Friday, August 03, 2007

Capital Punishment advocates take note...

As an opponent of capital punishment I can't pass up the chance to link these dramatic photos of hangings in Iran. The pictures are less important than comments describing public support of the policies.

Public executions rare

Iran has one of the highest rates of execution in the world, but public executions are relatively rare.Hoods over the heads of the judge’s killers were removed before the hanging, which took place in front of a giant portrait of Moghaddas. Hossein Kavousifar was in tears. His uncle smiled and waved goodbye.Onlookers in the street and on the roofs of houses chanted and took pictures with mobile phones. Some laughed.The tearful mother of one of the killers shouted: “God, please give me back my son.”

'Immoral behavior'

Dozens of people have been executed for rape, smuggling and other offences in Iran in recent weeks. Most were arrested in a crackdown on “immoral behavior,” which began in April.

Iran hanged nine men on Wednesday for rape, armed robbery and other offences. Some 16 people were hanged in July.

Murder, rape, adultery, armed robbery, apostasy and drug smuggling are all punishable by death under Iran’s Islamic Sharia law, imposed since the 1979 revolution.

The number of executions doubled to at least 177 last year, according to Amnesty International. Since the beginning of 2007, at least 124 people have been put to death. Western rights groups have called on Iran to abolish the death penalty.

Americans supporting capital punishment should look long and hard at these pictures and reflect on their own roles as citizens whenever someone is executed in our name. We like to imagine ourselves more civilized because our methods are more clinical. objection to capital punishment is not what it does to the subject, but what it does to society, us - you and I, as executioners. In the same way that a very different value system practiced in countries guided by Sharia law seems barbaric to us, our own methods of executing criminals have isolated us from capital punishment in a way that most people cannot imagine they have anything to do with it personally.

I see no discernible trend in my lifetime that mankind is in danger of losing its impulse to be savage. There have been a few noble expressions of non-violent responses to evil that have turned out well. But overall the conduct of human behavior continues to be everything that Mr. Volokh is not only willing to accept, but encourage. Those of us in the minority - and a small group it is - are not even close to gaining social acceptability. In fact, in most company, it is still best we keep silent.

(I should note, to be fair, that Volokh changed his mind after a few days. Not for reasons I like, but with solid thinking nevertheless.)


Footnote: The man in the picture is being hanged for assassinating a judge. That probably makes him another poster child for capital punishment, but in the eyes of many ordinary Iranians he is something of a martyr. Serendip has the details.

Majid Kavousifar, seen in these pictures before being hanged, left Iran for Abu Dhabi two days after the assassination of one of the most corrupt and most repressive judges in the Islamic Republic. (the corrupt judge was considered to be a butcher among the student population and had also tried and sentenced Ganji...)

Judge Moghaddas who was assassinated by Kavousifar and his nephew, was responsible for handing out long sentences to many political activists. Moghaddas sometimes even boasted that he sentenced the accused without even reading their files!

Kavoussifar had introduced himself as the killer of Moghaddas to the American Embassy in Abu Dhabi, where he had applied for asylum. The embassy guards handed him over to the Interpol, which informed Islamic Republic's authorities of the incident. I thought it was just the Homeland Security at the US airports who were the thickest officials in the world!

Here, Majid Kavousifar is seen smiling and saying his last goodbye. Why are so many victims smiling in these latest round of public executions? Perhaps if there is any after life, it will be better than living under the mullahs.

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