There's a great piece today in Britain's newspaper, The Independent, by Susanna Miller, whose brother Dan was killed in the 2002 terrorist bombings in Bali. The three men convicted of those bombings are appealing their death sentences this week. Susanna Miller writes:
...The world may even think that somehow the death penalty will help people such as my parents and I to achieve "closure".
The world will be wrong. Up until the Bali bombings, I had always thought that capital punishment was an impossibly primitive, clumsy and flawed answer to the question of how to punish those convicted of the most serious crimes. I felt that there were clear moral and practical problems that should consign it to history. I associated its proponents with deeply vindictive and reactionary mindsets. I could not understand how people could advocate such an absolute and irreversible sanction, when the shortcomings of the judicial system meant that a conviction could never be said to be infallible, and when the point of the trial is to demonstrate that the taking of a life is a crime.
Before Dan was killed, I had always believed that capital punishment was an ineffective deterrent to murder. I believed that the convicted murderer should instead be put through some moral journey, to see the error of their actions, and with luck be rehabilitated. If repentance and rehabilitation is too much for some individuals, then so be it, I thought – they can at least provide a resource for understanding the criminal mind. I agreed with the premise that the death penalty violates a fundamental human right to life, and is therefore morally unjustified.
My view has not changed. One of my strongest memories is of standing beside that bomb crater in Bali, with my eyes closed, trying to block out the destruction and sense Dan in it all. Although I could not block out the smell of murder, and the sheer enormity of the carnage, I did feel his presence there, just beyond living reach.
My brother was a lawyer, deeply versed in the moral and practical arguments surrounding law and its role in society. As we grew up, Dan and I sparred happily over numerous family suppers. As far as I remember, Dan also thought that the arguments, both moral and practical, against capital punishment were compelling and conclusive.
That day was one of the saddest moments of my life, and one that reinforced to me the sanctity of human life, and the appalling effects of taking it. Yet capital punishment seemed even more inappropriate then than before. I felt, and still strongly feel, that there is never justification for another human being to wilfully end another's life.
Read the whole piece here.