January 29th, 2013

Sentenced to life

In my country, up until yesterday, there were 32 prisoners serving a life sentence. Counter to popular believe, life means life as in “until death do us part”. Until a few years ago, 20 years was the maximum sentence under “life”, which, in accordance to popular belief, means 13.4 years when the prisoner behaves. This was regarded as too big a gap (I agree), and 30 years (being 20 for real) was introduced by new legislation.

Today, 3 from 6 suspects in a huge inter-criminal liquidation trial were sentenced to life, upping our “sentenced to life” population with 10% in one single trial.

The 30 years could not be sentences, as the murders were committed before the change in legislation.

Note that in a life sentence, the prisoner will try all means to change the verdict. After all there is nothing to loose. So it’s not over.

December 18th, 2012

Gun Laws

Piers Morgan stated the number of gun related deaths in the US per DAY is the same as in the UK per year. The UK has amongst the stricktest gun laws in Europe. My newspaper did some fact checking.

  • US: 30 per day
  • UK: 54 per year

He was lying, but not awfully lying.

How then about per capita?

  • US: 3.3 per 100.000 per year
  • UK: 0.1 per 100.000 per year
  • My country: 0.3 per 100.000 per year

Is that US number the worst? Nope, Honduras and El Salvador are 10 times worse again.

Disclaimer: I am an anti-weapons guy.

March 21st, 2012

The death penalty in my country

Because of a currently court case about an extreme child molester (the perp even raped a 19 days old child) capital punishment is suddenly discussed in the popular right winged hysterical media. Here are the facts regarding my own country,

The Netherlands removed capital punishment from law in 1870. The last Dutchman being executed in peace time was the 27 year old Johannes Nathan. He was publicly executed (hanged) in 1860 on the market square in Maastricht for killing his mother in law. In 1945 capital punishment was re-introduced for crimes of war. Until 1952 39 war criminals were executed based on that special law, the last 2 on March 21st 1952. Ever since, captial punishment has been removed from the law. Abolishment of the death penalty is mandatory to join the European Union.

March 7th, 2012

The justice system and our identity

I was not really thinking I would sit out this Ted Talk.

In an engaging and personal talk — with cameo appearances from his grandmother and Rosa Parks — human rights lawyer Bryan Stevenson shares some hard truths about America’s justice system, starting with a massive imbalance along racial lines: a third of the country’s black male population has been incarcerated at some point in their lives. These issues, which are wrapped up in America’s unexamined history, are rarely talked about with this level of candor, insight and persuasiveness.

But I urge each and every one of you. Invest those 24 minutes. Please. Thank you.Художник

February 22nd, 2012

The Dutch Euthanesia practice (through US politicians eyes)

Our lovely friend Rick Santorum:

In the Netherlands, people wear different bracelets if they are elderly. And the bracelet is: ‘Do not euthanize me.’ Because they have voluntary euthanasia in the Netherlands but half of the people who are euthanized — ten percent of all deaths in the Netherlands — half of those people are enthanized involuntarily at hospitals because they are older and sick. And so elderly people in the Netherlands don’t go to the hospital. They go to another country, because they are afraid, because of budget purposes, they will not come out of that hospital if they go in there with sickness.

It always makes me happy when other people know how things work over here :) Now the good part. The Washington Post did fact checking! With a disclamer too! (Spoiler alert: Rick gets four Pinoccio’s, a high-score mark)

Full disclosure: The Fact Checker’s parents emigrated from Holland and I have direct, personal experience with the practice of euthanasia there. My father’s brother requested euthanasia when he was diagnosed with a terminal disease and after various remedies were ineffective. In the United States, he might have lived another two or three months, in great pain, and likely would have lapsed into a coma before death. But, after a conclusion by the Dutch medical establishment that he had no chance of survival, he arranged for his death at home with his family at his side. He even called me an hour before his death to say good-bye.

Hmmmm, now how does that disclaimer sound? Oh and just for the record, I have never seen a Santorum bracelet in my life! Idiot.

On second thought, let me add a semi-personal note to this. A ex-colleague and good friend of mine told me his fathers story. I will quote freely.

My dad was a janitor at a high school and he was smart, very socially engaged and immensely popular. One day he had an awful stroke which left him paralyzed all over. He could not speak, just write on a small chalk board. His vision was badly impaired too: he could only see a rather small “tunnel” somewhere above and to the side of his center of vision. Most of the time he was looking at the ceiling. His mental capabilities were unaffected.

One day I came to visit him and he pointed me to a stack of documents, indicating I should read them. To my surprise and initial horror it was the entire legal and medical paperwork for his own euthanasia. He had consulted a doctor, the mandatory second opinion, etcetera, etcetera, all by himself. My mom was unable to support him in this in any way. Of course we talked about it through great length, but it was very clear he had made up his mind. He had decided that he had had a wonderful and fulfilling life, and that living on would simply be a dishonor to who he was.

And so, very eerie, a date was set for him to die. Weird. My calendar: May 20th [y-t: I am making up the date of course]: Dad dies, and it was 2 months in the future. When the day finally came, we were all there to say our farewells. Then, the doctor came, who asked him one final time if this was what he really wanted. It was. He administered the lethal injection and we witnessed him peacefully slide away.


September 3rd, 2011

The true meaning of empathy

иконографияOn TED: Joan Halifax: Compassion and the true meaning of empathy.

About the talk

Buddhist roshi Joan Halifax works with people at the last stage of life (in hospice and on death row). She shares what she’s learned about compassion in the face of death and dying, and a deep insight into the nature of empathy.


The [enemies of empathy] are pity, moral outrage, fear. We have a world paralyzed with fear. The word “terror” is [now] global.

Fear destroying empathy, so true!


August 25th, 2010

The death penalty

In Europe, only Belarus still has the death penalty.

In Switzerland, capital punishment was abandoned in 1942. Before that, the method of execution was the guillotine, and before 1867 decapitated with the sword. In line with the “new firmness” or “refreshing shift to the right” as the proponents call it, a group of people in Switzerland is now allowed to start campaining for 100.000 signatures, which again is needed to start a referendum for re-introduction of the death penalty; a lot of legislation in Switzerland is made using the referendum proces.

I have written quite often about this theme here, so I won’t do that again. My personal opinion is that it is not a sign of sophistication. Oh well.

Added 08/28: So it seems a hot item again. In Japan the current Justice minister is fighting an uphill battle against a 86% majority in favor of retaining the ‘unavoidable’ death penalty. And an interesting strategy she choose: inform, show.

Japan, along with the U.S., is one of only two Group of Eight rich countries that retain capital punishment. It currently has 107 inmates on death row.

There are 107 people on death row.

Seven people were executed in 2009.

Inmates are kept in solitary confinement in seven detention centres.

Death row inmates are notified on the morning of the execution day, usually about an hour before the execution.

Execution is by hanging. Medical experts have said that a person who is hanged immediately loses consciousness and their heart stops in about 15 minutes.

While the law says an execution must take place within six months after the sentence is finalised by the court system, in practice it usually takes several years.

January 27th, 2010

To not forget

Today, after 112 hours, the reading of 102.000 names of people who were transported through the Nazi deportation camp Westerbork in my country and then onwards by cattle train to the extermination camps in Poland came to an end with the last name on the memorial, Heinrich Zysmanowicz.

The youngest reader was 11, the oldest 80. A few by telephone from the US and Israël.

Let us not ever forget the evil that can be created and nourished by hatred. Let us not forget what administrations can do if they know too much (is that why they are called “administrations”?); the round up of Jews in WWII was ultra efficient in my country because of the wonderfully complete and precise record keeping.

January 25th, 2010

The execution

Hassan al-Majeed, alias Ali Chemicali, has been hanged today. The was the guy ordering poison gas attacks on the kurds, killing mostly women and children (not that that last fact matters). I will confess this is a tough one to have an opinion. Lets just say I cannot condemn the ones who cheer his execution. I can’t believe I wrote that.

November 30th, 2009

The case against John Demjanjuk

Here, there is a lot of attention again on the anti-Muslim xenophobia: the swiss voted in favor of a law forbidding the building of minarets at mosks, and of course our silly PVV is gloating at the prospect, and not entirely without political gain: I am pretty convinced more than 60% of our population would support the same thing by now, the end of a tolerant society.

I am more interested in something else, and in a way, affecting us all and, in the long run the above mentioned phobia. In Germany, the trial against John Demjanjuk started today. Demjanjuk was a notorious camp butcher in Sobibor, one of the WWII concentration camps in Germany. Actually, Sobibor was a “vernichtungslager” (extermination camp). I have to assume he is one of the last, if not the last to be trialled for the extermination of jews in WWII.  Demjanjuk is believed to have had his hand in the killing of around 27.000 people.

Under German law, victims have the right to co-prosecute in a criminal trial. Today, I listened to an interview with a family man who lost two sisters, and it was touching how he spoke with love about the sisters he never knew, but also the fear they must have felt, the powerful impression Demjanjuk must have made on them, and also the near feeling of compassion for this now small, old, and pathetic man. He carefully pointed out how these emotions blur the needed crisp vision for justice and how he welcomes, but also feels the irony, of the Germans now finally bringing this man to justice (he was acquitted by the Israeli’s, expelled by the Americans).

I urge you not to turn a blind eye on this historic event. It can teach us, post war generation, where hate and intolerance can lead us.