The numbers - and ethics - behind the death penalty
Regarding your Nov. 12 article "Discussing the morality of capital punishment": Scott Turow says there is no "tangible" benefit to society from the death penalty. I suggest that the number of those murdered by those spared the death penalty far exceeds the number of those innocently executed by the state. This remorseless argument does not even rely on the "theoretical" case that some murders are discouraged by the death penalty's deterrent effect.
If Mr. Turow could make the case that the death penalty has killed and is likely to kill more innocent people than its abolition would kill, I'd sign on to his argument. He does not attempt to make that case, which suggests his stance is determined by emotional preferences or by the moral vanity that seems to motivate so many death-penalty opponents.
Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney's effort to design a more reliable death penalty ("Can you build a foolproof death penalty?," Nov. 5) presupposes that capital punishment, if "perfected," would then be tolerable. It would not. Your readers would be hard pressed to name five recognizably democratic countries that execute their own citizens. Illinois continues to have a moratorium on capital punishment, while juries nationwide are increasingly reluctant to impose a death sentence. At home and abroad, the trend is steadily toward abolition.
In contrast, Governor Romney would have Massachusetts, a state that currently has no death penalty, reinstate it in cases where it can be "ensured" that the convicted is guilty. But such certainty is beyond the power of human beings.
Even if that were possible, the death penalty would retain several flaws: It would continue to be infected with racial and economic bias, it would perpetuate the use of violence as a way to settle social problems, and it would ensure that the United States remains among the violators of two fundamental human rights - the right to be free from torture and the right to life.
Somerville, Mass.Amnesty International USA
Regarding the Nov. 5 article "For refugees from Kosovo, a long way back home": The tragic wars in the region of the former Yugoslavia have left a bitter legacy of devastation and refugees. I deeply sympathize with all the refugees who left Kosovo before, during, and after the war in 1999, and I do want them to return to their homes. Kosovars, together with the United Nations mission here and the rest of the international community, are working hard to create a safe environment for their sustainable return.
At my initiative, Kosovo Albanian political leaders, representatives of Provisional Institutions, and the non-Serb communities addressed in June an open letter to refugees: "We welcome your return to Kosovo. We do not 'invite' you to come back to your home because Kosovo is your home and you have the right to live here in peace. Kosovo is your home, just as it is our home; we want and work for you to come back and live in peace with us as neighbors in a spirit of mutual respect."
We are most grateful to the US government for allocating $14 million to support the return of refugees. This year, the Kosovo government, led by the Democratic Party of Kosovo, which I chair, has set aside 10 million euros from its budget to assist the returns, rebuild houses, and support community-based projects for the returnees. Other governments should follow this example. We can build a democratic future for our children only by making Kosovo a safe and prosperous home for all its inhabitants.
Pristina, KosovoPresident, Democratic Party of Kosovo
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