Defending a Criminal is not Defending the Crime

Asieh Amini (IRAN)

One of the most unpleasant questions that I have had to face when working on juvenile ‎criminal cases where the defendant is on the death row has been this: “Put yourself in the ‎shoes of the parents of the victim’s child. How would you feel? What would you request ‎for the murderer? Etc

This is both a tough and an unreasonable question. It is tough because putting anybody in ‎the place of a parent who has lost his/her child is difficult, if not impossible. It is a bad ‎question because those who work in the field of human rights or the law are not supposed ‎to put themselves under conditions that the survivors of victims face, because under those ‎circumstances one cannot make a good rational decision. Nevertheless, even if we are put ‎under those conditions, we must foremost strive for real justice rather than try to respond ‎to our instincts for vengeance.

Measures to support respect for justice, even in a murder case, protect basic human rights ‎for everyone in the community. When the rights of a person who has nobody to support ‎him are upheld, then those for individuals who have better resources too will be ‎respected. Therefore, to assert that defending the rights of a criminal means defending the ‎crime is unreasonable and not true. It is clear that no person who works in the field of ‎human rights would claim that a murderer be free without any punishment. What he ‎strives for is that the process that should bring about the appropriate justice is fair, ‎unbiased and under control by monitoring bodies, and furthermore, ensure that the kind ‎of justice that is passed on to juveniles who break the law in their early youth and who ‎mostly end up in prison or face execution because of unpredictable events are fair and ‎proportionate. ‎

My experience has shown that execution is as bad for the government as it is a social ‎phenomena. Just as we must strive to have more humane laws, we must also replace the ‎punishments that have been codified through public culture.‎

Aside from the fact that violence breeds violence and that the health and sanity of a ‎society are more important than the yearnings of the victims (whose rights must ‎undoubtedly be fulfilled through appropriate reprimands in proportion to the crime), one ‎can cite tens of instances in which executions around the world have not brought safety ‎and public peace to the community. Statistics do not even support a lowering of crime in ‎proportion to harsher punishments.‎

Contrary to the views of those who believe that defending a juvenile criminal who is ‎condemned to death is irrational, justice-seeking reasoning and opposition to executions ‎exist rather than being an emotional response, are there so that the crime and its causes ‎are contemplated more fully in an effort to prevent the crime.‎