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Utah state legislators have voted to legalise death by firing squad.  It’s ok, they tell the world.  They will only use this power when they have insufficient stock of the chemicals for the state’s usual means of death penalty execution, lethal injection.  Leaving to one side the fact that it would be oxymoronic to suggest any form of administration of the death penalty could be humane, the fact that Utah state have voted to turn back the hands of time and re-adopt a form of death sentence that it is widely recognised as particularly brutal has shocked the world.  

Their reason?  Because the drugs that are used for lethal injection are manufactured in Europe and the European drugs companies are refusing to sell those drugs to the American states which still have the death penalty.

So is this blog about big businesses with a moral compass?  Perhaps.  The drug companies are doing the right thing by refusing to form part of a supply chain of death, for sure, and they should be complimented for doing so.  I do, nevertheless, wonder if they will have at least one eye on their own obligations in terms of the European Convention on Human Rights and that is the real point that I want to highlight - the importance of the Convention on human rights and the need for us in Britain to recognise its importance and to fight to keep it part of our law.

America does not have human rights legislation.  That is exactly why they still have the death penalty and why states like Utah can go even further and reintroduce one of the most brutal and violent forms of death penalty.  In the UK, people are often far too quick to knock human rights and associate the term as only being about prisoners claiming compensation for slopping out or losing their rights to vote.  Ever striving to capitalise on ill-thought out popularism, David Cameron has of course promised to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights.  But for him and anyone who is lured by the simplicity of the argument; America, the death penalty and the decision by Utah state to reintroduce firing squads ought to serve as a powerful cautionary tale.  The human rights legislation has done a lot of good in the UK and across Europe.  Without it, we as individuals, groups and the whole of society are weaker and more vulnerable.  

David Cameron may be willing to fall for and pander to ill thought out popularism on the subject, we must not.


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