Death Penalty for Jahra Arsonist


The arsonist responsible for the Jahra wedding fire has been condemned to hanging, in a ruling presided over by Chancellor Adel Al-Saqer. If so, Nasra Yussef Mohammed Al-Enezi, aged 23, will be the first-ever Kuwaiti woman to be executed.

Nasra, the second wife of a man who was to be married, set fire by pouring gasoline and lighting to the women's wedding celebration tent on August 15 (ferragosto), leading to the deaths of 57 women and children. The couple shares two children, both of whom are mentally handicapped.

Al-Watan Daily had an interview with sociologist at Kuwait University, Dr. Ali Al-Tarrah, who eloquently weighed in the justice of capital punishment. Here are excerpts from the interview conducted by Shireen Sabri.

Are you in favor of death sentence as a deterrent to some crimes?
AlـTarrah: The idea of punishment is to deter society from wrongdoing; punishment is used to protect the rights of others. But recent studies have shown that death penalty has no real effect in the form of deterrence as statistics indicate the number of major crimes such rape and murder have not declined despite the fact that death penalty is practiced by the law in many nations across the world. So if the criminal is aware of the punishment and yet does not hesitate to commit these dreadful crimes, then obviously the deterrent is not effective. It is obvious that rapists do not really think rationally when they commit these crimes because they are usually overpowered by their sexual desire.

But many people believe in death penalty. What is your opinion on that?
AlـTarrah: Those who support death penalty think that it would deter criminals and rapists from committing crimes. So obviously we need to study the matter seriously and find out new deterrents that are effective. It is obvious that the large majority of people entertain the idea that serious crime should receive harsh punishment.

Others believe that stringent measures such death penalty should be applied because it would be the only way to appease the victim and his or her family. In some countries, more than 24 articles deal with death penalty which suggests that some countries have extended their definition of punishment and penal code. What was once introduced to curtail social irregularities is now used against those who reject political systems.

Many political activists have been executed not on grounds of rape or for a crime they commit but for disagreeing with the political system. So this means that those who support the idea of using death penalty are really saying that politically radical activists should be executed because society in not in need of them.

I believe that culture plays a pivotal role in this because we tend to seek revenge at all accounts. Meanwhile, many legislators have appreciated the motives behind honor killing and reduce the punishment from death penalty to serving years in prison. We all agree that when a person does an honor killing, he is killing another person. Just like in a homicide, when a person kills another person. And yet, the punishment for one crime is strict and for the other, it is not. The reason is the circumstances and motives behind each. It is clear that the matter is viewed from cultural point of view rather than criminal one.

But how do you explain that certain expats face death penalty?
AlـTarrah: We need to consider the type of workers coming to the country. Some resort to theft and robbery probably due to abject poverty. People on the street are terrified by criminals and therefore they demand to see the execution of the criminal publicly especially if victims are children. Some go as far as asking for chopping the criminal to pieces. Governments should not be acting like this manner. Therefore, I would say public execution is barbaric because it is not civilized or humane. I agree that it would have stronger impact as a deterrent but the criminal is doubly punished as he is psychologically tortured by the fact that he is presented before masses that see how he breathes his last breath.

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