x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Retributive justice against tyrants is counterproductive

Arabic-language newspapers consider the amnesty in Yemen and Israel's Iranian dilemma.

Killing overthrown tyrants harms society, but we should kill their methods and way of thinking

Everywhere popular Arab uprisings cropped up, calls for capital punishment for the culprits are now roaring, columnist Hazem Saghya observed in the pan-Arab newspaper Al Hayat.

In courtrooms, in the street and in households in Egypt, Syria and Yemen, requests for the death penalty have grown disturbingly louder.

"Kill the president" is an understandable shout; it comes from decades of anger and injustice, years of oppression laden with murder, torture and theft as the former regimes reigned free, unabated, unabashed.

However, it seems only right to lay out some of the most common anti-capital punishment arguments that have been heard in the countries where similar debates have previously taken place, in similar circumstances:

Statistics show that the death penalty has never, not even once, reduced or limited the frequency of trespasses for which the perpetrators were executed.

What results most often from executions is an atmosphere of ritualism and savagery that creates in a society an unquenchable thirst for blood and revenge.

"It is a climate that brings out the worst in us as human beings and citizens and makes us resort to recrimination and snitching to make up for what we lack," said the writer.

"Above all that, and especially in the case of the Arab uprisings, one must at all times adhere to an elevated ethical pedestal that is the very antithesis of the ousted regimes," he added.

If past experiences proves anything, it proves that executions in such cases only reveal that things aren't going as well as hoped; executions are mostly used to divert public attention from the failure to move ahead.

This was the case when Saddam Hussein, the former Iraqi dictator, was executed in 2006. "Anyone monitoring the situation in Iraq today realises how the instincts that were evoked at that time, leading up to the execution, are the same that govern the continuing civil conflicts in Iraq and that impede the state-building process," the writer observed.

"This is not to mention the more barbaric way Muammar Qaddafi was killed, which was sufficient indication that the future of Libya is more likely to see more Zintan Brigades and Misurata Brigades than a new and recovered Libya."

A more ominous prediction for the future also comes to mind: the door to the easy use of capital punishment is being opened wide, which would complicate any attempts to build political legitimacy on the basis of effective accomplishments rather than symbolic ones.

"What is required, eventually, is the execution of a way of thinking and of certain behaviours in the practice of authority. These must be replaced by social values; we must not revive the same old practices under other names and slogans."

Immunity for Saleh is a new dawn for Yemen

There is now hope of a new beginning of unity in Yemen, the Qatari newspaper Arraya said in its editorial.

On Saturday, the Yemeni parliament passed a revised law to grant President Ali Abdullah Saleh full immunity from prosecution. Parliament also recommended the vice president, Abedrabbuh Mansour Hadi, as a candidate for the February 21 presidential election.

In light of this, the transition of power is expected to be smooth despite fierce opposition from Yemen's youth and from non- governmental organisations that are insisting that he and his aids should face prosecution for crimes against protesters.

Approval of the immunity law, which came under foreign pressure, was a crucial step in the GCC initiative to save Yemen.

"The biggest challenge now is to remove the hurdles that impede the implementation of the initiative provisions in their entirety." New elections "would turn the page on Mr Saleh once and for all," said the paper.

And the country needs to move ahead. "The army remains divided and Sanaa and the other Yemeni cities … suffer from chaos and dire economic straits."

The prime minister, Mohammed Salem Basindwah, wept as he called on parliament to approve immunity. It was a scene that summarised the crisis. Mr Saleh's departure is Yemen's last hope for salvation before complete and utter pandemonium.

Israel finds that it must now coexist with Iran

Iran is once again the centre of attention as all eyes turn to Israel, where the top US solider is seeking to persuade the Jewish state to refrain from unilateral steps against the Islamic Republic, columnist Hussam Kanafani said in the Emirati paper Al Khaleej.

The Americans are aware of Israel's immense frustration these days regarding Iran's progress in implementing its nuclear programme," the writer noted. "What adds to their frustration is that they are convinced that sanctions are no longer a potent remedy to Iran's nuclear plans."

Israel is indeed aware of the colossal pressure that the world, and especially Washington, is exerting to keep it from committing any "folly" in relation to Iran. The US fears a conflict in the newly-shaped region, for it would reshuffle the cards and impair months of US efforts to adapt to the new scene in the Arab World.

Washington is persuaded that any Israeli attack would reorganise allegiances in the region, hinder US chances of benefiting from the new situation.

Tel Aviv too recognises that an attack would have grave repercussions, and so it has been backing away from its threats.

"Israel finds itself now forced to coexist with Iran, for any move against the Islamic Republic is very unlikely, as Ehud Barack himself has put it."

* Digest compiled by Racha Makarem