Saturday, August 17, 2002

An “unprecedented” 55-year jail sentence (with a 40 year minimum) imposed on a three-time, 20 y.o. gang-rapist is the big news in Australia this week. As is becoming a distressingly familiar media scenario, this barrage of news contained barely a drop of additional information or research. Apart from the crimes themselves, the only hook that the media really ran with was that the convict was a “Lebanese Muslim”.

Left unsaid, and so presumably un-researched, was:

· is the convict “Lebanese”, in the sense that he is not an Australian citizen? If “no”, does his ancestry (or place of birth) have any significance to his crimes? If the answer to any of these is “yes”, then why not deport him “home” for trial, instead of “ethnicizing”, and so problematizing, Australian law? (not to mention the presumably unnecessary cost of a long incarceration in Australia)

· did the convict have any prior convictions? While committing three gang-rapes within a short period of time probably suggests that the chances of rehabilitation are close to zero, if he did have no “priors”, there could be at least something to be said in mitigation.

· does the convict have the minimum (i) intellectual capacity, and (ii) command of English required to have allowed him to be meaningfully tried and convicted? When he yelled at the judge “I’m innocent, and I’ll remain [sic] my innocence till the day I die, you cunt”, something is clearly very amiss on one or both of these fronts.

· Why make statements such as: “All 14 of the gang rapists have been disowned by the Lebanese community … If the rapes had occurred in Lebanon, they pointed out, the offenders almost certainly would have been put to death” (The Age, August 17 2002). This seems to be alluding to intra-community enforcement of the criminal law (such as the spearings practised by some Indigenous groups in Central Australia), but it lacks any specifics or course of action, other than a general, “community” ostracism of those convicted – which would happen in any event, and in any community.

Give me rationality, and action, before pious words – or racism – any day. If the Australian legal system is not big enough to handle a criminal prosecution in an ethnicity-neutral manner, it has only one option – pass it back to the locals.

I don’t know which is the “right” approach here, BTW. One thing I am sure of, however, is that empty, pious words emanating from within an ethnic community are fuel for racism, and (of course) vice versa. Let’s stop this bullshit now.

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