Justice or retribution?

People in my part of the world are feeling dismay at the execution of two young men, convicted for drug smuggling, who had rehabilitated themselves over the last ten years of their lives on death row in an Indonesian prison.

Mind you, they were not the only ones executed by the Indonesian Justice System this week – there were seven others, and they have in excess of a hundred more on death row awaiting the firing squad.

Along with many others, I find myself wondering whether capital punishment is justice or retribution. It’s hard to believe that there are places in the world in the twenty first century that still impose mandatory death sentences for murder – let alone for drug smuggling.

Mandatory death sentences leave no room for acknowledging that people make mistakes.

Mandatory death sentences leave no room for rehabilitation.

Governments that impose them claim that they serve as a deterrent. And it’s not just governments in Asia and the Middle East. There are still States in the USA imposing the death penalty.

Seems to me that capital punishment is no more effective as a deterrent to crime than the possession of nuclear weapons has been as a deterrent to war since 1945. Interestingly, both so called nuclear superpowers have visited themselves upon Afghanistan, at different times admittedly, and I’ve lost count of the number of other wars since August 1945.

As a reader and writer of crime novels, I know that we prefer our crime stories to end with the criminal facing justice. We don’t like to think that people get away with things like murder. Criminals need to pay some sort of price for their anti-social behaviour.

In the real world, outside of crime fiction, I am left wondering whether the whole notion of justice is a fiction. Capital punishment is just another version of an eye for an eye – and that’s retribution in my book!

Thanks for dropping by, Peter.

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