Saturday, November 20, 2004

Sri Lanka adopts Death Penalty (again)

I was disappointed to read that the government of Sri Lanka has reimplemented the death penalty. Canada and Sri Lanka both banned it in 1976 but unlike Canadian justices, judges in Sri Lanka have not discontinued to sentence convicted individuals with death. In the last 28 years, when a Sri Lankan court used the death penal, the sentence was commuted to life in prison.
BBC article: Sri Lanka reintroduces executions
President Chandrika Kumaratunga said the death penalty would be applied for murder, rape and drugs trafficking.
I think this is grave mistake - and I'm speaking from experience. In the fall of 2002, we were living in Washington DC and I took the bus to work everyday. On October 2nd, the first victim of the “Beltway snipers” was shot dead. The next day, four others were killed, included a man who was standing at a bus stop. Neither my fiancée nor I had ever been in a situation where our lives were at risk; we could have been killed for no other reason than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. During those unsettling weeks, we avoided going out in public and whenever we did venture outside, we were on edge. In the morning, I would literally hide behind the bus stop bench, and invariably the talk at work was focused on the snipers.

When they finally arrested Muhammad and Malvo on October 24th, the attention of our neighbours and the American media turned to how ensure that both men would get death sentences. Unlike my American coworkers, I don’t think capital punishment is ever justifiable. Even with the fear still fresh in my bones, I never wavered in my convictions.

American Governor Ryan agrees with me. A few months after the sniker attack in Washington, he cleared out Illinois’ death row. Many Americans realize that the death penalty doesn't make sense. According to Death Penalty Info, an American non-profit:
The abolition of the death penalty in Canada in 1976 has not led to increased homicide rates. Statistics Canada reports that the number of homicides in Canada in 2001 (554) was 23% lower than the number of homicides in 1975 (721), the year before the death penalty was abolished. In addition, homicide rates in Canada are generally three times lower than homicide rates in the U.S., which uses the death penalty.
The Sri Lankan government should rethink their actions.


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