Monday, November 06, 2006


Let's Think Back

As most people probably know, headlines today have been dominated by the death sentence handed down to Saddam Hussein for crimes against humanity. Obviously, Saddam has been found guilty of gruesome and horrendous acts, but a number of groups have already voice opposition to the sentence including Amnesty International (read Amnesty's statement here) and the Catholic Church (story here).

However, Iraq's decision to execute Hussein calls to mind, for me, another decision in a similar situation. When Apartheid was ended in South Africa, there were certainly many calls for punishment of the people who had perpetrated such oppression. But South Africa took a different tactic. Rather than resort to vengeance and violence (even against those who had practiced the same) the new government chose to set up truth and reconciliation commissions, which offered the opportunity for true healing and understanding for victims. And the country went farther, banning the use of the death penalty in its constitution. Having faced oppression, the people of South Africa knew that no government should take away the lives of its citizens.

As the world watches the battle of the life of Saddam Hussein unfold, it may be useful to remember some of these lessons. Do we want to reject oppression and violence, like South Africa, and join the ranks of Western democracies in turning away from capital punishment, or fall into step with China, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, and Iran in choosing executions?
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