Cultural choice of punishment

Xinbei, Taiwan

Regarding Cesar Chelala’s April 11 article, “Why Japan and U.S. should ban the death penalty“: I applaud the Japanese government for literally executing the will of the people instead of bowing to nongovernmental organizations, such as Amnesty International, that lack any democratic legitimacy. It’s appalling how Chelala cites the strong support for capital punishment in Japan, yet does not really seem to take the will of the people seriously.

The cited majority of countries worldwide that have abolished the death penalty is a very weak argument for abolition. Most countries in the world use Roman letters — is that a reason for Japan, Thailand or South Korea to do so as well? Just because a large group of people exhibits a certain preference does not mean that a sovereign country especially should simply follow along.

To say that the death penalty is not a deterrent is not a strong argument, either. People are imprisoned for murder, theft and rape in countries where the death penalty has been abolished, yet those crimes still happen there. The utilitarian arguments brought forward by abolitionists do not support either the death penalty or any other form of punishment. Also, they completely miss the subjective dimension: A punishment is supposed to actually punish a person, and not simply protect society or make the offender a better person — if that is even possible in some cases.

Essentially, the form of punishment a nation uses is a matter of cultural preference. As long as the legal procedures adhere to due process and a fair trial, we should not pity those found guilty of murder, rape-murder or genocide for the punishment they receive.

The opinions expressed in this letter to the editor are the writer’s own and do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Japan Times.

jan fell