Human Rights Opinion Pieces: Part 3 By Patty Russel-Blau and Papa Nidaye

Hello Everyone! It’s a dreary Sunday evening here, but I’m bringing to you more op eds from some of my fabulous classmates! Here are the pieces from Patty Russel-Blau and Papa Nidaye!

Titles include: NC House Bill 142: The Second Coming of House Bill 2 (Patty) and Stop Arkansas’ rush to execute eight people in ten days (Papa)

Enjoy!

NC House Bill 142: The Second Coming of House Bill 2

On March 30, 2016, North Carolina took a major step in lawmaking, as Governor Pat McCrory signed NC House Bill 2 into law. He said it was the right thing to do; that people deserve the right to privacy when using facilities. The law effectively challenged the validity of Charlotte, NC’s anti-discrimination ordinance that provided protections against discrimination and also provided employers the right to raise minimum wage. It was about so much more than privacy concerns and which restroom a person should use.

Why would lawmakers sign a bill that robbed people of the right to seek suitable housing, right to employment, right to gender identity, right to use facilities and most importantly, the basic right of dignity? The answer is really quite simple; an upcoming 2016 general election and Gov. McCrory needed a legacy. House Bill 2 was proposed, passed and signed in one day during secret session of the legislature, intent on sending the message that no city can enact an ordinance without state sanction, much to the chagrin of NC municipalities. It affected groups across the state in ways not seen since before the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, and more recently the Violence Against Women Act of 1994. Among the groups effected; the LGBTQ community, the elderly and women would once again be subjected to discriminatory actions based on race, ethnicity, gender identity, sex, national origin, age, etc. This is not how legislation and the promulgation of law is supposed to work. There is debate, lobbying and give and take from both sides, a pass/fail proposition.

Almost one year later, March 29, 2016, North Carolina Legislature ‘repeals’ House Bill 2 and passes House Bill 142. The bill is a compromise agreed to by Governor Roy Cooper (D) and the state’s top two Republican legislators; and was approved by the House and Senate after contentious debate. The problem with HB 142 is that it just doesn’t go far enough. HB142 repeals last year’s HB 2 in the following area: requiring people at a government-run facilites to use restrooms and locker rooms that correspond to the gender on their birth certificate; while legislators retain regulation of restroom access. The last aspect prevents local governments from passing or amending their own anti-discrimination ordinances until December 2020.

House Bill 142 should have been a full repeal and not a compromise designed to appease the NCAA, ACC, NBA or NFL. These organizations are a large part of North Carolina’s identity but should not have been a deciding factor. Each organization essentially gave North Carolina an ultimatum; repeal enough and we’ll come back. And they did in fact come back, a decision that is tenuous at best. Lawmakers appeared to place greater value on lost sporting events and concerts than on civil rights and human dignity. People have been refused employment, denied housing, persecuted on how they identify themselves, endured hateful rhetoric and subjected to humiliating actions including assaults. Denying transgender people access to public space essentially says that they don’t matter, their existence doesn’t matter. There is no dollar amount that can be placed on the irreparable harm done to the citizens of this state. Recovery remains enigmatic and systemic of a state that has lost its footing.

Which restroom a person uses is the least of North Carolina’s concerns. Passing House Bill 142 into law says that North Carolina lawmakers no longer value public opinion, turn a deaf ear to public outcry and have no conscience. Full repeal of the disgraceful law, HB2 without the compromise that is HB142 should have been a foregone conclusion. It is the only outcome that allows North Carolina to begin removing the stain of this disaster and repairing the remnants of its shattered image.

Patty Russell-Blau, B.S Criminal Justice
Peace and Conflict Studies
The Graduate School
University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Stop Arkansas’ rush to execute eight people in ten days

Papa Magatte Ndiaye

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

I am deeply concerned with the state of Arkansas’ decision to schedule the executions of eight prisoners in ten days simply because the lethal injection drug is about to expire at the end of this month. Arkansas has not had an execution since 2005. So why rush these eight men to death just so the state can avoid wasting this expensive injection drug bought with the taxpayers’ money? Are these prisoners lives worth being treated as if they were products with a “use by” date? If so, there is nothing more outrageous and despicable.

As a defender of human rights I consider the death penalty a cruel and inhumane punishment that always violates human rights. Therefore, I cannot understand any legal or moral justification to this serial killing by Arkansas’ governor. There is something sickening about this decision and Arkansas’ judicial system. Even if someone is sentenced with the capital punishment their dignity must be preserved, and they should in no way be subjected to any physical or psychological suffering while in death row. What is happening in Arkansas this month is exactly this. In fact, the execution drug, midazolam, was proven so controversial for causing botched executions in the United States that the states of Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio, and Arizona have stopped using it. Therefore, there is no evidence showing that killing by lethal injection is any less painful than the electric chair or being shot. So the basis for this cruel and unusual killing spree not only violates basic decency and is not justice, but it does increase the risk of human errors. Since the modern death penalty was established in 1976, no state has carried out four double executions in ten days. So what kind of civilized legacy is Governor Asa Hutchinson seeking to achieve? The paradox for me is that in 2013 the nation was stunt to find out that the Florida’s Attorney General, Pam Bondi, requested and obtained from her Governor the postponing of a death row inmate’s execution just so she could attend her political fundraiser event. Thus, in this very country, we can delay someone’s execution to accommodate an Attorney general’s political ambitions, but we cannot delay the execution of eight people just because we do not want to bother wasting some injection drugs. What kind of country do we live in? What about all those moral values we hold dear in our hearts, and which make us so proud to live in such a civilized world? What should we do when our elected officials make decisions that violate people’s human rights and undermine our moral decency and dignity? I am not even sure whether our elected officials care more about their personal and professional pride, and their political ambitions or the defense of their constituents’ human rights, security and well-being? Not only did a federal judge rule that the inmates have the right to challenge a drug protocol that could expose them to “severe pain,” but the manufacturers of midazolam have themselves publicly objected to the government use of their drug in executions since it was not created for this purpose. In addition, the United States Supreme Court has stopped one of the executions scheduled to take place few days ago. Despite all this, the Governor and Attorney General of Arkansas have already carried out one execution (Ledell Lee, convicted in 1995 for murder), and are determined to kill the remaining seven within a week.

At the end of the day my question remains: what happens if the drugs expire? These inmates have been in death row for over decades and will never be free again. Is this not enough of a punishment? So why rush them to the execution table now? Is midazolam the only way to carry out the death penalty? Is it the less painful or the more morally convenient way for the executioners? Should our morality be preoccupied with how humane we look or should it be more concerned with how little pain we may cause our fellow human beings? I believe these prisoners should have been given life without the possibility of parole in the first place. The death penalty is against human rights, and I strongly condemn this conveyor belt execution attempt by Arkansas’s governor as sickening and morally decadent. We, as a nation, are better than this. So Mr. Governor do not proceed with your assembly line of executions.

 

 

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