Tuesday, 15 April 2008

1252 Killed in Global Slaughter.

Over 1200 people were killed in the last year by their governments. That figure doesn't include genocide, or malicious or incompetent mal-administration such as that in Zimbabwe. That was just the figure of those put to death through capital punishment. The figures reported by Amnesty international make grim reading, especially if you are a proud American. The leading countries in the world for executions are places where political and social freedoms are curtailed to the point of non-existence, China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. So what is the USA, one of the world's greatest democracies doing up there in the top 5?

To be fair to them, the USA comes in a rather distant fifth, with a mere 42 compared to Pakistan's 135 in 4th, and miles behind China's estimated 470. And at least the list of capital crimes in America is limited to the most serious. In Iran last year a man was stoned to death for adultery, In North Korea one was shot for, among other misdemeanors, making international phone calls. However justice is not always thorough, even in the USA. Amnesty raise the case of Michael Richard, who was executed in Texas after a court house refused to stay open just an extra 15 minutes to file his appeal.

Regardless of the procedural pettifogging, or the seriousness (or lack thereof) of the crime, today's figures horrify me. People have died, and they have been killed in the name of justice. This is a concept I can't quite grasp. What gives people, even in the name of "The People", the right to take human life? Nothing in my understanding.

Two main arguments are made in support of capital punishment, and to me they both ring hollow. First that the death penalty acts as a deterrent. If this were true then those states with the death penalty would have the lowest murder rates in the USA. This is not the case, and indeed many countries around the world that have abandoned capital punishment have lower rates for capital offences now than they did before the abolition; killing the criminals is not a deterrent. Second that it provides justice. This seems fallacious to me, justice for whom? Are we really setting out a sensible basis for our society if we say, "it is wrong to kill people, so we are going to kill you"? It sets the entire edifice upon a contradiction. So if it is not deterrence, and it is not justice, then all it can be is revenge. If you are religious, then vengeance is surely the realm of God alone. If you are not religious then tell me where the logical sense is in attritional killing.

The list of those countries still actively carrying out the death penalty is a list of banana republics, brutal dictatorships and oppressive despotisms. The USA is none of these, it does not belong on that list. Only the American people have the power to take themselves off that list, so think about it, if you are American; is this the kind of company you want to keep?

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