Friday, June 12, 2009
The Torture of Waiting for Execution
Victor Hugo in ‘The Last Day of a Condemned Man’ describes with all the passion and clarity of his art ‘the slow succession of tortures which comprise the process of execution.’ In 1829 he outlined the great misrepresentation of the process of execution which is still current today; ‘they think that the execution is only the fall of a blade, nothing before, nothing after. They do not think of the sufferings of the spirit as they vaunt the power of killing with little physical pain’, a pain deemed insignificant because it only lasts half a second.
Talking with a prisoner on death row, a few days ago, I perceived the suffering, indeed the torture, of indecision, of the long wait for either execution or some kind of reprieve. It is a torture which generates bouts of extreme depression and hopelessness, negating any purpose in life, even an indifference to a further stage in the legal process.
For six years now, no one has been executed in Thailand, although death sentences are still handed down at a rate of more than one a week. Prison officials ask the condemned why they worry, no one is actually being executed. But the threat that it may all start again at any moment is an exquisite torture, like the notorious dripping of a water tap which never ceases; already a cruel and inhumane pain.