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The synthetic painkiller fentanyl has been the driving force behind the nation’s opioid epidemic, killing tens of thousands of Americans last year in overdoses. Now two states want to use the drug’s powerful properties for a new purpose: to execute prisoners on death row.
As Nevada and Nebraska push for the country’s first fentanyl-assisted executions, doctors and death penalty opponents are fighting those plans. They have warned that such an untested use of fentanyl could lead to painful, botched executions, comparing the use of it and other new drugs proposed for lethal injection to human experimentation.
States are increasingly pressed for ways to carry out the death penalty because of problems obtaining the drugs they long have used, primarily because pharmaceutical companies are refusing to supply their drugs for executions.
The situation has led states such as Florida, Ohio and Oklahoma to turn to novel drug combinations for executions. Mississippi legalized nitrogen gas this s…

Malaysia: Brothers hurriedly, secretively executed in violation of international law

B. Rames Batumalai and Suthar Batumalai
B. Rames Batumalai (left) and Suthar Batumalai
Despite a pending clemency application before the state’s Pardon Board, brothers Suthar Batumalai and B. Rames Batumalai were executed at dawn on 15 March 2017. Contrary to international standards, their family were not provided adequate notice of the scheduled executions.

The family of Suthar Batumalai and B. Rames Batumalai were informed, by a letter dated 13 March 2017, to visit the prison on 14 March 2017 to pay their final respects. 

Upon arrival, prison authorities informed them that the execution was to be carried out the following day on 15 March 2017.

The brothers were originally scheduled to be executed on 24 February 2017, however they were granted a temporary stay of execution, pending the hearing of a petition containing new evidence on their case. 

To date, the clemency application, filed on 23 February 2017, has not been heard by the Pardons Board of the Negeri Sembilan state.

The executions were carried out in a hurried and secretive manner. This practice has been observed by Amnesty International in other cases of imminent executions the organization has been alerted to since 2014. 

International law in para 8 of the ‘Safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty’ which was approved by the Economic and Social Council resolution 1984/50 of 25 May 1984 clearly states that executions may not be carried out pending any appeal or other proceeding relating to pardon or commutation of the sentence. 

This hurried execution is in violation of international law and standards, as the families should be given adequate notice of the scheduled executions.

On the night before the execution, a candlelight vigil was held for the two men, attended by their family members of the two men, as well as members of civil society, in protest of their rushed and unjust execution and the continued use of the death penalty.

Suthar Batumalai and B. Rames Batumalai were transported back to their home state, Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, after their execution. 

Their funerals were held on 16 March 2017.

Source: Amnesty International, March 17, 2017

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