Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Human Rights

Ok, yes, I know I should be dissertating. But, well, I consider this to be an appropriate use of my time since I am doing a human rights degree...

I just read, on another blog I read that Texas executed a man against express orders from the International Court of Justice. The US government tried to intervene to stop it, but the state did not listen, surprise surprise. This man was originally arrested in a way that violated international law. He was not adequately represented in court, because of not being informed of his right to consular assistance. All of this means he should have been given a retrial. Even if it means that the outcome was exactly the same. He was found guilty of raping and murdering a 16 year old girl. However, his court appointed attorneys were unprepared in investigating this case, they failed to highlight inconsistencies and use of faulty forensic science relied on by the prosecution. All in all, he did not have a fair trial, and he was put to death a few days ago without being given the chance to be tried correctly. This has been done time and time again: foreign nationals in the US arrested and tried in a manner that is in contravention of the Vienna Convention. The US signed it in order for its nationals to be protected under it. Its hypocritical, then, not to afford the same protection to other nationals. After all, it proclaims itself to be such an example to the world. Perhaps one day it will wake up and smell the flowers. I am not anti American, by the way. I do, however, disagree with many of the governments attitudes and actions. I also disagree with many other governments and their actions.

Beyond my dislike of the death penalty, this case disgusts me even further. Fair trial is one of the core human rights. It is vitally important and there is no excuse for not giving suspects one. You may ask me why I stand up for a man who may have committed a terrible crime. I don't. I stand up for his rights. Why? Because one day you or I may stand in a court in a foreign country, accused of a crime. We may be innocent, we may be guilty. The only way to accurately determine which we are is through a fair trial. Trials that follow the correct procedure, that tick all the boxes, have prevented many innocent people from having their lives destroyed by being unfairly incarcerated. Yes, it has allowed guilty people to go free, but at least those who have been found to be guilty, you know beyond reasonable doubt that they are, in fact, guilty. How many innocent people have been executed across the world because their trial was a sham? Because the country couldn't be bothered to give them a fair trial? How many people are currently stuck in a foreign gaol, innocent of that which they are accused, away from their families, friends? Their lives destroyed, often beyond repair, all because they were not fairly tried.

                    "Better that ten guilty men escape than one innocent suffer"
                                               William Blackstone.

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