A sobering spectacle.
Two death sentences, though in two different regions and under different circumstances, have nevertheless provided a sobering spectacle this week, making one aware of the transience of human life, ambition and power.
The surprise execution on Thursday of Jang Song-Thaek, uncle and adviser of North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un, after a sudden purge underscores the dangers inherent in a secretive and wayward regime. The sexagenarian Jang, credited with mentoring Kim half his age, was accused of trying to stage a coup and summarily executed after a military trial, which is not likely to be regarded as credible by the outside world.
With Jang's death, North Korea manages to wipe out whatever good impression it created earlier this week by releasing US Korean War veteran Merrill Newman, who had been arrested during a visit as a tourist.
The North Korean retribution occurred on the same day Bangladesh hanged a senior politician accused of war crimes. Jamaat-e-Islami party leader Abdul Kader Mollah, found guilty of human right abuses during the violence in the 70s, was hanged despite leading human rights groups and foreign governments expressing reservations about the trial.
None of the executions have gone unnoticed. While the North Korean move gives more ballast to the critics of the regime, the Bangladesh act may impact the elections next year. The fall of tyrants, despite the element of comeuppance, always inspires fear and pity, like the deaths of Muammar Gaddafi and Saddam Hussein. The powers that be should perhaps keep such sobering spectacles in mind and temper judgment with mercy because no one knows on whom the axe may fall next.