Sunday, 9 October 2011

Harsh punishment unable to prevent crime (published on VOV Online)

Harsh punishment unable to prevent crime

(VOV) - Many legal and political experts believe strict law and punishment are unable to prevent an increase in crime across the world. 
People pay their respects for the victims of the attacks in front of a sea of flowers
outside the Oslo cathedral July 31, 2011. Credit: Reuters/Stoyan Nenov
Immediately following the massacre in Norway on 22 July, there has been a debate on the challenge the country’s lenient judicial system faces in imposing fitting punishment on Ander Behring Breivik.

According to the Reuters news agency, a survey of over 1000 people conducted six days after the attack showed that 65.5 percent said the penalties for serious crimes in their country should be tightened.
Not only the legal system…
Teenager Luyen was charged over three gold-shop murders

Despite the serious consequences of the massacre and the deep wound to Norwegian society, many politicians and experts still share the view that there should be no change in their judicial system as it symbolizes a humane society where freedom is very important.

Dr Nguyen Sy Dung, Deputy Director of the Vietnam Assembly Office, argues. “I think, in a developed society, law and punishment should be reduced so citizens can exercise their right to individual freedom. The more punishments are imposed, the less freedom people enjoy”.

“Of course, the scale of law and punishment must depend on the development of society and people’s living standards,” says the Deputy Director.

Dr Dung refers to a horrific crime that had been committed in Vietnam just one month after the Norway massacre. 17-year-old Le Van Luyen killed a couple and their 18-month-old daughter and cut off the arm of their other 8-year-old daughter while robbing their gold store in Bac Giang province.

Almost everyone in the online community demands capital punishment to be meted out to the murderer.

The death penalty is usually for serious crimes in Vietnam. However, as Luyen was not yet 18 at the time he committed the murder, and according to Vietnam’s criminal law he may escape the death sentence and be sent to prison for only 18 years.

This has disappointed many people who think such punishment does not fit the crime.

Many pages on Facebook have been created and have attracted thousands of people who support the death penalty for Luyen.

“On the question of how the law should be amended to satisfy the public, we should consider it carefully from every possible angle of these two horrific crimes: no matter how advanced or strict the law system may be, it is unable to anticipate people’s behaviour and prevent them from taking violent action”, said Dr Dung.
… but also social values

“The question is not only about law or punishment but also other social values,” says Trinh Thu Huyen, Deputy Dean of International Politics and Diplomacy at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam. “Why do so many people just want Luyen sentenced to death without considering the punishment framework? They do not think about whether ‘death paid by death’ would bring justice or if that idea just represents the values of an undereducated society.

The real question is why such a bloody crime happened in Norway, a socially advanced country where people are supposed to enjoy ‘absolute’ freedom and make ethical decisions.

Huyen says that there might be great emphasis placed on individualism in Western society. “In the West, people support the idea of an independent and separate self. This could cause a misunderstanding of the role of individuals in society and result in abuse of the right to individual freedom, which could be relevant to explaining Breivik’s behaviour”.

She notes that, many Asian states put the obligation to community above the rights of the individual. He says this is based on the idea in Buddhist philosophy about the relationship between the ‘individual’ and ‘society’, in which individuals who show no responsibility towards society are acting against human nature.

Regarding the abovementioned case in Vietnam, Huyen argues that Luyen’s crime did not result from individualism, but from a lack of family care and ineffective social institutions.

“Ultimately, there should be a society of altruism where people take care of their moral lives, help the poor, strengthen the feeble, reconcile those who are not in harmony, and bring happiness to the miserable. This is also a society where people are aware that violence and crime derive from lust, hatred and delusion. I think both Western and Eastern states should rethink the role of families and social institutions in raising awareness of an individual’s responsibility toward society”, says the scholar.

Most recently, an Oslo court has extended solitary confinement for Breivik until  October 17 this year. The murderer, who committed the crime without fear of death, is having difficulty with isolation, describing it as “torture”.

It seems being isolated from society is a punishment worse than death.
Minh Duc

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