Don’t Shoot Samantha Orabator – But You Can Keep Her 35

In 2003, over 10% of female prisoners in the UK’s jails were foreign women with drugs convictions.

I can’t find a more recent number, but there has been no substantial change in the scale of the problem. A lot of them are from Nigeria, where Samantha Orabator was born.

In the case of another London Nigerian, Yatunde Diya, who was convicted two years ago in Ghana, I wrote:

“I am sick of the easy presumption by large sections of the media, whenever a British person is arrested abroad on drugs charges, that they are being unfairly dealt with by a tinpot state, and have been set up by evil foreigners.”

But there are important differences. Diya was in Ghana, which has a basically fair legal system. Orabator is indeed in a “Tinpot state” – Laos, which has a nutty communist regime. And she faces the death penalty, even more horrible as she is is pregnant. It is that possibility which gives the story sufficient frisson to headline the news.

I don’t know enough about Laos to know if they execute pregnant women, but killing pregnant women appears to be a universal cultural taboo. I do know enough about Laos to know that it is not a place to ordinarily expect a fair trial. All communist societies, including Uzbekistan, have almost a 100% conviction rate. The State is perfect, so the Prosecutor cannot make mistakes.

This poses an interesting conundrum. It would not be sensible to adopt the position that a Briton should be allowed to commit any crime at all in Laos – say murder – without any expectation of punishment, because it does not have a system of fair trial.

I hope that the lawyer Reprieve are finding her does a good job at trial, and perhaps through diplomatic pressure the death sentence could be commuted if she is convicted. But for us to try to insist the Laotian authorities release her immediately from imprisonment would be quite wrong. There is no particular reason to believe that they have invented the story that she is a drug smuggler.

If you are going to comment, please first read my earlier post linked to above for all the caveats on what leads to drug smuggling etc.

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35 thoughts on “Don’t Shoot Samantha Orabator – But You Can Keep Her

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  • Tom

    Japan also has a 99% conviction “success” rate, presumably attributable to the efficiency of their prosecutors rather than the political philosophy of the incumbent regime.

  • anticant

    Killing pregnant women may be “a universal cultural taboo”, but I’ve seen a good many accounts of people doing it.

  • Jon

    I suspect it is too early for us to be making judgments about her guilt. Surely this is for courts to decide, in theory, even if Laos does not have fair ones? – it is not for our speculation based on limited information.

    I agree with some of your thoughts in the last post on this topic – that drugs of this kind need to be legalised, controlled and taxed. But I take issue with your comparing the criminality of turning a blind eye to torture with the criminality of importing drugs. The “forces and pressures of social inequality” are just not the same when you compare the kinds of people who carry out these crimes. In the first case the individuals involved are wealthy, well educated, and accordingly are well aware of what they are doing; in the latter case, there is room for a wide range of situations and circumstances, some of them potentially involving exposure to extreme poverty, broken families, crime, child neglect, physical abuse and so forth.

    You previously wrote:

    > the sickness in our own society, with

    > its own criminals and its insatiable appetite

    > for cocaine, that has brought this cancer

    > of crime upon Ghana. Ghana is the victim of

    > this trade.

    True. And I’d re-emphasise the your use of your word ‘sickness’ to refer to British cocaine users – the drive for hedonism and escapism is a by-product of the high-pressure, selfish and avaricious environment that we have created. This state of unhappiness is an illness of sorts that needs to be handled with understanding and compassion. And it is the same environment that creates such economic disparity that pushes some folks to try smuggling drugs where it is plainly dangerous to do so.

    I am all for a shared credo of personal responsibility in theory. But on the basis that no sane person would try to smuggle drugs in a country that has the death penalty for it, there must be some other factors at work, and we cannot just side with the authoritarians and say “well, let that be a lesson to you”.

  • technicolour

    “There is no particular reason to believe that they have invented the story that she is a drug smuggler”?

    I beg your pardon? What happened to innocent until proven guilty?

  • anticant

    “No sane person would try to smuggle drugs in a country that has the death penalty for it”

    No sane person would try to smuggle drugs. Full stop. Period. I very much doubt whether the sort of person who smuggles drugs knows, or cares, what the law on the subject is. They are all stupid enough to believe they won’t get caught.

  • selma

    The War On Drugs has many victims, including Ghanain society.

    The characterisation of Uzbekistan and Laos as communist? Lol, you should know by now that just because a country says that it is communist or democratic doesnt actually mean that it is true!

    Communist – commonly owned means of production, not state owned.

    @ Anticant

    A sane person might run the risk of smuggling drugs due to economic, mental or physical coercion. Characterising them all as stupid is just lazy thinking.

  • anticant

    Yes, I accept that coercion plays a large part in drug trafficking. The “war on drugs” is an even bigger scam than the “War on Terror”. The proper course would be to legalise, regulate, and tax drug consumption, but this is never likely to happen because of the huge profits – and the bribery and corruption – at stake in keeping it illegal.

  • abualshawareb

    killing pregnant women is an indication of covering bigger crime, I mean in general, not in this particular case, as with the case of an Iraqi prisoner girl who was raped and became pregnant by Iraqi jailers. she called her brother and told him what happened and ask for help, he went to the prison and shot her dead; it is said that Iraqi government has arrested the responsible policemen.. but.. I doubt it. this is according to an Arab/american newspaper WATAN.COM

    Here is another story, you wont’ read in our newspapers

  • Kay Danes

    No one in Laos has ever been aquitted once convicted, no matter what the allegations or the offence. Their judicial system simply doesn’t allow for adversarial proceedings. Most people in Phonthong prison have never been to court. Many have been detained arbitrarily without charge for over a decade. Hoping that this case shines the spotlight on the Lao judicial system and it’s appalling human rights situation for the benefit of those who have never had any ‘big wigs’ wanting to take up their cause!

  • lwtc247

    Many Brits were foaming at the mouth not so long ago. BlowJo and Chris Hicchens to name but two of the pig slop swines: ‘How dare Iran intefere with British domestic policy’ was spittled out, eyes crossed ‘n all.

    – Iran and complained that Rushde was honoured by the kween.

    So sorry Orabator, BlowJo and the Hic will be there (wearing masks of course) not knowing if it is they who have been handed the live round.

  • lwtc247

    “Many have been detained arbitrarily without charge for over a decade.” – NeoLabour are said to be assemblying a policy research team – promto.

  • two needles please barman.

    Legalise drugs? Great solution.

    Really, well done.

    The bastards get filthy rich under the guise of being anti-drug, so instead we add moderately to the bastards wealth instead.

    Give me your cell number so I can call you to explain it to the parents of the next kid who injects 25% vim into her veins at a cost effective price.

  • Frazer

    Hmmm…no matter the crime, it was done for the filthy lucre. Shr must have known exactly what she was doing and what she was going to be paid.

    Tough Shit.

  • Steve

    Technicolour this is for you.”innocent until guilty ” is for british courts and the british legal system or shall we go to Laos and impose our laws on that state aswell. The fact is she dabbled and got burnt,well lets hope so anyway the sooner this rubbish is out of the way the better. The only innocent party in this appears to be that of her unborn child andif you do the maths either she was in early pregnancy when she went out there or attempted to come back, or she became pregnant within her days of confignment

  • Jon

    Errk! Steve, what exactly brings you here, given that you are lacking any political conviction? Do you think that the presumption of innocence is a British peculiarity, and that other systems of “justice” are different but equally valid? It is not culturally disrespectful to insist that all trials anywhere in the world are held on this basis, and anything that does not conform to that – and several other tests, such as access to a lawyer, a good understanding of the process etc – is not a fair trial.

    What confuses me is the inconsistency of your position. People with politics of your right-wing colours usually aren’t into cultural sensitivity at all. Perhaps there is something different about this case that I am missing?

  • Jon

    Addendum: Steve, in what way do you regard this woman as “rubbish”. I’d be interested in an expansion of your thinking here.

  • anon

    The media have announced she is 5 months pregnant, however she has been detained for 8 months, which anyone can realise the prison “staff” have obviously abused their rights and raped her! the judicial system states that everyone is entitled to a fair trial! why is this not the case in Laos? This should be changed! the Australian couple were perfectly innocent why lock someone up and threaten them! its pathetic and should be stopped

  • Craig

    Yes. She may have been raped – but pregnancy by consensual sex is scientifically possible, as I understand it.

  • ANON

    of course its possible but who in their right mind would sleep with their captors! its madness, if their methods are to torture and threaten why would any woman with any self respect gladly give herself up to someone like that!

  • George Laird

    Dear DeAnne

    I scanned the reprieve document and it looks like a case of mitigation to me.

    There are few facts of note.

    I am sure that everyone will want the person charged to have a fair trial.

    Yours sincerely

    George Laird

    The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

  • Allan

    Are people implying that she is the victim here? She was found with quite a large quantity of drugs on her, if so throw the book at her. By all means death, after of course she has the baby which we will no doubt have to provide for.

    We need to stand up and fight back, crime is crime and the real victims are the poor sods who go about their everyday lives without bitching about “their deprived childhood”.

  • George Laird

    Dear Allan

    In your rant you need to accept that a trial comes first before;

    “She was found with quite a large quantity of drugs on her, if so throw the book at her”.

    The right to a fair trial is essential, you have already convicted her before she gets a chance to state her case.

    Accusation doesn’t equal guilt!

    Yours sincerely

    George Laird

    The Campaign for Human Rights at Glasgow University

  • JBII

    What ever her crime she was obviously raped in prison. This alone cries TIN POT government and puts every other part of this case in doubt in my mind.

    I just don’t believe a 20 year old girl would be stupid enough to transport a pound of dope through some kind of crazy third world country. There’s more to this than meets the eye. You Brits should stand up for your citizens. Some of you all make me sick.

  • ese

    do not make it about color of skin or where she was from. rather what she did (may be did)

  • Allan

    Of course George you are right, she should be presumed innocent unless proven guilty. it is just that I am sick of the uproar that cases like this inspire when in the dark back alleys of our streets peoples lives are being savagely eroded by drugs, where are their champions?

  • kburke

    The drugs were found in her luggage. I is popular for young vacationers to be chosen to smuggle drugs in their suitcases without the travelors knowledge where at the other end the recipient cleans out the packet or steals your luggage, where you might have your luggage delayed or missing. Ever lost your luiggage?

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