China executed a British citizen, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/8433704.stm, for drug smuggling. While I am not an opponent of capital punishment, I think drug smuggling does not rise to the level that warrants it. That being said, I found some interesting points in this story.
I know I claim to avoid political issues in this blog (I reserve those for Sanity is Optional) but this has a couple of things I want to discuss.
First, there is the moral issue of capital punishment. Second, the ethical or moral issue of mental illness involved. And, finally, there is the issue of national sovereignty.
I have already stated my position on capital punishment in this instance. You may be opposed to it regardless of the crime. I can appreciate that (I was of that mind at one time also). So I will not get into that here (you can, if you wish).
The mental illness factor disturbs me on a couple of levels. In the US, we have a couple of definitions for insanity. The legal one is tough. The defendant must be incapable of seeing his actions as being wrong or illegal at the time. One may know an act is wrong but believe it is justified so this can become a bit confusing. We can agree that a man who thinks he is killing space aliens when he is murdering people in a shopping mall is insane. That would be clear. But how about the woman who drowns her children because she is depressed? Or the woman who kills her children in the hopes her lover will not leave her? Or how about the terrorist who kills a large number of innocents because he thinks it is Allah's will?
But there is another side to the mental illness factor in this particular case. There doesn't seem to be a verifiable history of it for this man. His family says he suffered from bi-polar disorder and that this led to his being duped by drug smugglers into committing this crime. China says no one can document the man's mental illness, that no documentation that supports his being mentally ill has been provided. Great Britain says China should have ordered a psychiatric evaluation.
Now we get to national sovereignty. Must we respect the decisions made by courts of countries with whom we are ideologically opposed?
It is sad that this man has lost his life. But I find the questions raised to be fascinating.
Just some food for thought.
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