[Deathpenalty] death penalty news----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Dec 13 13:59:32 CST 2008
Human rights activists agitate for abolition of death penalty
Human rights activists have called for an end to the death penalty, saying
no one has the right to take one's life apart from God.
Legal and Human Rights Centre project coordinator Harold Sungusia made the
appeal here on Wednesday at a discussion on human rights and the law as
part of festivities to mark this year\'s Human Rights Day.
"Scriptures say no one should take someone`s life apart from God. That
being the case the death penalty goes against God's wishes as it is done
by human beings," said Sungusia.
He said experience had shown that taking someone's life did not stop
crime, adding that there had to be an end to capital punishment as it
denied the victim the right to life.
His remarks came after a participant, Sheikh Shabani Kitila from Dodoma,
said that no one had the right to take anyone's life, insisting that
whoever did so also deserved to die.
He said Islam forbade the killing of a human being, adding that it was
clearly stipulated that whoever killed with intent had also to be killed.
According to Kitila, killing unintentionally had a different punishment as
stipulated in the Quran. Speaking earlier, LHRC executive director Francis
Kiwanga called for an end to albino killings, saying society was partly to
blame as the killers were in its midst.
"The government has a duty to protect its citizens without segregation,
but society has a role to play to protect itself as well," he said.
He said the killings had tarnished the country's image as people might
wrongly assume that Tanzanians wanted to get rid of albinos altogether.
Sara Mwaga, an activist, called on the society to shun the culture of
silence, saying they should make noise whenever they saw someone trampling
on their and others' rights.
Why human rights declaration is still relevant
Wednesday marked the 60th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of
Human Rights (UDHR). The global impetus for the declaration, arising as it
did from the embers of World War II, remains as relevant today as it was
then, though the context has changed.
A quick glance around the planet finds that only a tiny minority of the
world's population enjoys the four fundamental freedoms: Freedom of
speech, freedom of assembly, freedom from fear and freedom from want. And
as for Article 1, the famous 1st line of the declaration "All human
beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed
with reason and conscience and should act toward one another in a spirit
of brotherhood too remains an unattainable dream for most people on the
UDHR is an aspirational declaration that attempts to be universal. It is
not law, it is not a rigid view of the world that aims to force people to
adhere to a narrow code of conduct. Quite the contrary, it is an inclusive
set of aims and aspirations in which people of different religious,
cultural and social backgrounds can find common ground.
I think of the UDHR as more than an international document that laid the
foundations for the covenants on human rights that followed. As an
individual, I feel more or less powerless to achieve the underlying view
of a just and peaceful world where all human beings are regarded as equal
regardless of gender, race, religion, birth, social position, political
opinion or any other factor. But what the UDHR has done is put into the
public consciousness a way of thinking about humanity that could
eventually make that vision of the world a reality. Of course that is
still a long way away. One of the problems with protecting human rights is
that it can conflict with the needs of governments and law-enforcement
agencies. What is more, the real test of commitment to the protection of
human rights comes when there is a perceived national threat. Witness the
extent to which countries which have long shouted from the rooftops about
human rights have suddenly tried to pass laws allowing them to keep people
in detention without trial for 90 days, or imprison them in a no-mans land
of a foreign camp and call the prisoners enemy combatants, or censured and
jailed journalists for printing inconvenient truths, or stopped having
qualms about collecting personal information if this invasion of privacy
enables them to collect information that might help them fight the T word.
Terrorism is effectively testing both national and individual commitment
to the rights enshrined in the UDHR.
Terrorists do not value human life, nor do they believe that all human
beings are born equal. This is especially true of the Al-Qaeda brand of
terrorists who betray total contempt for human life and whose ethos is one
of dividing humanity into the (in their view) "enlightened" who share
their beliefs and "the infidels" who don't and thus deserve to die.
In engaging in the war against terror, the path of least resistance is to
ride roughshod over individual rights. Its the "ends justify the means"
argument. If torturing someone enables you to obtain information that
helps catch a terrorist, then that torture will have saved countless lives
and so is justifiable. Similarly, if holding suspects without charge for
months on end improves chances of obtaining information that prevents
further terrorist attacks, then that detention is justified. And if
innocent people end up being caught in the net, as they invariably will,
too bad; it is regrettable but justifiable.
Many individuals feel so threatened by terrorism that they are willing to
give up their commitment to human rights in exchange for a perceived
increase in personal safety. Governments are all too happy to play on that
fear. It is a slippery slope. Not only does it start to undo some of the
important progress that has been made over the last 60 years but it plays
straight into the hands of the terrorists. Just think how much anger the
images from Abu Ghraib or from Guantanamo have created.
If the UN is to embody civil society it needs to be defined by a
commitment to a set of values and beliefs which puts the rights of
individuals above the interests of political groups or nation states. That
is what the Universal Declaration of Human Rights does. It may seem like a
utopian dream, but it is one worth pursuing. Its 60th anniversary should
serve as a wake-up call to all those who signed up to this vision of the
(source: Arab News)
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