Tuesday, October 10, 2006

10/10: World Day Against the Death Penalty

Today, October 10th, is the world day against the death penalty. Last year, at least 2,148 people were executed in 22 countries (figures courtesy of Amnesty International). That's 2,148 too many. Judicial murder is an abomination which can never be justified, and it is something we should speak out against. The world day against the death penalty is the day we do that.

This year's theme is "The Death Penalty: a Failure of Justice", highlighting the fact that the death penalty is often applied in an unfair and discriminatory manner, and that sometimes the innocent are executed. One example of this from New Zealand is Hamiora Pere, the only person executed in New Zealand for treason, who was executed because the government "needed someone to hang" in the wake of Te Kooti's war. On the innocence front, doubts have been raised about Minnie Dean, and even Walter James Bolton, the last man executed in New Zealand. Far more troubling is the record from the US: since 1973, 123 people have been released from death row in America after being exonerated. And they were the lucky ones; Texas seems to have executed an innocent man in 2004, and we really have no idea how many other innocent people have been murdered by the US system due to police or prosecutorial misconduct, unreliable evidence, or inadequate representation. Even if you think judicial murder can be morally justified, this ought to give pause. No system of justice is perfect, and abuse of power, simple fallibility, and the potential for injustice ought to rule out capital punishment. Someone imprisoned unjustly can be freed, but death is final, and not forgiving of mistakes.

Fortunately, we seem to be slowly winning the argument. Two countries have formally abolished the death penalty in the last year: Mexico and the Philippines. Hopefully we'll be able to add Morocco to that list next year.


Two classic essays I recommend on the subject, always worth re-reading:

George Orwell's brief essay, 'A Hanging' can be read here: http://www.orwell.ru/library/articles/hanging/english/e_hanging

Unfortunately, I can't find the full essay of Albert Camus' 'Reflections on the Guillotine.' It is in his book Resistance, Rebellion & Death. He covers various reasons why the capital punishment should be opposed.

Here's just a brief passage from the essay, here: http://pewforum.org/deathpenalty/resources/reader/21.php3

~ Josh

Posted by Anonymous : 10/10/2006 12:04:00 PM