Wed, Mar 24, 2010 - Page 8 News List

[ LETTERS ]

Switzerland and death penalty

With reference to your article saying that “advanced democracies such as the US, Japan and Switzerland have the death penalty,” (“Opinions differ on death penalty,” March 15, page 8) I would like to point out that capital punishment is forbidden in Switzerland (Federal Constitution, Art 10, Paragraph 1). It was abolished from the Federal Criminal Law in 1942, but remained a part of Military Criminal Law until 1992. It was explicitly banned in the revised Constitution of Jan. 1. Within the range of possibilities available to it Switzerland has promoted the abolishment of capital punishment worldwide through various channels. Switzerland also has ratified relevant international human rights conventions.

In this respect, it may be of interest to you that the recent Fourth World Congress Against the Death Penalty in Geneva (Feb. 24-26) was organized in partnership with the Swiss Confederation.

I hope that I have been able to provide you with some clarification on this particular case and remain at your disposal should you require any additional information.

JOST FEER

Taipei

Does killing people who kill people teach us that killing people is wrong?

One innocent person executed is one too many.

In the current debate about Taiwan’s death penalty, lawyer Lin Chyong-jia (林瓊嘉) argued (“What is death penalty’s purpose?” March 20, page 8) that it has a “positive side,” namely making the public feel safer and satisfying the victims’ families’ need for closure. However, in his very first paragraph, Lin himself makes it overwhelmingly clear that the death penalty’s negative aspects far outweigh these perceived advantages.

He describes how, as a judge, he once sentenced a defendant to death, only to learn years later that the man had in fact been innocent. “I could have spared his life,” Lin wrote.

This is exactly what can and will always happen when capital punishment is carried out.

It is impossible to rule out the killing of innocents. This is no “collateral damage.” It is a life wrongfully taken, a crime committed by the state that cannot be undone. Thus, while everything may be carried out in accordance with the law, the state in effect sometimes acts no better than the criminals it wants to punish. The slightest possibility of this happening has to be ruled out, in the name of both humanity and common sense. That is only possible by abandoning the death penalty.

In the current debate, many people complain that the victims’ families are not being listened to enough. I want to ask: Who thinks of the families of those falsely accused and killed? What consolation can Lin or other proponents of the death penalty offer those whose lives were destroyed by taking away their loved ones, accusing them of a crime they did not commit and shooting them dead? There is nothing that justifies their suffering.

It is completely irrelevant how often this happens relative to the execution of criminals who were indeed guilty. One life wrongfully taken is one too many. Lin himself gives evidence that it has happened in Taiwan before. Taiwanese have to stop this terrible injustice from ever happening again. In a country where for decades the death penalty was used to kill thousands under various pretexts, often for just speaking out for their rights or for criticizing the government, it is time to move ahead.

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