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--------------- Print Magazine --------------
  May 2016
  April 2016

Death drug shortage, corporate violation of human rights and Immigrants' rights in Canada

Death sentences are facing drug problems these days, particularly in Florida, where one of the drugs used in the three-drug protocol for execution by lethal injection is not available, and the efficacy and constitutionality of the substitute drug is under constant challenge.

A man convicted in Florida of killing a police officer has been stayed pending the final judicial settling of the issues pertaining to the painful death that the substitute drug might cause. The substitute drug is an animal sedative and is proposed to substitute sodium thiopental, which is not available for the time being on account of export regulations in Italy where the plant of Illinois-based company Hospira, the only US-based manufacturer of the drug, is located.

The use of the substitute drug, pentobarbital, is under constitutional challenge on the grounds that it might cause pain during the death. The claim is supported by the fact that the executions in Alabama and Georgia a month or so earlier used pentobarbital, and the executed inmates, Roy Blankenship and Eddie Duval Powell, showed signs of pain as they died. The evidence is not conclusive in this regard, but there is indeed sufficient room for doubt. This was most probably the reason why the state Supreme Court said that the challengers had "raised a factual dispute, not conclusively refuted, as to whether the use of pentobarbital in Florida's lethal injection protocol will subject him to a 'substantial risk of serious harm'."

The drug Pentobarbital comes in handy to euthanize animals, and is sometimes also used as part of treatment for severe epilepsy in human beings, but only such kind that involves life-threatening seizures.

As for the executions, the three-drug protocol used sodium thiopental to send the inmate into unconsciousness state followed with the injection of a muscle relaxant causing paralysis, after which a drug induced cardiac arrest concluded the execution of the inmate.

A Miami court granted a go-ahead to the use of substitute drug, but the state Supreme Court has halted the execution until the constitutionality of the drug is tested and a judicial conclusion is reached.

Companies responsible for overseas human rights violations: The question here is how to kill as humanely as possible and with minimum possible pain so that the constitutional rights of the inmates are not violated? The other question that is very likely to come up before the US Supreme Court is whether companies can be held liable for human rights violation overseas. The issue is very soon to reach the Supreme Court because two US Courts of Appeals have come up with conflicting rulings in this regard.

Royal Dutch Shell PLC and Exxon Mobil Corp. are the two old companies in face of the heat. They are facing allegations of having played some part in human rights abuses in Nigeria (Shell) and Indonesia (Exxon).

Shell found the law on its side when 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals based in New York ruled in its favour ( Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Shell ) holding that the statute did not envisage any corporate liability. However, in the lawsuit involving Exxon Mobil, U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled against Exxon ( Doe v. Exxon Mobil ) holding that the lawsuit can be heard and decided in federal court.

Close at the heel of the Exxon decision the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago sided with the DC court in ruling that the companies were not free of liability though in the case it heard it did not find the company liable for want of merit.

The Nigerian plaintiffs have petitioned the Supreme Court already and the Court is likely to consider hearing the case after the summer vacations.

No matter which case is finally heard by the Supreme Court, but sooner or later - more likely sooner - the issue is all set to be settled by the Court one way or the other.

Sentenced for two-years, no right against deportation: If an immigrant is convicted for a crime punishable with a sentence of two years or more, he or she loses his or her right to challenge his deportation order in Canada. With the Supreme Court refusing to hear Jean-Zacarie Belance's request to grant him a leave to appeal his conviction that could result in his deportation, it is settled that for now the Supreme Court does not feel the need to review the validity of the relevant provision under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which nullifies an immigrant's right to appeal in certain cases.


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