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Q&As: Kirsten Han, anti-death penalty advocate in Singapore

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In the third of the DPRU's (Death Penalty Research Unit, University of Oxford, Faculty of Law) series of Q&As with death penalty experts from around the world, Kirsten Han, an anti-death penalty advocate in Singapore, tells DPRU Research Officer Jocelyn Hutton about her current work and about her involvement in the case of the recently executed Nagaenthran Dharmalingam . Can you tell us a little bit about the work that you do in relation to the death penalty? A lot of my contribution to the campaign to abolish the death penalty in Singapore has to do with storytelling, since that fits with the skills that I have as a writer and journalist, and because abolitionist perspectives, or any in-depth coverage of capital punishment, are missing from the local government-controlled mainstream media. I write about death row prisoners and the experiences of their families, try to humanise this issue. For many Singaporeans, it’s so distant and so abstract that it’s very easy to dismiss; so

France | Remains of 500 people executed by guillotine in French Revolution may be buried in walls of listed Paris monument

Chapelle expiatoire, Paris
Bones fragments were discovered in the walls of the Chapelle Expiatoire, Paris

The remains of up to 500 people executed by guillotine in the French Revolution could be buried in the walls of a Paris monument, experts believe.  

Bone fragments were discovered in the walls of the Chapelle Expiatoire which is a classified monument in Paris. 

Archeologist Philippe Charlier examined the monument's walls with a small camera inserted through the stones, The Guardian reported. He said there was earth mixed with bone fragments.  

The monument is dedicated to King Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette who were executed at the Place de la Révolution before being formally buried at the Basilica of St Denis

French authorities called in an archeologist, who inserted a camera through the stones in the walls, so they didn't damage the building's foundations. 

The chapel's administrator Aymeric Peniguet de Stoutz had noticed anomalies in the walls between the columns of the lower chapel.

Archeologist Charlier said the lower chapel had four ossuaries — chests or boxes — made of wooden boxes, which are filled with bones and were probably stretched out with leather. 

Peniguet de Stoutz has requested further research at the building.  

Founded in 1816, the Chapelle Expiatoire is a chapel in the 8th arrondissement of Paris near the Grand Boulevards on the site of the old Madeleine cemetery. 

The Madeleine cemetery was closed in 1794 when it reportedly run out of space.  

Historians believed the remains of 500 victims buried in the cemetery were eventually transferred to catacombs under the city. 

Louis XVI et Marie-Antoinette
The monument was built not far from a site where the guillotine was frequently used — the Place de la Révolution [Now Place de la Concorde].  

King Louis XVI was executed at the Place de la Révolution on January 21, 1793. Marie Antoinette, the final Queen before the French Revolution, was also executed there. 

Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette had been buried in Madeleine cemetery before Louis XVIII ordered their remains to be buried in the Basilica of St Denis when he became king in 1814.  

Physician and opponent of the death penalty Joseph-Ignace Guillotin said capital punishment should always be decapitation and sought to introduce a humane way to carry out executions. 

He proposed to the National Assembly on October 10, 1789, that this should be done by means of a simple mechanism. 

The National Assembly started to look into a new method of capital punishment in 1791 with the aim of ending life without inflicting unnecessary pain. 

The guillotine was deemed successful because it was considered a humane form of execution.

The history of the guillotine in France 


Physician Joseph-Ignace Guillotin said capital punishment should always be decapitation. 

On October 10, 1789, he proposed to the National Assembly that this should be done by means of a simple mechanism.

Guillotin was an opponent of the death penalty and wanted to find a device to carry out humane executions.

He was displeased with common, gruesome methods of execution and wanted to convince King Louis XVI to implement a less painful alternative.

Guillotine
The National Assembly started to look into a new method of capital punishment in 1791 which would end life without inflicting unnecessary pain.

The machine the Assembly designed was deemed successful because it was considered a humane form of execution.

The device consisted of 2 upright posts which were connected by a crossbeam and grooved to guide the knife according to Britannica.

The back off the oblique-edged knife was heavily weighted. This was designed to make it fall forcefully upon the neck of a prone victim and slice through it.

Before the guillotine was invented, a sword or an axe was used for members of the nobility. This meant it often took 2 or 3 blows to kill. Others were hanged.

The guillotine was to become the one method of civil execution, no matter the class of the condemned, which was also seen as an expression of equality.

It was the main legal method of civil execution until the death penalty was abolished in October, 1981, after it was last used in France in 1977.

Source: Mail Online, G. Simcox, July 5, 2020


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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