My latest signed column for the Post asks why Canadian diplomats should be unable to cite the rule of law, instead of a meddlesome, condescending opposition to capital punishment, as the basis of a plea for the life of a citizen facing Saudi justice. The brouhaha over the Kohail file, I must say, has been sincerely confusing to me. Since the Saudis themselves don't agree with us that capital punishment is wrong anyway, and aren't going to change their minds about this anytime soon, why not emphasize norms of procedural fairness that anyone would hope to have observed by the authorities if he were charged with a crime? Wouldn't that be the sensible approach to take if you had limited time to convince a king to spare one of your compatriots?
"The state may not take a life" is not a transcultural rule; it wasn't anybody's rule until the Enlightenment, didn't find widespread international support until well after, and probably still doesn't enjoy majority support in Canada. "Nobody should be punished disproportionately, contrary to reason, or without a fair hearing" is surely a far more basic and portable principle of justice.