Papua New Guinea: The State As Killer?, by Amnesty International
Is it a bad thing for the state to be a killer? Amnesty International would have one believe that the death penalty has no place in justice out of a claim that there is an inalienable right to life that cannot under any circumstances be taken away. The authors seem to have a hostility to capital punishment as an encouragement to vengeance. Let us understand that justice can be distinguished from vengeance, but that justice often does involve some very harsh recognition of reality. In the case of capital punishment, the popular appeal of serious punishment when a society is facing high levels of violent crime–especially rapes and murders–is wiser than the standpoint of Amnesty International. After all, justice is meant to serve the people in general, not to serve the interests of corrupt Western elites with misguided worldviews. Ordinary people can understand that wrongs must be in some sense repaid, and that if the standards of earthly justice are not perfect, they are certainly better than letting the guilty go free as a regular rule without accepting the consequences of wrongdoing. This book’s perspective, as might be imagined, really cuts down on one’s enjoyment of the song.
In many ways, this book is a tempest in a teapot. Covering nineteen pages, this book consists of misguided moralizing pretending that the view of the organization itself is superior to the desire of victims and survivors for admittedly hard but proper justice. What is particularly striking about all of this discussion is that although capital punishment is legal according to Papua New Guinea and has been for some time, no one has actually been put to death as of the time of this book’s writing. One of the things that the author notes is that Amnesty International does not believe that there has ever been a suitable death penalty that existed in history that did not have particularly high levels of bias. One thing that is far more reliable, if lamentable, is the particularly high levels of bias that can be found in this account.