Akmal Shaikh, a British citizen, was executed today in China after being found guilty of drug smuggling. These things are never straight forward, and this case was complicated by claims that Akmal Shaikh was suffering from a mental illness (Bipolar Disorder). The Chinese dismissed these claims, saying that no evidence of mental illness could be found in the man's medical records. Since Akmal Shaikh's death, statements of condemnation have been made by the government and opposition leaders. They express their dismay that Akmal did not receive an independent mental health assessment whilst in custody.
Philip Alston, a UN special rapporteur, said the execution amounted to a violation of Chinese and international law. "International law points very strongly in the direction of the principle that the death penalty should only be used for crimes which result directly in the death of others". However, a spokesperson for the Chinese Embassy said: "The amount of heroin he brought into China was 4,030g, enough to cause 26,800 deaths, threatening numerous families."
Leo McKinstry of the Daily Mail says: "In contrast to New Labour's policy of appeasement and surrender, the Chinese Government acts vigorously to defend its people from the misery caused by the drugs trade. My regret is not over tough action by Beijing, but the fact that we in this country do not possess the moral clarity or strength of purpose to deal ruthlessly with drug peddlers and other enemies of our society."
So are we in the West too soft? Is China guilty of not giving Akmal Shaikh a fair trial, and of passing an excessive sentence? Should the death sentence ever be used?