Planet News Views

Friday, December 29, 2006

Life, Human Rights and Peace

By Scott McLean

There seems to be no end to the negative news these days. That's why it's important not to forget about what's positive, especially what each person can do to make the world a better place.

In the United States, as in other countries that have democratic elections, people can influence government by voting. The U.S. congressional elections in November showed that people do make a difference. Democrats will be in charge of the U.S. Congress next month.

Change is not going to happen overnight, at least not with Iraq policy unless President Bush decides it's time for the U.S. military to leave Iraq.

The President has said many times that U.S. troops would stay in Iraq until we 'win'. In some ways we did win because Saddam Hussein was found guilty of crimes against humanity and will be executed. Not everyone agrees with the death sentence.

Amnesty International USA said Friday in a PR Newswire release it was concerned that violence might increase in Iraq because of the execution, the organization stating: "Amnesty International opposes the death penalty, regardless of method, in all cases, and regards it as the ultimate, irreversible human rights abuse."

I agree. I'm opposed to the death penalty, but I do respect the decision of the Iraqi court and was saddened by the horrible atrocities Hussein was found guilty of committing against people.

Looking at it a bit different way, if a person convicted of such heinous crimes were spared, then the death penalty could not fairly be given to others awaiting execution.

Putting the emphasis on life rather than death is an important goal for the planet, although it's easy for me to see that not all governments and people would agree with me.

On a very positive note, the Philippines abolished the death penalty this year. The Catholic Church Bishops had a major influence and of course the church advocates for life.

Of course commuting death sentences to life in prison without the possibity of parole would be no 'walk in the park' for murderers, but it would take the government out of the business of killing people.

While I'm not trying to speak for other opponents of the death penalty, I do feel that God--not governments-- should determine when it is time for life to end.

Then again, many people don't believe in God, so possibly they will at least understand if I say only natural causes not government should decide when life is over.

Besides the common argument that putting a person to death is cruel and unusual punishment, there is a bigger issue of trying to reduce the human suffering in the world caused by brutal regimes. Human rights violations are a huge problem in many countries.

So then, if the U.S. wants to encourage China and other countries with questionable human rights records to clean up their act regarding how they treat their own citizens, the best way to get results is leading by example.

If the U.S. were to abolish the death penalty, I think it would send a very strong message that governments should not put people to death nor should they be involved in violence against their own citizens.

Instead, governments should put an emphasis on protecting life, respecting human rights and pushing for peace in 2007 and beyond.


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