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You can find contrived scenarios that make very nearly any punishment or investigation technique at least ethically debatable.

The more important question is whether you ever going to find yourself in a situation where you have enough armed revolutionaries that finding prison space for them becomes a genuine logistical problem? If so, you are already experiencing an armed revolution, during which the whole "rule of law" thing, judging by historical experience, tends to go out the window anyway.

As long as you're only looking at a couple of political assassins every decade, scattered all across the EU, I can see no justification - in simple practical terms - for establishing a whole bureaucracy dedicated to killing them off legally. A bureaucracy that will, in all the time it does not have any political assassins to kill, have to justify its existence by dreaming up ever broader categories of crimes that might make it ethically palatable to treat people to a bullet in the back of the head.

So even sidestepping the question of whether it is ethical to put revolutionaries to death - I would still argue that it isn't - such a penalty would either be an expensive boondoogle or an invitation to broaden the penalty to more pedestrian crimes, in order to satisfy the needs of petty bureaucratic empire building.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Jul 27th, 2011 at 10:32:43 AM EST
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