Tuesday, January 02, 2007

A return to barbarism

I have made it clear in previous posts that I am opposed to the death penalty, even for criminals of the magnitude of Saddam Hussein, but even if you agreed with the execution, there is surely room for debate over the manner in which it was carried out, and I suspect this is what John Prescott was on about this morning.

As a means of ending someone's life, hanging is a barbaric practice which deserves to be consigned to the dustbin of history. A public hanging such as this was, with people shouting abuse at Saddam as he went to the gallows, belongs even more surely in the middle ages.

If we have to have the death penalty at all, then surely the most humane method of killing is by lethal injection. To deny Saddam's humanity by arguing that this would be "too good" for him is simply to stoop to his level.

Some bloggers have decided to display the mobile phone video images of the moment of death. The blogosphere is a free world - mercifully - and that's their right. But Jonathan Calder on Liberal England has a typically thoughtful post in which he compares it to pornography, and I agree with him.

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David Gladwin said...

Public executions have a long history, even in the UK. Tyburn and Newgate drew crowds to hundreds of hangings until public execution was abolished in the 1860s.

Plenty about all of this on the Capital Punishment UK site.

Most of us could, at some point in history, have been hanged for things that we take for granted today.

Paul Linford said...

An excellent link David, thanks.

Raymond said...

I think I agree that the death sentence is not a morally sound punishment. In cases such as Saddam's, however, mob rule takes over. There is a perceived need to be seen to do enough.

Justice is a slippery fellow, anyway. I was reminded of this in the much-hyped Sky production of Terry Pratchett's Hogfather. There's a line which states something along the lines of:

"We have to practice believing the little lies, like the Hogfather and the Tooth Fairy so that we can believe the really big lies like Justice and Morality."

Colin Campbell said...

While I think it barbaric, I believe that the theatre of his death buried some of the evil retribution present in some groups minds. The thought of Saddam going through a multi year trial in the Hague as some have suggested does not seem appropriate for this evil man. The whole thing does not augur well however for George and Tony's happy vision of a western style democracy in Iraq. This event suggests many more years of vicious bloodletting.