Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Public Executions in 2008

Jon Leyne's BBC article "Iranian Hangings 'Hit New Record'" is at once shocking and unsuprising. At first, I was shocked that there were public hangings endorsed by the state occuring in the world in the 21st century. But then I felt almost naive. In the context of countries in which there is strict (some would perhaps argue the proper word is fanatical rather than strict) religious law, there are still forms of punishment that many in Western society would regard as antiquated and antithetical to Human Rights. Are we not beyong public hangings in 2008?
I was somewhat hesistant to post this article and raise questions of cultural relativism versus basic human rights in regards to Iran. I didn't want this to come off as a cliche Clash of Civilizations blog post in which an American University Student critizes the Iranian justice system for being archane and immoral, especially not as the post above Dr. D's regarding Waterboarding. But then, the fact that this article would be juxtaposed next to Dr.D's on waterboarding made me decide specifically to post it. (How) Can we condemn inhumane treatment of criminals, when we torture suspects? Is it not frightening that an article about punishment that would make one CRINGE when its about a foreign government, makes one QUESTION when its about their own government?

1 comment:

geoforeal said...

Cultural relativism is quite a tricky thing. In a class where we deal with the outcomes of illiberal democracies like women being forced into FGM, inhumane treatment of prisoners, and broken justice systems (among a few), it certainly is hard to stay off the moral high horse. However, the United States government's practices of torture on suspected threats to our safety leaves us in a precarious spot.
With that said, for the love of God, yes we really should be past this whole public hanging business. Though it may not be written in the Quran, or the strict religious law of the countries in which these ritual-esc executions take place, there comes a time in a globalized, modern world where this cannot be tolerated by the international community, and hopefully the citizens of Iran.

Here's one last question. Which is worse, to publicly hang a sentenced criminal, which (as far as I know) is considered a legal and appropriate punishment in Iran. Or to abduct, detain and torture a person SUSPECTED of criminal activity, whilst knowingly violating the Convention Against Torture, which we felt so moved to sign. It seems as though we have progress to make in both cases.