Student criticises the death penalty

Corpus Christi students Daniel Millard, Ryan O'Connor, Victoria Hebbs, Elizabeth Cook (back), Gabriela Postma and  Olivia Fuderer (middle) and (in front) Sam Coten, Coralie de Robillard, Alyssa Bay, Eligh Blechynden and Kenith Png.
Corpus Christi students Daniel Millard, Ryan O'Connor, Victoria Hebbs, Elizabeth Cook (back), Gabriela Postma and Olivia Fuderer (middle) and (in front) Sam Coten, Coralie de Robillard, Alyssa Bay, Eligh Blechynden and Kenith Png.

THIS week the Melville Times kicks off a new occasional series featuring local high school students writing on issues they feel strongly about. Our City has a large youth population. According to Melville council statistics, those aged 15-19 made up 7.6 per cent of the population, and 20-24 year-olds 8 per cent, and at more than 16,800, these were Melville’s two largest population groups in the 2011 ABS Census. Sam Coten from the Corpus Christi College journalism club is our first contributor with a piece he has called No justice in murder.

I oppose the death penalty, the notion of state-sanctioned murder. Let’s look no further than Gandhi, who said: ‘An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind’.

This is the brutal contradiction of the death sentence, the principle of finding justice in murder.

In 2014, there were no executions in Indonesia but a total of 34 in the US, all via lethal injection.

Under international law, the death penalty is not illegal. But Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) says: ‘In countries that have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes’.

According to the ICCPR, this excludes drug trafficking, which is not a ‘most serious crime’.

I reject the killing of criminals because I believe in morality and humanity. Even pushing context and political ramifications aside, no justice can arise from killing criminals. And what is a justice system without the justice bit?

But the inconsistency continues to prevail. Why was a petition against the execution of Sukumaran and Chan supported by over 150,000 people? Why did the attorneys-general of each Australian state and territory write in opposition to the execution of these two men?

To put it bluntly, it’s because they were Australian.

But who in Australia is actually going to speak out the next time Indonesia decides to execute a group of criminals who were not necessarily guilty of a ‘most serious crime’?

Herein lies the problem.

Our national outspokenness is not a result of our belief in morality or the sanctity of life as recognised by the United Nations, but an unjustified sense of patriotic superiority.

We didn’t care when those executed were from Brazil or Vietnam; we haven’t spoken out on principle.

We have merely placed our national pride above our moral judgment.

Clarence Darrow, one of the world’s most historically prominent trial lawyers once said: ‘There is no such thing as justice ” in or out of court.’

After all these judicial, ethical, moral and humanistic contradictions, I’m starting to believe him.