Wednesday, November 30, 2005

*A more serious thought experiment*

For the benefit of the new/casual reader or the reader who suddenly decides to return to reading this blog after a long long hiatus, here's a warm hello. But for my more regular readers, it should come as no surprise that I'm against the death penalty on a number of grounds. Click here for a more extensive treatment.

So it sort of pains me when the rationale I see people giving for why Nyugen should be hanging being a one liner that states that we should not make exceptions for foreigners and not locals. I hope they mean that we should also take steps to end the use of the death penalty (and not just mandatory sentencing with reform of the criminal system and due process) for all. The alternative is akin to saying that we should not end the use of torture because the precedent case is that of a foreigner being tortured and not a local.

Now, I have successfully debated in favour of the use of torture warrants if certain qualifications (no permament disfiguring, scaring, disability and a warrent to be sought prior to such interrogation methods and it was not to be used as a confessional tool) were made and only in the most extreme of situation i.e. the ticking time-bomb situation. The rationale we gave was that the premise of Human Rights was that of Life itself, that Lives were at stake, that torture would not lead to a loss of life but merely pain, that pain was a more faster and more effective method of interrogation than gaining their trust, and torture (by strict definition) was going on anyway so the use of this system would actually monitor and ensure no egregious breaches.

That's great in theory, but I cannot shake off the lingering fear of the tremendous potential for abuse.

But the thought experiment that I wish to make today is this. Imagine a Singapore where the status quo was the usage of torture or the execution of juveniles and the sort of debate that would ensue if Nyugen had been in a case involving the above. For some references, check out the attacks on the US Supreme Court that 'dared' to use international law to back a Constitutional Ban on the execution of juveniles (it used to be that individual states would decide and implement). I can only wonder if our adherence to the law is only because it is the status quo.




At 9:21 PM, Blogger Song said...

I hate the "ticking timebomb" argument. It's way too much of an extreme scenario that it's overused as a justification for certain laws without actually realising the "ticking timebomb" scenarios. Well, duh, of course we should try our best to extract information out of a terrorist if there's a ticking timebomb scenario. The real question is, how often does this scenario occur to even justify the discussion of something like this?

At 5:38 AM, Blogger Shaun Lee said...

I don't disagree.

The potential for abuse is too great. And to be honest, even if torture already exists under status quo, torture warrants are not going to make a difference. Put too many procedural barriers and people will simply break them anyway.


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