Tue, Nov 20, 2007 - Page 8 News List

Make state-sanctioned killing only a memory

Near the St. Peter's Church in Leiden in the Netherlands there is a "historical spot" that is an ancient execution ground. A plate there shows an execution scene. A judge is overseeing the execution, and the executioner is lifting his axe, about to behead the convict. The scene is very similar to executions in ancient China and elsewhere.

There is also a Spanish picture of a mass execution of Protestants in the 16th century. It showed a harrowing scene: In the foreground were people who had been beheaded, while a group of people further away had been hanged. At the right were religious leaders ordering the army to arrest a group of people. It was clear they were to continue the punishments. This picture shows how cruel and vicious state-sanctioned killing is.

At the side of a pond near the Dutch Parliament in The Hague stands a statue of Johan van Oldebarnevelt. Van Oldebarnevelt was an important figure in the establishment of the Dutch Republic.

This man is very interesting because for almost 30 years he facilitated talks between the various Dutch provinces to help establish the Netherlands as a sovereign country, thus making an important contribution to the establishment of the Dutch Republic.

He was also an important player in the establishment of the Dutch East India Company (VOC), but in 1619 he was sentenced to death for the crime of high treason.

Van Oldebarnevelt's death was the result of a conflict that was both political and religious. He was rather tolerant when it came to religion, but was killed because he was not tolerant enough.

Seeing his statue in The Hague makes people feel that in the end, finally he has received some sort of justice. But it is still difficult to understand how someone who was so important in establishing the Netherlands as a sovereign country could have been sentenced to death by the same government he helped create.

During World War II, the Netherlands was occupied by Germany and many Dutch were killed. After the war, the death penalty -- which had been abolished in 1870 -- was temporarily reinstated especially to punish people who had collaborated with the German invaders, and thousands or people were arrested.

Of the 152 people that were sentenced to death, only 39 were actually executed as Queen Juliana pardoned many of the convicts.

The unfair killing of an old politician like van Oldebarnevelt was officially sanctioned by the state and the people who were sentenced to death for betraying their country during the war were a final example of the Netherland's sanctioned killing.

Especially after World War II, when the help these people had given to the Nazis resulted in the death of so many of their compatriots, it makes sense that the state wanted to kill them in accordance with the law.

The Netherlands is just one example of country with a history of state-sanctioned killing which has created untold bitterness and pain in the country. All countries in the EU have a similar history of such cruelty and inhumanity.

With such a historical background, we should pay attention to an EU representative who last month called on Taiwan to abolish its death penalty.

The UN has also passed a resolution calling on all countries to do so. As Taiwan is actively trying to join the UN, it should move in accordance with the UN and abolish the death penalty.

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