Death penalty in Lebanon: Pushing the debate back into parliament... and Lebanese minds

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The pot of blood, spilled by the government once again started to boil as Robert Badinter, a well-known French activist for the abolition of the death penalty, paid a visit to Beirut last week. Although the death penalty is enforced in many states around the world, a long-term trend towards abolition is in sight. Lebanon, being one of the 58 states using death penalty, raises the discussion of human rights versus the states´ right to take a man’s life. The recent beheading of a young Sri Lankan woman in Saudi Arabia has been reported on all over the world. In Lebanon, on January 3, five men were ordered to be executed by a military judge as they are accused of assassinating the former Hezbollah official Ghalib Awali. Death penalty is making the headlines on international, regional and local news almost every day. Politicians, NGOs and international press are shining a light onto the morality of how punishment is best to fit the crime.

Last week, the former French Justice Minister, Robert Badinter, who worked on eliminating the death penalty in France and succeeded in the year of 1981, paid a visit to Beirut. On this occasion, a session was held for the Human Rights parliamentary committee, at the attorney’s house.

The lecture was well attended by politicians both for and against the death penalty, as well as by nongovernmental organizations. George Ghali, the project officer at Alef, said that it was a great honor to have a person who has actually worked on abolition of death penalty, to come and speak in Beirut. “I hope this will push the debate on death penalty back into the parliament,” Ghali said.

One of the attendees, Justice Minister Shakib Qertbawi, held a speech saying that death sentence does not conform to the state of law. Qertbawi also said that he considers it to be unnecessary and pointed out that statistics have shown that the application of the death penalty does not necessarily reduce the crime rate. “The right to life is at the forefront of human rights,” Qertbawi said.

According to Marie Daunay at the Lebanese Center for Human Rights, a lot of members of the Parliament agree with Qertbawi and the problem is not to convince the politicians but rather the people. “Countries that abolished death penalty did not see further crime in their statistics. This is because a person, who commits a crime, will not think of the punishment. The public are not aware of this,” Daunay said. The last execution that took place in Lebanon was in 2004, but since then, the public has called for the state to put criminals on death row on several occasions.

“It is difficult for people to reason with crime. When Myriam al Achkar was raped and murdered in 2011, the whole community mobilized asking for death penalty. People wanted justice and vengeance,” Ghali said.

Politicians, however, take a whole other stand on why the death penalty should still remain in Lebanon. Several ministers support a death penalty sentence for criminals that spy and collaborate with Israel. According to Ghali, the main arguments for the death penalty are to reduce crime and not thinking that Lebanese prisons aren´t escape proof.

 

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