There I was just reading this when I notice DPF doing a post on the same thing.
Stuff reports that under Clark’s leadership “New Zealand is working with other countries to put a resolution to the United Nations seeking the abolition of the death penalty world wide”.
Of course National Party blogger and HQ staff member David Farrar predictably views this news as an opportunity to have a go at the government and the UN – “we have better things to do than tell other countries how to run their justice systems”. What a horrible attitude. We’re alright mate. Stuff the rest of them. Having cursorily dismissed any question regarding our moral responsibility to advocate on behalf of others internationally, David, rainmanesque, goes on to bury himself in the numbers – “90 countries have totally abolished it, 11 only have it for incredibly rare stuff such as war time treason, 32 have it in theory but not in practice, and 64 still have it and use it. That’s around one third of the 197 countries”. I’m just thankful we were spared a graph of some sort.
David’s nasty bleat prompted me to have a closer look at our country’s record on capital punishment and I’ve got to say that what I discovered reflects pretty badly on National. Perhaps he was sticking to the numbers for a reason.
When the first Labour Party was elected in 1935 all death sentences were commuted to life imprisonment. They confirmed this policy stance with the abolition of the death penalty for murder in 1941.
But in 1950 the newly elected National government *reintroduced* hanging.
In 1958 Labour got rid of it again.
Only three years later National were apparently making noises about bringing it back *again*. It was thankfully put to a conscience vote. The changing tide of public opinion saw several National members cross the floor to vote against its reintroduction and the use of capital punishment was eventually restricted only to the crime of treason.
It wasn’t until 1989 that Labour finally abolished the death penalty once and (hopefully) for all.
I’m sure I’m not the only one who’s proud that New Zealand has a history of standing up for principles and standing up for others – and occasionally standing up *to* others. Clark’s presence at the Oxford Union a week or so ago reinforced just these kinds of historical resonances for me.
Being part of an international community sometimes means taking a stand, and David, I’m glad we do.