Death Penalty

Death Chamber

In 2006, the death penalty has not been routinely applied in any democratic country, but the United States of America. It still exists in Japan and India, yet executions are rare there (one in India in 2004, none since then). Philippines abolished the death penalty for all crimes in June 2006.

Death penalty is forbidden in all countries inside the European Union. Its abolition is even a mandatory criterion for application.

According to Amnesty International, at least 2,148 people were executed in 22 countries in 2005, among whom 1,770 people  in China. True figures are probably much higher thoug, since Chinese statistics on death penalty are classified as a state secret. Iran executed at least 94 people, and Saudi Arabia at least 86. There were 60 executions in the USA, bringing the total to 1004 executed in this country since the use of the death penalty was resumed in 1977.

International treaties prohibit to sentence to death or execute people under 18 years old at the time of the crime. Most countries whose laws still provide for the death penalty specifically exclude the execution of child offenders. Since 1990 however, eight countries executed young people: China, Congo (DR), Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, USA and Yemen. China, Pakistan USA and Yemen have now changed their law and raised the minimum age for the death penalty to 18. Yet the USA and Iran have each executed more child offenders than the other six countries combined.

Scientific studies have consistently failed to find convincing evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than other punishments. Statistics show that abolition does not have harmful effect on the curve of crime; for instance, in Canada where death penalty was abolished in 1976, the homicide rate per 100,000 population fell from 3.09 in 1975, to 2.41 in 1980, and 1.73 in 2003.

The persistence of death penalty is not that surprising in countries such as China, Saudi Arabia or Iran, that are not democracies. It is a stain for the USA. Death penalty is not only barbaric, it is unfair. Whether you receive the death penalty in the USA depends not so much on what you have done, but:

— where you committed your crime: the use of the death penalty not only varies from state to state (12 US states have no death penalty) but from jurisdiction to jurisdiction within a state.
— what colour your skin is: repeated studies have shown a pattern of racial discrimination in the administration of the sentence. For example, among the 205 people executed for inter-racial murders in the USA, 193 were black defendants charged with killing a white person, while only 12 were white defendants charged with killing a black individual.
— and how much money you have: 90% of defendants are too poor to hire their own lawyer, so most rely on overworked court-appointed lawyers.

Proved lack of efficiency as a deterrent, unfairness, knowlegde that innocent people were killed, and 'simply' untenable notion of legal murder of individuals by a state on an ethical point of view: isn't it enough?


Zidane So, 2006 football world cup is finished now. The final ended in a France 1 - 1 Italy draw and Italy won the championship after a penalty kick shootout. It was the last match of Zinedine Zidane, one among the best football players ever. Too bad his last appearance in a stadium has been stained with bad behavior: headbutting Marco Materazzi in the chest was not an error, it was a shame. Granted, he over-reacted to (most likely racist) callings from that guy but, as a professional, he should not give such an "example" to the million young people who were looking at him and admire him all over the world. One will say: he is a man after all. Well, sure, but manners maketh man.

The very notion of racist calling against 'Zizou', as he is usually called, is interesting though. It recalled me what I have been told several times about him lately, as a Frenchman myself, from people with Arabic and/or Muslim culture I was chatting with.

They frequently said:
— You are probably very proud of ZZ as a Frenchman, aren't you? In my country, we are very proud of him, since he is an Arab/a Muslim.

The first time I was told this, I was amazed: Zidane is a Frenchman for sure, and a famous one, but I had never thought of him as being Muslim and/or Arab. This might appear strange in countries where communautarism is normal view of society but, in the French traditional secular way, religions and ethnic origins are not considered noteworthy features, but among far rightists.

A French President or Prime Minister would never mention God(s) in a speech, for instance. Asking someone you are not very close to, what religion he practices might be considered indicative of intolerant tendencies. In secular France, it is forbidden by the Law to ask about ethnicity, religion, or sexual preferences in any official interview, even more to register it. The very notion of "human races", which is not a biological, but segregational criterion, is not used, and French black people are not called 'African French'... but Frenchmen.

Zidane was born and raised in Marseilles, a big city in Southern France, on the Mediterranean coast. He speaks French with typical Marseilles' lilting accent, like characters in Marcel Pagnol and Robert Guédiguian's movies. His parents were born in Algeria, that was a French "province" at that time — a colony actually. Smaïl Zidane, his father, came to metropolitan France in 1952, ten years before the country became independent, and he remained here thereafter. Briefly said, Zidane family is a French family with Algerian roots. Like Canada, Australia or the USA, France has always been a land of immigration, with people coming from Italy, Poland, Armenia, Hungary, Spain, Portugal, Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, etc. Whatever their roots, they are now Frenchmen.

Well, OK, he is a Frenchman actually but he is an Arab Frenchman. I am proud of him because he is an Arab, like me.

Hmmm... no, sorry, again, Zidane is not an Arab. His family was originating from an Algerian village called Boukhelifa, near Béjaïa, in Kabylie. His ancestors and family were not Arabs but Kabyles. People in Algeria are not all Arabs. There are about ten million Kabyles also, whose ancestors had been living there for long time when the land was settled by Arabs. Kabyles are part of Berber people, remembered for their insubordination to the power of Roman Empire, two millenaries ago. They speak the Kabyle variety of Berber (Tamazight language). As Zidane himself, Kabyles often have light skin, hair and eye colour.

It is interesting, I did not know there were not only Arabs in Algeria. So, OK, Zidane is a Frenchman with Kabyle ancestry. I will support him anyway, because I like him and he is a Muslim, as I am.

Yes, Zinedine Zidane is a Frenchman with Kabyle roots, as Édith Piaf and Isabelle Adjani, and many others. As for being a muslim or not, I just did not know before chat friends told me so. He could be indeed, since his family was originating from a place where main religion is Sunni Islam, and Zinedine and Yazid (his other name) are Muslim names. Does it mean he is a Muslim? Not more than me bearing a Christian name necessarily means I am a Christian myself, after all. Checking on the Internet, I found that he answered a couple of time to journalists that he has Muslim culture but does not practice. Who cares anyway, this is individual matter only.

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