Thursday, March 27, 2014

Looking Up in Some Places - Not So Much in Others

I rarely write about what goes on in the world outside the US of A.  It's not that there's any shortage of interesting news.  And god knows, it isn't that I don't have opinions.

Frankly, it's that I'm here; there's enough on my plate in this country.  And while some would surely disagree, I generally have at least a fair understanding of our systems, laws, culture, what have you. Enough so you won't generally become stupider by reading what I have to say.  I don't have the confidence often to make that claim about what's going on elsewhere.

Except that once in a while.  Like now.

It's the juxtapositions, the good news and the bad.

Start with Barbados which is where the new is good (not great, but good).  It's a lovely island in the Caribbean, a member of the British Commonwealth perhaps the original home of rum (or so the tourist board would have you believe.  I was there for a few days a couple of years ago, accompanying my wife who was there for some meetings.  I would happily go back.

But the thing about Barbados, like most of the English speaking Caribbean island nations I should add, is that they have the death penalty. They don't kill a lot of folks in the Caribbean, but they do kill some. David Mitchell for killing two German tourists in The Bahamas in 2000. Charles Laplace for killing his wife in St. Kitts and Nevis in 2008. Barbados hasn't had an execution since 1984, and there's no reason to imagine there'll be another anytime soon, but the law there is that murder carries a mandatory death sentence. And that may be changing. Tuesday, Attorney General Adriel Brathwaite said that the government will be introducing legislation to eliminate the mandatory death penalty

Under the new laws (if they pass - Brathwaite expects serious opposition) judges would be able to consider the circumstances of the murder and to weigh mitigation.  It's not abolition, but it's something.

On the other hand, Egypt is running headlong in the other direction.  Oh, it's not that they're talking about creating a death penalty where they didn't have one before.  The death penalty's been on the books there and it's used. But on Monday an Egyptian court handed down 529 (some reports say 528, but once you pass 500 the details start to blur) death sentences against members of the Muslim Brotherhood. From Al Jazeera.
Monday’s sentences in the central city of Minya were related to the death of a policeman and other violence that took place across the country since July, when the army overthrew Egypt's first freely elected president, Mohamed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.
For what it's worth, most of the folks were tried in absentia, and the law allows them new trials once they're captured.  Oh, and everyone's entitled to an appeal.

Finally, there's this. Worldwide the number of executions rose last year. Rick Gladstone for the Times covers an Amnesty International report due out in a few hours.  He says that, omitting China, there were 778 executions worldwide in 2013, compared with 682 in 2012. (They omit China because the number of executions there is a closely guarded secret. For whatever it's worth, Amnesty figures they kill more people in China each year than the rest of the world combined).  The rise, Amnesty says, is largely due to a surge in executions in Iran and Iraq.

In this country, on the other hand, Maryland abolished the death penalty last year, executions were down across the country from 43 in 2012 to 39 last year.  And just a couple of weeks ago, Glenn Ford was released from prison in Louisiana after 30 years on death row for a crime he didn't commit.    It is, I suppose, better than if we'd killed him.  

But 30 fucking years!

1 comment:

  1. Kudos for your ranking!