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Raffique Shah


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Be careful when you hunt rapists

By Raffique Shah
February 8, 2021

THE outrage expressed by many people over the most recent case of the abduction and murder of a young woman is understandable.

We cannot believe that there exist among us depraved people who are capable of committing atrocities, inflicting extreme violence on women with seemingly consummate ease and callous detachment. It's as if they are cast in some science fiction horror movie, acting out their darkest obsessions and cruellest fantasies, except the victims are real live people who end up very dead, sometimes mutilated and tortured before they die.

But the frenzied calls for "swift justice", for the arrest of the perpetrator or perpetrators, the "return of the hangman" and such emotional responses will amount to nothing if we, the citizens, leave our destiny in the hands of those who benefit from broken systems at all levels of crime-fighting, rendering the populace powerless in our pursuit of justice that is both elusive and an illusion.

On the day on which protests erupted over the gruesome discovery of the corpse of the latest victim, newspaper reports delivered a chilling dose of justice not just delayed, but justice standing on its head, upside down, every-which-wrong-way you can think of, making a mockery of the meaning of the word itself. According to the Express dated Friday, February 5, 2021, "Prosecutors are hoping to introduce fresh DNA evidence in their case against the two men charged with the brutal murder of six-year-old Sean Luke in 2006."

Don't bother to rub your eyes or rush to an ophthalmologist to check your vision. You saw and read it right: 2006! Little Sean Luke was brutalised in the most horrible manner close to 15 years ago, and the prosecutors are now fishing for evidence to get their case going.

"At a virtual on Thursday, the prosecutor.....admitted the State had not yet applied to admit the evidence since it was dependent on actually receiving the analysis of the samples...there was a challenge with the Forensic Science Centre's DNA lab...its capacity to do the analysis was ‘zero'...."

To underscore the sense of futility in the justice system I am drawing from this sample case, and its similarity with last week's abduction/murder, the newspaper report noted that the two men accused of Luke's murder are now 28 and 30 years old: they were minors when the murder was committed. The victim was six. He had been "sodomised with a sugar cane stalk that ruptured his intestines and internal organs"...

I hope readers, and those persons who are calling for the "return of the hangman", understand what I'm trying to convey to them. The "hangman" never absconded or disappeared or went anywhere. If anything, because there have been no executions for some time, the post must be vacant. In December 2019, five men were sentenced to death for the murder of businessman Eddie Khoury. That tells me that there are ‘condemned' men occupying the cells on Death Row.

The death sentence, for those who believe in it, remains the only punishment that can be imposed on someone convicted of murder. The judge has no discretion in sentencing. However, based on a precedent, the Privy Council has ruled that the execution of a condemned prisoner must be carried out no more than five years after sentencing. That is the only limitation to carrying out executions.

The cases currently attracting attention are those in which two young women were abducted and later found murdered. They had some commonality, the standout element being one victim entered a "PH" car before she disappeared and the other an "H" car said to be bearing false number plates.

So "PH" drivers are once more the focus of attention, with calls being made for banning such vehicles, imposing strictures on the drivers, and so on. A few months ago, when similar outrage erupted, I noted that "PH" vehicles were already illegal.

However, the reality is that because our public transport system is grossly deficient, "PH" cars have become indispensable to commuters throughout the country, so it is foolish to even attempt to ban them if that were even practical. In any event, cars or vehicles do not rape women. All men are not rapists or murderers, and certainly among "PH" operators, a minuscule number of them might be criminals, and even fewer rapists or murderers.

So let's get the focus correct before we go off on a tangent, making much noise but little sense. I agree with targeting rapists, especially brutal men who believe they have might, which makes it right for them to impose themselves on women, however repulsive they may be to their victims. In this broad-spectrum category, you would be shocked to see the numbers, the class-stratifications, the supposedly decent, church-going, deeply religious, not to add wealthy men who will have forced themselves on women—which, in any language, is rape.

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