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British Minister Understands That Death Penalty is a Nation's Choice

Here's a bit of good news on the international front.  Nicholas Cecil reports in the London Evening Standard:

Britain opposes the death penalty for Colonel Gaddafi, but his fate should be a matter for the Libyan people, Cabinet minister Andrew Mitchell said today.

As the net closes on the dictator, the International Criminal Court is seeking to have him dragged to The Hague to face charges of crimes against humanity.
But rebel leaders want to put the 69-year-old tyrant on trial in Libya first - where he could face execution if found guilty of atrocities in which thousands of his citizens were killed.

In an interview with the Evening Standard, Mr Mitchell, the International Development Secretary, laid out Britain's position on whether Colonel Gaddafi should be executed.

"People will have different views on the issue of the death penalty but it's a matter for the Libyan people and their new government, the National Transitional Council," he said.


Actually, we have a dog in this fight. Qaddafi almost surely gave the final order for the Lockerbie bombing, which killed 189 Americans. He should be extradicted to the United States, given a fairer trial than he ever gave a single Libyan citizen (if they had trials at all), and then executed.

Thus I disagree with the British view that it's only up to the Libyan people. When you murder our citizens, it's up to us.

I think in context he is saying that is it up to them whether to execute him for crimes committed in Libya against Libyans.

Yes, we should be able to extradict him to the United States for the airplane bombing, but if he is already room temperature when the Libyans finish with him, there wouldn't be a lot of point in it.

I confess I would like to have the United States exercise the earned privilege of dispatching Colonel Qaddafi to a place that is considerably warmer than room temperature.

I actually somewhat disagree. I certainly agree that the people of a given nation should be able to choose to have capital punishment, I don't think that non-free governments have that right (power, of course, is a different question). Capital punishment in a place like Iran is fundamentally illegitimate.

You raise a conundrum. I agree that the Iranian government has at best a scant claim on legitimate authority, and that any punishment imposed there -- much less capital punishment -- is suspect. A nation lacking an independent judiciary is a poor bet to do justice. Unfortunately, this is likely to be true of the government that succeeds Qaddifi, which might well be run by the Islamic Brotherhood, an Iranian wannabee.

But what if there's a Libyan version of John Couey, who raped and murdered (by burying alive) nine year-old Jessica Lunsford? The government itself may lack democratic legitimacy to impose death as a punishment -- or, indeed, ANY punishment. The problem is that a crime of that nature is less an affront to a particular government or set of laws than to the idea of civilized life itself.

I confess, I don't have an answer.

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