Mental Health and Justice: the Execution of Scott Panetti

HC Profile PicThis post by Dr Harriet Cornell, Development Officer for the Global Justice Academy, examines the relationship between mental illness and justice in light of the planned execution of Scott Panetti in Texas on Wednesday, 3 December 2014.

A Public Policy Polling national survey was published yesterday, 1 December 2014, showing that Americans oppose the death penalty for mentally ill defendants by a 2-1 margin. The Death Penalty Information Center reported that ‘opposition to the execution of people with mental illness was strong across lines of race, gender, geographic region, political affiliation, and education. Democrats (62%), Republicans (59%) and Independents (51%) all opposed the practice’. Tomorrow, 3 December 2014, the state of Texas plans to execute Scott Louis Panetti for the 1992 murders of his parents-in-law, Joe and Amanda Alvarado. With a long, documented history of severe mental illness, Scott Panetti’s case has garnered international news coverage and a notable spectrum of support for clemency.

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Ebola: Judging Reactions and Responses. What Happens Next?

LG Ebola 27 Oct 2014

The University of Edinburgh’s Global Academies have announced their Autumn 2014 Ebola Series in response to the current global crisis. In this short post, Dr Harriet Cornell from the Global Justice Academy reflects on how the global response to Ebola has unfolded in the press, and criticisms that have been voiced by experts in the field.

This evening’s Ebola headlines are divided between pleas for world help from Liberia’s President, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, and blame for the spread and devastation of the outbreak been laid squarely at the doors of the world’s supranational bodies: the World Health Organisation, and the United Nations. Then there is the intersect between the outbreak of the disease in West Africa, and the western media response, with The Guardian running a comment piece entitled The problem with the west’s Ebola response is still fear of a black patient’.

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Is Climate Change Causing Conflict in Iraq-Syria?

Nicaylen RayasaThis guest post is by Nicaylen Rayasa. Nicaylen is studying for a Bachelor’s degree in Meteorology and Environmental Studies at Ohio University. Along with fellow GJA-blogger, Janice Brewer, Nicaylen took the ‘Place-Making and Making-Places’ summer school module at the University of Edinburgh during July 2014 – you can read more about the group and their investigations of Global Justice here. In this post, Nicaylen considered the rise of Islamic State and how this intersects with climate change.

This past winter in the Fertile Crescent was particularly harsh for farmers, in what is usually the wettest part of the year. It ended up to be the hottest and driest winter on record.

While prolonged droughts and record heat have been commonplace for many parts of the world, the Iraq-Syria region brings an interesting political dynamic to the climate regime.The region’s climate is  based historically on dry summers and rainy winters. However, climate change and the uptick in temperatures has transformed land use and increased desertification during extended droughts. Extreme versions of hot, dry summers have been more prevalent.

The Iraq-Syria conflict in the Middle East has been a growing regional issue for years now. ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria), the Sunni Jihadist organisation responsible for the newfound violence in the region, arose earlier this year. Their emergence coincidently occurred during the hottest March-May period on record in Iraq.

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When will we start to address the security of aid workers through a gendered lens?

This guest post is by Dr Alice Gritti. Alice holds a PhD in social psychology from the University of Milano-Bicocca. Her research focuses on gender studies and international aid workers. She arrived at the University of Edinburgh as a visiting researcher in 2013.

It has already been a month since the kidnapping of two female Italian aid workers in Syria last August. It was striking how the media reported the news of Greta and Vanessa, and how the world of social and the industry insiders commented on it. Before that of a respectful silence, it took the shape of a blame game, with only a few speaking up in defence of the two aid workers, admiring and sharing their values​​, while many were blaming the two with judgemental comments, and often sexist. Yes, of course. The two at issue are indeed “two girls”, and their female identity was what the “accusers” mostly made relevant in their notes: “two young girls”, “very young and inexperienced”, “naïve”, “the blonde and the brunette”, “they should have played with Barbie when they were little instead of playing at the little humanitarians”, and so on.

Greta Ramelli (L) and Vanessa Marzullo (R). Source: ANSA.it

Greta Ramelli (L) and Vanessa Marzullo (R). Source: ANSA.it

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Spectating and Acting: a Workshop Report

On June 20, 2014, Mathias Thaler (University of Edinburgh) organized a workshop dedicated to the tension between spectating and acting in democratic politics. The event drew an engaged audience of about 40 participants, both from Edinburgh and from outside Scotland. Apart from Law School and School of Social and Political Science staff (such as Zenon Bankowski, Christine Bell and Jonathan Hearn), the event also attracted academics from farther abroad (like Phil Parvin from Loughborough University, Cara Nine from the University College Cork and Audra Mitchell from the University of York). Furthermore, many PhD students attended and contributed to the workshop.

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WikiLeaks Evidence in Court

Dr Laura Jeffery is a Lecturer and ESRC Research Fellow in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh, specialising in forced displacement, migration, the environment, and human rights. Her academic profile can be viewed here.

In this guest blog, Laura considers how WikiLeaks evidence has been used in courts and whether documents obtained by WikiLeaks are admissable as legal evidence.

UK government policy is to ‘neither confirm nor deny’ (NCND) the authenticity of unauthorised leaked documents. The rationale for NCND is twofold: firstly, authenticating a leaked document could compound any damage already caused by the leak and secondly it rewards those involved in leaking documents. NCND is applied as a blanket policy because selective commentary would give rise to the supposition that leaked documents whose authenticity was not explicitly denied are implicitly authenticated.

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Responding to the moral crisis in northern Nigeria and expecting the unexpected

In this guest blog by Zoe Marks of the Centre of African Studies at the University of Edinburgh, she discusses responses to the kidnapping of nearly three hundred school girls in northern Nigeria, and argues that something can be done. This blog was written on May 6, 2014.

What is a war on terrorism if not the rescue of 276 hostages? Prisoners, forced wives, sex slaves, chattel for market, domestic servants, human trafficking victims – aspiring, diligent, brave young girls.

We are facing an urgent moral crisis and fumbling. More than 20 days have passed since over 300 schoolgirls were corralled onto lorries in the middle of the night, captured by men claiming to be soldiers there to protect them. For three weeks, the Nigerian government has punted, Western governments have stood on the sidelines, and regional allies and the African Union have not even shown up to the pitch. Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan did not call his first strategy meeting until last Saturday (4 May). His military advisory committee was convened only today for the first time (6 May).

When abducted on 14 April, the students were already far from home. They had travelled to Chibok Government Girls Secondary School despite school closures throughout Borno State not to make a political statement, but simply to sit the same high school certificate exams being taken by their peers across West Africa.

Boko Haram

Boko Haram militants. Source: Boko Haram video.

Boko Haram, the al Qaeda-aligned insurgency that has destabilized the region, only claimed responsibility for the kidnapping yesterday (5 May). They released an hour-long video of masked men standing heavily armed and silent while their leader read a lengthy harangue. The girls were nowhere to be seen. He parroted back as threats what the news media has been recycling as fact, raising more questions than answers.

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We kill people to tell people that killing people is wrong?

Harriet Cornell is the Development Officer for the Global Justice Academy. In this guest post, she reports on the botched execution of Clayton Lockett in Oklahoma, and the state of the death penalty in the United States.

Ohio drugs protocol

In 2005, this memo was posted next to the death chamber at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, Ohio. Credit: AP File Photo

The state of Oklahoma executed Clayton Lockett at 6pm local time on Tuesday 29 April 2014. Or, according to widespread news reports and a statement from Robert Patton (Director of Oklahoma Department of Corrections), the state attempted to execute Lockett but failed, and he died 43 minutes later from a massive heart attack. Charles Warner was due to follow Lockett to the gurney at 8pm, but has been granted a 14-day stay by Governor Mary Fallin, pending an investigation into what happened in that execution chamber. » Read more

UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, Queries the UK, and recommends suspending the bedroom tax

Observations by Christine Bell, Professor of Constitutional Law at the University of Edinburgh, and Director of the Global Justice Academy. She is course organiser for the new LLM in Human Rights degree, available from September 2013 at Edinburgh.

llm_global_justiceAt the start of this week, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing has released her report into the country visit she made to the UK which investigated the right to housing across the UK, and in particular considered it against the background of current welfare reform including on the bedroom tax.

The report can be accessed in English here.  Two matters are interesting to highlight.

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Justice versus Peace? Syrian Atrocities and International Criminal Justice

Christine Bell, Professor of Constitutional Law and Director of the Global Justice Academy, comments on recent Human Rights developments in Syria.

syria blog

A recent report into torture – interestingly with a connection to Scotland (one of the researches is based in Dundee University) – has provided strong evidence that the Assad regime has been involved in gross human rights violations.  The report was produced by a set of international experts in international criminal law and forensics, requested by Carter-Ruck & Co solicitors, acting for Qatar National State who apparently support the Syrian National Movement (none of this is very clear from the face of the report, which has been linked to from Carter-Ruck’s website, neither is it very clear from the Carter-Ruck press release which does not mention a client).

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