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Gulf of the Atlantic

We always hear talk about the United States being the only industrialized country that still believes in the death penalty. It's not actually true; what people mean is that we're the only Western industrialized country which does. This is often cited as an example of American barbarism compared to European civilization, though there's actually some doubt about how much this reflects actual European opinion versus that of European "elites." But as far as reflecting the opinion of these "elites," it actually understates the difference between the two continents. Swiss voters approved a referendum to enact tougher sentencing laws on violent criminals, requiring them to be given life imprisonment if two psychiatrists agree at conviction that they're incurably dangerous, unless and until scientific evidence later shows that they can be "cured."

Seems pretty modest -- it's not even true life imprisonment, after all -- but believe it or not, these reforms are characterized as "some of Europe's harshest laws on violent criminals and pedophiles." But what illustrates the true gap between European "elites" and the US is that even these reforms are too much for them:

Legal experts said that Switzerland would violate the European human rights convention if the proposals were strictly interpreted and the criminals concerned were not granted regular judicial review of their cases.
Apparently, in some circles in Europe, parole is considered a "human right." Are these people delusional?

The issue, apparently, is their different view of the criminal justice system:

Heinz Sutter, the head of the justice ministry's legal department, said he hoped that the sisters would agree to a broader interpretation of their proposals that would be in line with the government's plans for reform.

"The proposals are questionable from the point of view of human rights," he said. "They could lead to criminals not being released even if it can be proved that they are no longer dangerous through illness or age, for example."

(Gasp! Criminals might not be released even if they're not dangerous! Horrors!) They seem to view imprisonment as strictly preventative; the idea that the justice system is supposed to punish doesn't seem to occur to them. But apparently that's only true of European "elites"; average Europeans -- or at least Swiss -- have a different view.


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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on February 10, 2004 12:22 AM.

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