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Rwanda

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Rwanda is the latest country to be bludgeoned into abolishing the death penalty by Europe, Canada, et al. These countries refused to extradite accused criminals even for genocide until Rwanda agreed to let them off with inadequate punishment for their crimes. The Globe and Mail of Canada has this story. The EU, in a press release, had the gall to say the decision reflects a determination to "ensure justice," according to this story. Big Brother's Ministry of Truth could hardly have done a better hatchet job on the word "justice."

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Whenever I think about European elites looking down their noses at us unwashed Americans and our views on capital punishment, I think about the suffering of Robert Dean Stethem, an American fighting man, and true American hero. European "justice" dictated that the terrorist that hijacked a plane and tortured Petty Officer Stethem to death would get a scant 19 years in prison.

Now I ask, what is more of an outrage, the execution of killers, or the release of an unrepetant terrorist murderer who now has a chance to visit the horrors of terror on other innocent people? I'd be interested in hearing from the abolitionist side on this one.

"Contrary to reports that said the government wanted to remove the death penalty so that it could handle the cases transferred from the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), government officials interviewed by GLCSS refuted the claim. The officials say the punishment hinders the realization of the country’s major pillars notably; unity and reconciliation, promotion of good governance, and respect of human rights. Karugarama [Rwanda's Minister of Justice] further said that the death sentence has not been used since 1997." Did you even bother to research this post? Rwanda hadn't executed anyone in ten years before this law was passed. The law was made RETROACTIVE (instead of merely prospective to protect potential extradited war crimes suspects) commuting the sentences of over 600 on Rwandans death row. And it passed UNANIMOUSLY through Rwanda's senate. "For ordinary Rwandans who were involved in the debate that proceeded the drafting of the law itself and the debate that went into parliament and into the senate, there were consultations across the country. There was not what you can call a 100% unanimity over the abolition. But there was in general terms a general consensus that the death penalty has no place in Rwanda. That Rwandans have lost so many lives, that human life in Rwanda had lost value, and that it was time to restore the dignity of the human life in this country, especially, given its sad history, especially in regard to the genocide." Yeah - really sounds like strong-arming to me.

That government officials would make a face-saving statement after the fact is not particularly surprising. Even though these officials have now disclaimed the "contrary reports" doesn't mean they weren't true.

federalist, I'll see your American hero and raise you the 205 innocent men and women who have been exculpated in the U.S. since the advent of DNA testing. These are people who would otherwise have been murdered by the state after prosecutors trotted out a bunch of inflammatory rhetoric about "outrages" and fallen heroes and juries dutifully concluded that they were guilty "beyond a reasonable doubt."

To the extent that we presume to be more civilized than the killers and terrorists we despise, it makes sense to modify the methods with which we dispense our version of justice. We are fallible people, our system is far from perfect, and death is forever.

Federalist, now that you've heard from the abolitionist side, what say you?

First, the response was non-responsive. It did not answer the fundamental question, namely, which is more barbaric, loosing terrorists on innocent society or executing murderers. Instead, we got inflammatory comments about people being murderered by the state and prosecutors trotting out a bunch of inflammatory rhetoric. And to top it off, we get the "when we execute, we are just as bad as murderers" argument. Such trite (and tired) rhetoric.

I don't know where he got the 205 figure either.

Alex is correct on one point, we are fallible. Mistakes do happen (e.g., Kirk Bloodworth). That is an argument against death, and a valid one.

That government officials would make a face-saving statement after the fact is not particularly surprising. Even though these officials have now disclaimed the "contrary reports" doesn't mean they weren't true.

Look, I concede, government officials make face saving statements. From what I know of Rwanda, it does not appear to be one was not one of them. Otherwise, there would have been dissent in requiring commutation of all death sentences unrelated to extradition requirements. (i.e. retroactive commutation, commutation of the large majority of death row inmates who were not sentenced based on genocide crimes). Your weak retort addresses none of these facts, even though the vote was overwhelmingly in favor. Concededly, there is dissent on the issue in the country. Some genocide survivors condemned the move. Look at the report yourself. I think it has fair coverage of the issue. www.glcss.org/php/reports/Rwanda%20July%20to%20November%202006%20final.pdf

But the important point is the contrast to the American politicization of the death penalty. Politicians in Rwanda know that the country has had enough of death. Instead of using genocide victim's as political props to show that they were "tough on crime," even the worst sort of crime, they decided more killing wasn't worth it. What a stark and mature juxtaposition to the sort of death penalty cheerleading engaged in on this blog and in our society as a whole.

Death penalty cheerleading seems to lack the histrionics and hyperbole of abolitionist argument. Why is that?

Death penalty cheerleading seems to lack the histrionics and hyperbole of abolitionist argument. Why is that?
I'm not sure any reasonable observer would concede that what I dubbed "death penalty cheerleading" lacks histrionics or hyperbole. One need look no further than this post itself, which blithely complained that

Big Brother's Ministry of Truth could hardly have done a better hatchet job on the word "justice."

Obviously, this comment was both histrionic and hyperbolic. Histrionic in that it provided a dramatic reference to Orwell's 1984 and then compared the UN IHCR, (a group dedicated to bringing war criminals to justice), to a hired murderer i.e. "hatchet man." It is also hyperbolic, perhaps even outright false. Anyone who took the time to research the subject could find out that the politicians of Rwanda have come to the belief, without the help of the ICHR "hatchet men" that ALL death penalty sentences are unwarranted, even for the most heinous crimes.

However, to the extent that abolitionists use hyperbolic or histrionic arguments, I believe it is because they are in a battle to win over the minds of the masses. Death penalty proponents have an emotionally appealing metaphor which they trot out any time the subject comes up: the tragedy of the victim and their families. Even when this technique is used manipulatively and speciously (i.e. to help refute claims that the death penalty as practiced does not bring many killers "to justice" but merely wastes enormous resources), it is hard to argue with. People who are persuaded by emotional arguments are therefore easily won over. Thus, abolitionists come up with their own emotional arguments: the possibility of executing the innocent, the pernicious effects of race, etc. From the perspective of a death penalty proponent, the tragedy of the victim is not exaggerated or overly dramatic. It is merely a fact. This may be. A tragedy is a tragedy. But I suggest you look more closely at how this tragedy is used by politicians and the often politically aspirant (i.e. prosecutors). You will find that it is the height of political theater.

I am sure that Mr. Scheidegger can defend himself, but the statement that taking away a society's right to exact the ultimate punishment on genocidal actors is "ensuring justice" is is Orwellian. That is not hyperbole, nor is it histrionic--unlike your smear of all prosecutors.

Federalist - you say that "the statement that taking away a society's right to exact the ultimate punishment on genocidal actors is 'ensuring justice' is is Orwellian." Surely, you and I and Mr. Scheidegger can disagree about the propriety of the death penalty in response to genocide or any other crime. And if the post were correct, one could certainly argue that various actors were engaged in unjust over-reaching into Rwandan politics. But the idea that "exacting the ultimate punishment" is the only way to "ensure justice" - so much so that any effort to pursue justice without state-sanction killing invites reference to the omnipresent dictatorship embodied in the works of George Orwell - strikes me as just a little over the top. As for my alleged blanket "smear" of all prosecutors, you could not be farther from the truth. I have great respect for just prosecutors and some of my best friends have worked in prosecution offices.

My only complaint was with politicians and prosecutors who "use" the tragedy
of murder for their own political ends

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