Tuesday, 28 April 2015

Human Rights - it's personal

Sally Warhaft, Julian Burnside and Tom Porteous
in conversation at The Wheeler Centre.
When I booked tickets to this evening's Fifth Estate event at the Wheeler Centre to hear Julian Burnside, barrister and refugee advocate, and Tom Porteous from Human Rights Watch discuss human rights, none of us knew that later tonight two Australian citizens would probably be executed. I say probably, because while there is breath in their bodies, there is hope.

It seems cruelly apt to be thinking and talking about human rights when state sanctioned murder is about to occur.

As I listened to chair, Sally Warhaft, share her private grief about what is likely to happen, I really felt the truth that human rights is personal and it's individual and it is important for every human being.

Last weekend, I called the police after hearing a woman nearby screaming for her life. She's human and has rights and I can't stand by and hear her being threatened without taking some kind of action.

At the same time, the so-called leader of the free world presides over a country that still has the death penalty. Julian Burnside spoke about the fact that the debate in the US is currently more about the method of execution, rather than the existence of it. He said some of the countries that manufacture the chemicals required for execution by lethal injection are refusing to supply it. Tom Porteous said that in his home state of Maryland (which includes the city of Baltimore) consideration is being given to bringing back firing squads and gas because of the difficulties faced in carrying out lethal injections. (Read more.)

How can Indonesia take criticism of its actions seriously, while this is going on in the US? Or while Australia runs concentration camps on Nauru and Manus Island?

I was struck by Tom Porteous' statement about "judicial fallibility" coupled with the "irreversibility of the death sentence". What a terrible cocktail.

Twitter and Facebook show a wide range of views, including those that suggest people should get what's coming to them if they break the law. Here's my response:

The session will be available as a podcast tomorrow if you'd like to listen.

I'm off to light a candle and hope for some goodness and sense in the world.

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