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|Justice and the death penalty|
Corriere della Sera - November 16th 2007
The resolution promoted by
In fact, in most democracies if a referendum were to be held about the death penalty, it would be supported by a large majority of voters. It is a popular punishment, because in public opinion the desire for retribution or vengeance plays a big part in thinking about crime. Opponents of the death penalty generally base their argument on the idea that to kill people, even murderers or terrorists, is barbaric and inhumane. Unfortunately, public opinion itself is quite barbaric and inhumane too.
In my view, the best and the most correct argument against capital punishment is that it is irreversible and that it is therefore unjust. Every judicial system makes mistakes. When the death penalty is imposed, those mistakes cannot be remedied: it is too late. Ultimately, the lack of the permanent chance of appeal, or of proving that a mistake has been made, is evidence to me of a lack of justice.
Yet there are different degrees of injustice. In
Anyone convicted of murder and sentenced to death in
That fact is further reinforced by the way in which many American states have suspended the use of the death penalty, following evidence of miscarriages of justice. In a democratic, constitutional system there are checks and balances that prevent the death penalty from being badly misused.
The Italian-led effort at the UN human rights committee is admirable in moral terms, but it is bound to fail. Authoritarian countries such as
If you divide countries according to whether the judicial process is fair and properly conducted, then the lists produce no surprises: Italy, America, Japan and India are all on the list where the rule of law and justice applies; China, Iran and other dictatorships are all on the a list of countries where there is neither law nor justice.