Sunday, October 14, 2007

Crime and punishment...

One of my favorite books is “Crime and Punishment” by Dostoevsky. Where there is crime, there must be punishment. That is one of the most essential pillars of human society and civilization. Raskolnikov committed a crime and he received punishment not only in the hands of the society and law, but his own self. The beauty of this book is that it shows the deep psychological transformation of the human being, who suddenly realizes the magnitude of his doing. His conscience, conscience did not let him walk away from responsibility. The hope for this transformation and possibility of repentance has been one of the central life-saving boats of humanity. But even when there is no repentance, the society must ensure that justice prevails. Yes, the accused must have his/her rights protected. Yes, the accused must get fair trial. Yes, as a society we need to have mercy for the accused and if possible give her a chance to change. Everyone needs that chance. Punishment is meaningless and cruel when it is disproportionate to the crime. But punishment-- there must be. Every individual must be held fully responsible for his actions. Every victim must have the comfort that justice will sooner or later prevail.

Going even further, every state in the world must be held responsible for its actions, not only internationally and vis-à-vis other countries, but also to its own people. That is the importance of human rights law—it may hold a state responsible for its actions against its own people. Where there is crime, there must be punishment. That occurs in the domestic criminal courtroom in the first instance and then goes up the ladder to the International Criminal Tribunals, when applicable. While justice is never perfect and often gets ill, it never dies.

("Mary Magdalene in Penitence" (above) by the great Renaissance artist, Titian is from the Hermitage collection).

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