The government has been reconsidering
the crimes that are subject to the death penalty in our penal system. Their reason for doing this is to align our system with international norms. In most of Europe, the death penalty has been abolished. On the other hand, this form of punishment is still applied in the United States. In the Middle East, the penalty is quite common, and it is applied without too much introspection.
According to the published sources, the government wants to abolish the imposition of the death penalty on weapons and drug cases, obstruction of justice and the rape of minor females. I don’t know why minor males are different from minor females. Terror and murder are not being discussed at this stage, although the king has indicated that he would like to see the death penalty abolished in the country.
The chief opponent of changing these penalties is the Islamist head of the bar association, Saleh Armoutui. He argues that foreign groups are pressuring the country to abolish the penalty, which he says is an unacceptable interference in the country’s affairs. Presumably, he should be against the abolition of torture, since foreign human rights groups are on that case as well.
Three other lines of argument
are provided by the proponents of keeping the death penalty. These are that the punishment is in line with Sharia
, that some crimes are so dangerous that their perpetrators should be eliminated from society, and that the abolition would encourage the return of tribal law of revenge (tha’ir
Now, I am not particularly squeamish about the death penalty, especially with regards to terror and murder cases. People who commit such crimes forfeit any of my sympathy. However, I find that the Sharia
argument particularly troubling. Christian countries (and Israel) have managed to ignore the inhumane punishments imposed by the Old Testament, although some fundamentalist Christians in the US would be comfortable
with the institution of stoning and flogging as punishments for drunkenness, homosexuality, fornication and blasphemy (I like what Natalia wrote
about this). I believe that most reasonable people reject such punishments as incompatible with modern sensibilities and human rights standards. The same can be said of many aspects of Sharia
The arguments about removing dangers from society and return of tribal revenge are more compelling. In theory, jailing a criminal for life removes the individual from society. More dangerous criminals are a menace
to the other inmates and to the guards. On the other hand, central governments should monopolize imposition of the law by standards that it sets, and modern societies should show no tolerance for people taking the law into their own hands. Revoking the death penalty should not mean that tribal law should be excused, despite the fact that many people would see the justification.
The most compelling argument against the death penalty is the issue of mistakes. The fact that the penalty is irreversible is quite troubling, and mistakes have been documented where innocent people have been put to death. Sufficient safeguards should be built into the system to prevent this from happening.
So, my feeling is that the reduction of cases in which the death penalty is prescribed is a good step. I still believe that terror should be punishable by death. Regular murder is more problematic, and judges should be allowed to make decisions based on the specifics of the cases.