Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Off with her head!

The Salem witch trials live on... in Saudi Arabia.

On Monday, Saudi authorities beheaded a woman who had been convicted of practicing witchcraft. Her crime, apparently, was bilking people out of money promising she could cure their ills.

According to Amnesty International, sorcery is not a capital crime, but some conservative clerics have urged that the penalty be death in order to discourage others from practicing. According to the BBC, the woman's conviction was upheld by Saudi Arabia's highest court. But that still doesn't explain why she was executed.

It is a fundamental tenet under the rule of law that the accused be made aware of both the charges levied against her and the possible range of punishment. A court isn't free to set its own range - it must adhere to the statutory scheme. Obviously if the death penalty is levied for a non-capital crime, the rule of law has been cast aside. And, without the rule of law, we are left with a bunch of thugs ruling by force.

Yet we continue to send millions of dollars a year to the Saudi regime so that it can continue to put folks to death for minor crimes on the whim of a handful of clerics. Executing someone for the crime of theft - and that's all this was, religious mumbo-jumbo aside - is both cruel and unusual and should be condemned.

Along the same lines, the Chinese government just murdered a South African national caught with three kilos of methamphetamine back in 2008. In China, drug trafficking is a capital crime - the Chinese execute more drug traffickers in a year than the rest of the world kills for all other crimes.

Drug abuse is a scourge. Those suffering from addiction harm themselves, their families and those around them. But drug traffickers are fungible. So long as there is a demand, there will be a supply.

Taking a person's life is the ultimate sanction that a state can impose on any individual. It is the antithesis of limited government. It solves nothing. It doesn't bring anyone back or put the genie back in the bottle.

It's just an exercise in control. It's the way the state reminds you just who's really in charge.

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