Spare us the croc­o­dile tears about drug mule’s ‘un­fair sen­tence’

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - ISSUES -

THIS week 35-year-old SA drug traf­ficker Jan­ice Lin­den was ex­e­cuted in China by lethal in­jec­tion. That China should dare ap­ply its own laws on its own ter­ri­tory has un­leashed in SA a whirl­wind of mis­placed out­rage and plat­i­tudi­nous sanc­ti­mony.

The IFP termed the ex­e­cu­tion “un­for­tu­nate” – which it un­doubt­edly was for Lin­den – while the DA railed against her “un­fair” sen­tence and at­trib­uted her death to a “fail­ure of diplo­matic pres­sure” due to SA’S “hu­man- rights blind spot” where China is con­cerned.

What bol­locks. The SA govern­ment did as much as it could be ex­pected to do.

The pro­nounce­ment abroad of the death sen­tence on any na­tion’s cit­i­zens al­ways un­spools the same well­prac­tised home-town tango.

The steps are un­vary­ing, what­ever the na­tion­al­ity of the death-row pris­oner. First, the lo­cal me­dia pil­lo­ries the for­eign­ers and con­trasts un­favourably their bar­baric ways to the vir­tu­ous home jus­tice sys­tem.

Then the home govern­ment is­sues a throat-catch­ing plea for cle­mency that it fully ex­pects will be ig­nored, which it in­vari­ably is. Fi­nally, the re­mains are repa­tri­ated, to be in­terned as though they were those of a saint rather than a crim­i­nal.

It is cer­tainly true that SA is overly sen­si­tive to of­fend­ing China. Wit­ness the con­tor­tions to pre­vent a pri­vate visit by the Dalai Lama.

But it is disin­gen­u­ous to ar­gue, as do the DA and the SA Hu­man Rights Com­mis­sion, that a sov­er­eign na­tion’s im­po­si­tion of the death penalty on an SA cit­i­zen, af­ter an un­chal­lenged due process, is an in­ter­na­tional hu­man-rights is­sue.

The death penalty ex­ists in some crim­i­nal codes, a harsh pun­ish­ment some may frown on, but it is per­fectly le­gal in in­ter­na­tional law.

Since it is likely to be around for a while yet, it is best avoided by re­frain­ing from crim­i­nal stu­pid­ity when trav­el­ling to coun­tries as di­verse as Thai­land, Ja­pan and Botswana.

China an­nu­ally ex­e­cutes more than 4 000 peo­ple, more than the rest of the world com­bined.

It is par­tic­u­larly harsh on drug traf­fick­ing, one of 55 crimes that can draw the death penalty, some­thing any­one trav­el­ling to China has to be co­matose not to be aware of.

That drug run­ners are un­de­terred tes­ti­fies to the ac­cu­racy of the de­scrip­tion “mules”. One has to be in­tractably per­verse – or in des­per­ate straits and ter­mi­nally naive – to travel, as Lin­den did, to China with 3kg of crys­tal metham­phetamine in one’s lug­gage, 60 times the thresh­old for a death sen­tence.

And let’s get real about her protes­ta­tions of in­no­cence. On her first trip over­seas, she chose a rel­a­tively ob­scure desti­na­tion in south­ern China? Telling her fam­ily she was job hunt­ing in Jo­han­nes­burg? Come on!

It is un­doubt­edly tragic for Lin­den and her loved ones that a reck­less gam­ble cost her her life, while those who put up the stakes are un­touched.

Con­ceiv­ably, had the SA mercy plea been ac­com­pa­nied by the ar­rest of Lin­den’s sup­plier, it might have suc­ceeded.

How­ever, de­tec­tive work takes real ef­fort, as op­posed to just sling­ing a sad­dle on to our high horse.

Af­ter all, since SA no longer has the death penalty, Lin­den’s ex­e­cu­tion af­fords a rare op­por­tu­nity to be- moan the sup­posed fail­ings of an­other na­tion.

Un­for­tu­nately, SA’S moral­ity is but skin deep and cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment has been abol­ished only in the­ory. In the past year 1 267 peo­ple died from po­lice ac­tion or in po­lice cus­tody, while a re­cent Sun­day Times in­ves­ti­ga­tion names of­fi­cers in a po­lice squad which al­legedly guns down dan­ger­ous crim­i­nals.

This, the high­est cop homi­cide rate in the world, doesn’t elicit much pub­lic dis­ap­proval lo­cally nor does it be­stir those ever-vig­i­lant guardians of hu­man rights, the DA.

So spare us the croc­o­dile tears about Lin­den.

Jaun­diced Eye re­turns on Jan­uary 7.

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