations & even the our govt in the UK who have put their 'at home' prejudices to one side, and looked at this from the univeral humanitarian viewpoint, and raised some voice for civility & fairness


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