Executions not the answer
It seems almost inevitable that the cries for maintaining the death penalty in Taiwan will become even louder after the senseless and brutal killing of four people and the wounding of 23 people on Taipei’s MRT system (“Public reels from attacker’s brutality,” May 23, page 1).
It is common sense that the attacker, once convicted, should never be released again for reasons of public safety.
However, I continue to oppose the use of the death penalty for reasons which I have stated before (“Abolishing executions safeguards our rights,” April 9, 2010, page 8; “Misguided priorities,” May 21, 2010, page 8; “Justice done by execution?” March 9, 2011, page 8; “Real deal behind abolition,” March 17, 2011, page 8).
Therefore, I want to congratulate the Taipei Times for its very outspoken criticism of the latest rounds of executions (Editorial, May 4, page 8).
The voices of foreigners can only add a little weight to this discussion.
However, once the Taiwanese and media speak up, there is hope that eventually Taiwan will abolish this medieval, anachronistic violation of each person’s basic human right, a human right enshrined in two UN covenants signed, but continually ignored, by the Taiwanese government.
The international reputation of Taiwan can only suffer as long as Taiwan does not join the internationally growing trend of abolition.
Given the recent events, I also want to add another important consideration.
It seems clear to me that the death penalty, or any other severe punishment, would never stop a crazy individual from committing atrocities.
Rather, they may even find further encouragement in what they might consider a “heroic” death.
Therefore, the possibility of punishment would almost certainly not avert such crimes, unless you want to lock up any person acting in a suspicious manner even before they have committed any crimes.
However, the possibility of punishment would certainly deter people who kill other people through their reckless, but yet unpunished behavior.
For example, we all know that reckless or drunk driving can kill people, or that certain types of environmental pollution kill people.
However, these crimes usually go unpunished or are punished with a slap on the wrist, some negligible punishment which does nothing to stop the negligent and dangerous behavior.
So why are we so willing to give the ultimate punishment to people where the deterrent effect is almost zero, while we are so unwilling to severely punish people who kill, after all, not just four, but thousands of people each year?
Surely, punishing these kinds of behavior would save many innocent lives.
This is one of the many contradictions in the way people are punished in our legal systems which I simply cannot understand.