A few months from now a US District Judge will confirm the death sentence for the younger of the two Boston marathon bombers, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. His execution by lethal injection won’t be imminent but he’ll be on death row.
That should be a problem for Tony Abbott and Julie Bishop and Tanya Plibersek and Ben Quilty and all those who raged against Indonesia for executing Australian drug smugglers. Unless they make clear their unequivocal opposition to Tsarnaev’s possible execution they’ll simply confirm the double standard that infects much of the debate in Australia about capital punishment.
Tsarnaev is an evil person. He shattered many lives. He should never breathe free air again. But if he is executed why shouldn’t others be? And those others, inevitably, will include Australian nationals. Currently some 17 Australians world-wide are at risk of receiving the death penalty. The moment a sentence is confirmed we’ll waggle our collective fingers at the horror of it all.
But those being waggled at will have the perfect out: ‘Where was your outrage when others were killed?’ And there’ll be no meaningful answer unless and until we wean ourselves of the absurd notion that capital punishment matters only when Australians are its victims.