To hang. Not to hang. To hang. Finally hung. The case of Kho Jabing is now finally closed. Kirsten Han, a journalist and human rights activist, posted this “tribute” to Kho Jabing on Facebook.
People have criticised her for “romanticising” Kho Jabing’s life. Yes. Kho Jabing is a human being. He has his story. What about the victim? There isn’t much about Cao Ruiyin online. But he is definitely someone’s son. Perhaps someone’s husband. Perhaps someone’s father. Did any of that matter to Kho Jabing? Did that stay Kho Jabing’s hand?
No. Kho Jabing bashed Cao Ruiyin’s skull, inflicting 14 fractures. Can you imagine the brutality? The violence? To bash someone’s head in to the extent that you cause 14 fractures. Kho Jabing couldn’t have just landed a single blow. He must have violently rained down blow, after blow, after blow on Cao Ruiyin’s skull to have inflicted that damage.
Despite the best efforts of doctors, fighting desperately to save his life over six days, Cao Ruiyin died. Cao Ruiyin came to Singapore for a better future. Not just for himself. But also for his family back in China. In a single, brutal, violent moment, whatever hope for a brighter future for himself and his family back in China was snuffed out.
What if Cao Ruiyin was the sole breadwinner of his family? What if Cao Ruiyin had elderly parents, a wife and children who depended on him for their livelihood? And Kho Jabing took all of that away. What of the tragedy that they now have to live with? All because Kho Jabing was not able to reign in whatever violent rage possessed him that fateful moment.
To some people, they would think that justice demanded that Kho Jabing be executed to balance the scales. After all, an eye for an eye. But some would say that if we always demanded an eye for an eye, then the world would be left blind.
As Daniel Yap of The Middle Ground wrote in this excellent article, it is not surprising that people disagree about what is or isn’t just. In the article, Daniel also explained what a criminal justice system is for: retribution, deterrence, incapacitation, and rehabilitation.
A death sentence is the ultimate retribution and incapacitation. It leaves no room for rehabilitation. Is that right? Are there crimes so heinous, criminals so cruel and evil that they are beyond any rehabilitation, that the only way society can be protected from these criminals is to have them incapacitated permanently by killing them? If there are, what’s the threshold that must be crossed before we would sentence the person to death?
Another argument to keep the death penalty is that it serves as a strong deterrence. Does it really? To know if it really does, one way is to study countries which have abolished the death penalty. Then compare the rates of homicides and drug abuse before and after the abolishment of death penalty. If the rates increased significantly, then it would suggest that the death penalty was indeed a strong deterrence. Conversely, if the rates didn’t, then it would suggest that the death penalty wasn’t a strong deterrence of those crimes at all.
I’ve tried to get some data, but I couldn’t find what I needed to make a reasonable conclusion. I hope that the government or some research institute would do a comprehensive study of the many countries which have abolished the death penalty. Make the findings of the study public. That would provide a stronger basis for a more robust discussion on this matter.
At this point, with whatever I can find, I think that we cannot definitively conclude whether the death penalty really IS a deterrence that we need to resort to. So… do we really need the death penalty to keep us safe?
[Featured image: from freemalaysiatoday.com]