Thursday, August 21, 2003

Ramos-Horta and the death penalty

NZPundit is crowing over an article by Jose Ramos-Horta in The Australian. The death of his close friend (and former UN administrator of East Timor) Sergio Vieira de Mello in the bombing of the Baghdad UN HQ has caused him to rethink his opposition to the death penalty:

Indeed, I am so angry about this act of terrorism that I now have second thoughts about opposing the death penalty for terrorists. Why should taxpayers pay for the rent, meals, electricity bills and medical care of a convicted terrorist who kills, maims, destroys and takes away the lives of the innocent?

Many times in the past, I have signed petitions pleading to spare the life of someone on death row. And I will continue to do on a case-by-case basis.

But I will not shed tears when those responsible for the countless terrorist bombings in Bali, Jakarta, New York, Washington and Baghdad are put to death. Clearly, Sergio's death has changed the way I look at life and the issue of the death penalty.

There's an old saying that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged, and I think this is a classic case. While it's understandable that Ramos-Horta would want revenge against his friend's killers, it's also sad to see him abandon his principles. The whole point of human rights is that they are things that should be protected even for your worst enemy. And the right which makes everything else possible is the right to life.