A few lines of text could hardly convey the pain, sadness and sense of injustice doubtlessly felt by millions of Australians on hearing of the planned execution of Nguyen Tuong Van in Singapore.
However our collective rage and reflection should not stop there. The fundamental inhumanity most in our community would attribute to this form of “justice”, the irreversibility of the taking of life, the incurable loss inflicted on loved ones. These alone ought to be grounds enough for an end to capital punishment. But this tragic case highlights a further absurdity.
Whilst this young man’s case for clemency is surely more substantial than most, our campaign for his life has (perhaps inevitably) ignored the much weightier questions: Who does deserve the death penalty? If execution is deemed a just penalty for some crimes, where should the dividing line be drawn? And who has the capacity to decide? Will we call for clemency for this person, or that one? On what grounds?
If these questions are unanswerable then justice demands far more than isolated appeals for clemency. Let the international community demand an end to this barbaric and capricious practice. Perhaps a phone call from Kirribili to the Whitehouse would be a start.