Saturday, December 30, 2006

Democracy and Justice American style

Saddam is dead, hanged.
Is this day symbolic? Is it the beginning of a new democratic regime in Iraq?
Or is it the just end of a fair trial, as President Bush called it?

If it is meant to be the former, that is the building block of the Iraqui Democracy,
then this is a very bad point from which to start. Democracy is better founded on positive values such as respect for life, the life of everyone including grand scale criminals. Moreover, the Iraqui Democracy is in the process of being built. So who has the power to decide that the execution was democratic?

Some would say Justice! The question then is: was this a fair trial with a just end?
Many doubted the fairness of the trial itself (see Amnesty for instance). It is at least debatable whether the court, its composition, and its procedure were up to international standards of Justice.

Finally, and we come back to a previous issue, is the death penalty a just result of this trial. In Europe, this is clear, we agree that death penalty can NEVER be a just result. In America, the belief seems to be, on democratic grounds, that the death penalty can be a just outcome.

We can only wait and see what we will get out of this inhuman act of 'justice.' What we can say for the moment is that America has exported so far only the worst features of its own brand of Democracy and Justice to Iraq.


Anonymous said...

So who has the power to decide that the execution was democratic?

Well who has the power in Europe to say it was not?

In Britian for instance poll after poll informs us that the majority want to re-introduce hanging, but the politicians ignore the majority, is that democratic? So who in Europe is deciding what is and what is not democratic. If it is democratic in America that only means the Americans are more democratic because their government accepts wishes of the people. Europe is infested with a new over class of EU political elites who seem to belive they alone should have the power to decide on democracy for the demos, the real people will just be ignored.

By the by I do not and have never supported hanging, but I do accept that in Britian I am in the minority.

Una Ann Hardester said...


Despite their differences (and there are HUGE differences) the US and the UK are much closer in terms of political culture than the US and the states of continental Europe. Ask even a conservative in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, or France if they support the death penalty at all (even for a limited number of crimes and applied only be certain methods), and they will first look at you like you're a lunatic, and then respond that that's something that dictatorships and human-rights-crushing Americans do, and that Europe finds capital punishment repugnant and uncivilized.

On the death penalty, those "EU political elites" you speak of are much closer to the people of Europe than pro-death penalty Brits are.

The Irish, too, are more in line with the continental Europeans on this issue.

The issue of the death penalty is illustrates why human rights do not always go hand-in-hand with democracy. Human rights are the rights everyone has by virtue of being human, and thus they must apply equally to all --even in spite of majority opinion. Majorities have supported disgusting human rights abuses throughout history and into the present day. Human rights are tied to liberalism, not populism.

Anonymous said...

If religion did not taint as many member states as it does, perhaps execution would be a just outcome for the most abhorrent of human beings.

BUT what defines human, the fundamental flaw with human rights legislation is that there is no definitive writ in regards to the defining of what denotes humanity and vice versa; are we meant to believe that those with certain mental handicaps or those with a penchant for genocide are to be treated as humanly equal. It would appear at first instance, an unjust stance.

Saddam i believe could not be deemed a classical human - i.e displays the behaviours and has capacity enough to fend for both himself and family (and be of benefit to the state) - for he was clearly a lunatic (fancy being boiled in acid anyone?) - justice was served in the end; although the bullet may have been more graceful than the noose and executing him on Eid was just uninformed.

Una Ann Hardester said...


Unless you want to open a major pandora's box, human is simply defined as being a member of our species --and that is exactly how I believe it should be.

Lorenzo Zucca said...

Thanks Ken, Una and anonymous for the interesting contributions.

Ken, some other people pointed to me that British polls are in general suggesting that death penalty should be re-introduced. Thank god, democracy does not work through a pure polling system. Generally speaking we elect representatives that vote on certain issues. In Britain, they voted against the Death Penalty. It is still possible to vote a new law , but nobody regars this as an issue that can be reopened. In addition to that, I also have to say that when I talk to people about these issues where I live (Scotland), nobody has ever told me to be in favour of the death penalty. Perhaps I don't know the 'right' people.

Anonymous- you have an interesting interpretation of the concept of human being. Una has a less problematic definition, which I prefer. Perhaps you can tell us more about yours. But don't be mistaken, it is not because religion that many people, including me, oppose death penalty. There are sound moral arguments that are both goal and duty based.

Una- I would even dare say that democracy and human rights do not clash on the issue of death penalty. Respect for life may well be shown to be a pre-condition to democracy.