Thursday 23 July 2009

The death penalty in Iran and Neil Clark

An excellent piece by Peter Tatchell on the use of this form of state power, unaccompanied by any form of evidence, is on The Guardian's 'Comment is Free' site.

Neil Clark, a supporter of the death penalty and an opponent of Amnesty International's campaign against the practice, wrote the following in 2002:
If we know anything at all about moral issues, it is that they are extremely difficult to resolve, are inevitably marked by disagreement, and that different cultural premises lead to startlingly different moral conclusions. Understanding this is important, as it underlies the whole idea of self-determination by societies, cultural groups or nation states. Only these groupings can determine what political structures they take to be moral and what privileges they acknowledge as rights.
Clark is inclined to dismiss open societies two page earlier, in his attack on Human Rights Watch, so this is really another of his defences of dictatorship, quite apart from being an example of moral relativism. He transposes absolutist assumptions onto his opponents of a kind which he endlessly displays himself.

In an article the previous year, advocating a return to the death penalty, Clark had this to say:
Inevitably, miscarriages of justice did occur when Britain had the death penalty, but their number was tiny and must be set against the considerably larger number of people saved from violent death by the much lower homicide rate. [Hardly as convincing as he thinks.] Now, though, there is the very real breakthrough of DNA-testing, which narrows the odds of wrong conviction to one million to one. That still may not be good enough for Paul Foot and Ludovic Kennedy, but it is for me and, I expect, for most other people.
Obviously not the case in Iran, where 'beyond a reasonable doubt' is not the criteria for executions. Clark objects to a universalist stance on human rights, but 'divide and rule' methods, as Tatchell is basically arguing is the case in Iran, were hardly alien to the Milosevic regime of which Clark is a particularly notorious apologist.

So the likelihood he will cease his advocacy of Ahmadinejad's cause and embrace the abolition of the death penalty is rather remote. The rest of us can therefore continue to question his dubious attitudes.