Is ANYTHING Worth the Death Penalty?

Short answer: NO.

I’m writing this Sunday night, after hearing on the news today that the 72-hour-notice has been given for the executions of Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran. Their executions could be anytime from Tuesday onwards.

I just think… Why? It seems to me that President “Jokowi” is talking tough on drugs, so he paints all with the same brush (no pun intended), regardless of rehabilitation, repentance, youthful stupidity grown into wiser maturity.


The death penalty is wrong, regardless of the crime. I say this because it is too final a punishment, too terrible.

From Amnesty International (

The problem

Why the Death Penalty is wrong

Denial of human rights. Sentencing someone to death denies them the right to life – enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Not irreversible and mistakes happen. Execution is the ultimate, irrevocable punishment: the risk of executing an innocent person can never be eliminated. Since 1973, for example, 150 US prisoners sent to death row have later been exonerated. Others have been executed despite serious doubts about their guilt.

Does not deter crime. Countries who execute commonly cite the death penalty as a way to deter people from committing crime. This claim has been repeatedly discredited, and there is no evidence that the death penalty is any more effective in reducing crime than imprisonment.

The death penalty is a symptom of a culture of violence, not a solution to it.

Often used within skewed justice systems. Some of the countries executing the most people have deeply unfair legal systems. The ‘top’ three executing countries – China, Iran and Iraq – have issued death sentences after unfair trials. Many death sentences are issued after ‘confessions’ that have been obtained through torture.

Discriminatory. You are more likely to be sentenced to death if you are poor or belong to a racial, ethnic or religious minority because of discrimination in the justice system. Also, poor and marginalised groups have less access to the legal resources needed to defend themselves.

Used as a political tool. The authorities in some countries, for example Iran and Sudan, use the death penalty to punish political opponents.


In the case of these two, it’s clear they are guilty. But it’s been ten years since their crime – they’ve changed. Why now?

All this puts me in mind of a song I heard last year by Eric Bogle. It’s about apartheid in South Africa, with symbolic links to Good Friday. I think its words are quite appropriate here, when I think of those two men and the other nine prisoners destined for the firing squad so soon. : Singing the Spirit Home.

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