We are stunned at the demand of senior lawmakers to have rapists killed “in crossfire”. How can individuals who are supposed to make the laws of our nation stand in the middle of parliament and ask that the most basic of all laws in any civilised society—that of due process—be violated in this most appalling manner? The concept of due process has developed over time from Clause 39 of the Magna Carta—one of the greatest achievements of human civilisation. That our lawmakers can dismiss it so trivially in this day and age is shocking beyond belief.
This is not a matter of downplaying an offence. Rape is a most egregious crime, for which a person must be held to account and exemplarily punished. However, in a nation that believes in the rule of law, and is governed by it, due process cannot be violated for any reason whatsoever.
Unfortunately, according to reports submitted by human rights groups to the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, 1,335 people were extrajudicially killed by law enforcing agencies through crossfire between January 2014 and May 2019, demonstrating the corrosion of due process and the rule of law that has happened in our country in the recent past—and many MPs had even indirectly admitted in parliament that the state is using crossfire in the war against drugs launched in 2018, by asking why the state cannot use similar tactics against rapists. That deterioration will only speed up if we have MPs believing and promoting the use of “crossfire” to do away with suspected criminals, regardless of the alleged offence.
One MP even went so far as to say that “you will go to heaven if you kill rapists in crossfire’.” This is the type of rhetoric we have grown accustomed to hearing from extremists, not MPs.
It is extremely saddening to watch discussions in our parliament being reduced to such levels. At the same time, it is a perfect example of the risks we face of going down the slippery slope, once we abandon the most basic of laws—for once the use of crossfire is normalised, as it has been against alleged drug dealers, it was only a matter of time before it was expanded to include others as well.
This entire episode demands some serious reflection as to the direction we are headed as a nation. We hope the MPs will immediately retract their absurd statements and acknowledge the importance of due process—and in light of that, investigate the countless violations of due process that have occurred in recent years. As without that, the rule of law, we fear, will be in terrible jeopardy.