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World Day Against the Death Penalty

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 6th November 2019.

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Photo of Ruth Maguire Ruth Maguire Scottish National Party

The death penalty is cruel, inhumane, degrading and a violation of human rights.

I thank my colleague Bill Kidd for bringing this important debate to the chamber and for all the work that he does for peace and justice.

I am also grateful to organisations around the world that are fighting every day for change. I would like to give a special mention to Reprieve, which I had the pleasure of meeting at the beginning of the month. Combined with public pressure, its work on the front line and in investigating cases, tracking down evidence and witnesses and taking court action works. It has had an enormous impact and has saved more than 400 prisoners who were facing the death sentence.

Every day, people are put to death in countries around the world. The so-called crimes that are punished by execution can include homosexuality, adultery and blasphemy.

We could have a whole other debate on blasphemy, but I want to acknowledge that, even though the blasphemy laws are not used in modern Scotland, I support the calls from the international movement to end all blasphemy laws around the world, including in Scotland.

Every single day, people are put to death in countries around the world. In Pakistan, hundreds have been hanged, including young people and those who are mentally ill. In Egypt, activists and journalists face death sentences, and of course in the USA—that great friend of Britain’s—there are states that use untested combinations of misused medicines to kill prisoners, while passing secrecy laws to hide their tracks. That is cruel, inhumane, degrading and a violation of human rights.

Authoritarian regimes regularly use the death penalty to silence those who dare to oppose them, and I want to provide a snapshot of one of them. For more than a decade, Saudi Arabia has had the dishonour of being one of the five worst executing countries in the world. With more than 300 people put to death in the past two years, there are no signs that the situation is getting any better.

Convictions in Saudi Arabia death penalty cases often rely on confessions—false confessions that are coerced through torture. Those sentenced to death then suffer the further indignity of being executed in public. Execution methods in Saudi Arabia include beheading, stoning and crucifixion. That is cruel, inhumane, degrading and a violation of human rights.

Reprieve has raised concerns that United Kingdom funding and training for Saudi security bodies could be contributing to human rights abuses, including the death penalty. According to Reprieve, British police have trained their Saudi counterparts in investigation techniques that could lead to the arrest, torture and sentencing to death of protesters. My understanding is that concerns have been raised that the proper safeguards are not being taken in those projects. It would be helpful if, when she sums up the debate, the minister could confirm whether, in any situation globally, Police Scotland is sharing its expertise on proper safeguards being in place. After all, one of the values that is expressed by our Scottish force is to ensure that its

“actions and policing operations respect the human rights of all peoples and officers”.

Sadly, that value is not yet universal globally.