We must oppose executions in all circumstances

Isn’t it time somebody took a strong stand on human rights? That the perpetrators of the Bali bombings need to be brought to justice is and should be unquestioned. But the death penalty is not about justice. It is about revenge. It is about committing another wrong in the totally flawed expectation that somehow it will make right a previous wrong committed against us. It can only lead to an escalating cycle of violence and oneupmanship.

The taking of a life is a horrible and evil act, that we as a tolerant society rightly condemn. But if we are to continue to condemn the taking of a life, we must be consistent in opposing it. And that means opposing the death penalty.

It is the mark of a fair and compassionate society that we lead by example on human rights issues. The right to life is a fundamental human right. It exists regardless of race, nationality, religion, gender, creed or any other distinction.

Those who take life should be condemned in the strongest terms and brought to justice. But that does not involve retaliation by committing what is essentially the same crime. Two wrongs never have, and never will, make a right!

The strong stance taken by the Australian Democrats in opposing the death penalty, shows that that there is one political party in Australia prepared to take a stand on human rights. Labor appears to want to take a stand – but is frightened of the Howard government playing wedge politics. We need some consistency.

Australia needs to take a strong, fearless stand against human rights abuses and violations in our region. We must not allow our opposition to the death penalty to be seen as in any way ambiguous.

This is the full text of my letter published in the Canberra Times, October 11, 2007)


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