Indonesia and Saudi Arabia have just executed a total of 11 people in the last week. In the case of Saudi Arabia it took the form of hacking the heads of 2 unfortunate women who had been found guilty of murder, and in the case of Indonesia, it was a case of firing squads in the middle of the night in the jungle.
It would seem that there is little doubt about the guilt of the individuals who were killed in this way, but the point worth exploring perhaps is did these executions achieve anything beyond a form of revenge?
The simple answer to that is no.
Not only has every study of the effectiveness of the death penalty as a form of deterrence shown that it has simply no bearing on the crimes committed or in any way deters people from committing crimes that carry that penalty. The simple fact that Indonesia has executed 19 people in the last couple of months all of whom were found guilty of drug running in a country that is infamous for executing drug dealers might suggest to any thinking person that perhaps the death penalty was not really effective?
In fact the death penalty is generally a sort of knee-jerk reaction to a particular set of crimes, all based on retribution rather than deterrence or sensible punishment. If it is intended as punishment, well a corpse is remarkably unaffected by any sort of punishment – punishment should be a means of teaching a lesson – so long prison sentences would seem sensible and appropriate.
It can (and is) argued that the death penalty will deter others from committing the crime when they see it being applied for the crimes they have in mind – however, all evidence shows clearly that this is simply not the case..
And the idea of murder, no matter who carries it out, is anathema in all civilised countries, and in the case of countries that claim to be based on Christian values (such as the USA), it should actually be impossible for them to apply the death penalty, since their own God has forbidden them to kill.
The Dutch have it right:
Many years ago when I was first in Holland, I was deeply impressed by two things about that country, the first was when I discovered they had banned the death penalty in 1825!!! The second was that the queen (Juliana) when faced with having to sign a few death warrants after the second war refused on the grounds that as a Christian she couldn’t be party to the murder (no matter how legal it might be) of any human being, and that if they wished to kill those men, then they would have to get themselves another queen who would be prepared to sign those death warrants…. The sentences were commuted to life in prison….
Having the death penalty on its statutes shows that a country has not yet passed the stage of being a sort of toddler, striking out violently whenever it feels annoyed. Happily more and more countries are becoming more and more mature around the world, from some 160 who had the death penalty some years ago I think there are about 14 who still murder people in the name of the law – I hope they will grow up soon and then we can get this filthy form of premeditated, cold blooded murder out of our lives.
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