Justice?

You can’t have escaped the news that Saddam Hussain was hanged this morning.

There can be little doubt, after what he’s done over the last thirty years, that he deserved to die. But there are millions of people who are alive in the world who don’t deserve to be alive, and plenty who deserve to live that have died. Deserving to die doesn’t necessarily make his death just.

The pro-execution lobby have talked about closure for his victims, and fair payback for what he did to them: But Saddam’s execution has done nothing to restore to life or health, those he gassed, bombed, committed to poverty through his profligacy or whatever. They celebrate his execution, but this time next week they’ll feel no better than they did a week ago. As for fair payback, he was executed with far more respect and dignity than he offered any of his victims.

That said, I don’t really have an alternative to offer. As a general principal I’m opposed to capital punishment, but that’s mainly because there have been far too many miscarriages of justice – people provably wrongly convicted – to go round killing people. In this case we can at least be sure that the right person’s been hanged, and that he did at least most of the things he’s said to have done. What else is possible? To have treated him in the same way he treated his victims? That would have made the “civilised” world as guilty as he was. Life imprisonment? He’d still have enjoyed a far better lifestyle than many of those left trying to survive in Iraq today.

I think Saddam’s execution was inevitable, the obvious least-worst outcome. But I don’t think it was justice.

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