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May 17 2012

Abolish the death penalty

“What says the law? You will not kill. How does it say it? By killing!” -Victor Hugo

“For centuries the death penalty, often accompanied by barbarous refinements, has been trying to hold crime in check; yet crime persists.” -Albert Camus

“Had it not been for slavery, the death penalty would have likely been abolished in America. Slavery became a haven for the death penalty.” -Angela Davis

“The death penalty is the ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights. It is the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state. This cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment is done in the name of justice. It violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

We oppose the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to kill the prisoner.” -Amnesty International

Amnesty International says, “There can never be any justification for torture or for cruel treatment. Like torture, an execution constitutes an extreme physical and mental assault on an individual. The physical pain caused by the action of killing a human being cannot be quantified, nor can the psychological suffering caused by foreknowledge of death at the hands of the state.

The death penalty is discriminatory and is often used disproportionately against the poor, minorities and members of racial, ethnic and religious communities. It is imposed and carried out arbitrarily. In some countries, it is used as a tool of repression to silence the political opposition. In other countries, flaws in the judicial process are exacerbated by discrimination, prosecutorial misconduct and inadequate legal representation. As long as human justice remains fallible, the risk of executing the innocent can never be eliminated.

The death penalty: 1.denies the possibility of rehabilitation and reconciliation. 2.promotes simplistic responses to complex human problems, rather than pursuing explanations that could inform positive strategies. 3.prolongs the suffering of the murder victim’s family, and extends that suffering to the loved ones of the condemned prisoner. 4.diverts resources and energy that could be better used to work against violent crime and assist those affected by it. 5.is a symptom of a culture of violence, not a solution to it. It is an affront to human dignity. 6.should be abolished. Now.”

More than two-thirds of the countries in the world have now abolished the death penalty in law or practice. The numbers are as follows:Abolitionist for all crimes: 97, Abolitionist for ordinary crimes only: 8, Abolitionist in practice: 36, Total abolitionist in law or practice: 141, Retentionist: 57


These are the countries whose laws do not provide for the death penalty for any crime.

Albania, Andorra, Angola, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bhutan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Burundi, Cambodia, Canada, Cape Verde, Colombia, Cook Islands, Costa Rica, Cote D’Ivoire, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Estonia, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guinea-Bissau, Haiti, Holy See, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Kiribati, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Mozambique, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niue, Norway, Palau, Panama, Paraguay, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Rwanda, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome And Principe, Senegal, Serbia (including Kosovo), Seychelles, Slovakia, Slovenia, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Timor-Leste, Togo, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela

People are still sentenced to death. Total sentenced to death, from 2007 to 2011:
China-Thousands. China refused to divulge figures on its use of the death penalty.
Pakistan-1497 (executed 171)
Iraq-1420 (executed 256)
Algeria-752 (executed 0)
Egypt-704 (executed 12)
USA-504 (executed 220)
India-435 (executed 0)
Bangladesh-423 (executed 28)
Afghanistan-364 (executed 34)
Nigeria-341 (executed 0)
Malaysia-324 (executed 2)
Vietnam-258 (executed 58)
Sudan-166 (executed 30)
Iran-156 (executed 1663)
Uganda-134 (executed 0)
SriLanka-120 (executed 0)
Yemen-109 (executed 152)
Japan-108 (executed 33)

There’s still a hope. We are getting closer to a death penalty-free world.

25 comments

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  1. 1
    Gregory in Seattle

    I am glad that I can agree with you on this. State sponsored murder is not the way to show that killing people is wrong, and as has been proven time and again, innocent people get convicted.

  2. 2
    katkinkate

    I agree almost completely. The only exception I can think of is if the state doesn’t have the facilities or means to keep society safe from the offender (if they are a real threat to society, not just a threat to someone’s power over society). But I don’t think any country on the planet today can be considered in that circumstance and I’d be wary of such an exception being put into law, because some people have really skewed ideas about what threatens the safety of society.

  3. 3
    Annie

    We had a guy chop up his girlfriend and barbecue her remains in an apartment complex in Texas. The BTK killer spent an entire night torturing, sexually assaulting, and ultimately killing a family of four. Ratko Mladic murdered 8,000 ethnic Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995 in the Balkan conflict. The Vampire of Sacramento ate a child’s inner organs, including his brain. Their are countless stories of horrifying murder.

    I think, because of the innocents killed, that we should do away with the death penalty. But for that reason alone. I would not be of that opinion could we know 100% our verdicts were correct. If we could establish indisputably what the facts are, I would disagree about opposing the death sentence “regardless of the nature of the crime”. If you break societal contracts as non-negotiable as “do not barbecue people”, “do not slaughter”, and “keep off my organs while I’m alive” – and we know indefinitely that you did – I feel the death penalty is entirely appropriate.

    The mother of the child whose insides were cannibalized. The victims with limbs and parts of their faces missing who endured so much violence in war. The friends of those in the populace slaughtered in Rwanda during the Tutsi-Hutu conflict. You cannot tell these people and people like them who’ve suffered obscene and revolting injustices “the state is prepared to protect your killers, rapists, and oppressors because we feel it inhumane to bestow upon them death by painless injection”.

    It should be noted, again, that I am talking exclusively about those who do grotesque, gory, ugly, sickly, killing being subject to the death penalty. Butchering, blood-splattering, child-disemboweling. People who can commit atrocious acts, acts that clearly demonstrate a disgusting pleasure taken in watching slow torture, acts that reek of psychosis and social ineptitude.

    And anyway, if we really must not ever ever ever have death sentences and they get life in prison instead, fine. But what is the argument for life in prison being humane? What is the difference between being dead, and being completely cut off from opportunity – apart from being able to feel the stigma of how ostracized you are? And if you are released, you immediately become painfully aware of just how much of a social pariah you indeed are seen as. You never ever again have the chance to re-assimilate back into society. We say you can, but it’s not true. No one wants to hire you. No one wants to rent you an apartment. No one wants you around their kids, or scaring off their customers, or to date you. No one wants to be friends with you, or to live by you, or to spend time with you, or to be left alone with you. No one wants a thing to do with you because – for crying out loud – you’ve slaughtered people. If that’s not enough to unnerve the devil, I don’t know what is. I can’t think of a single more legitimate reason not to trust someone!

    1. 3.1
      FredBloggs

      Doesn’t your first example sound like someone who is mentally ill? If so, should we execute someone who is ill, or try to find some way of treating them?

    2. 3.2
      efnord

      “could we know 100% our verdicts were correct”

      And if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.

    3. 3.3
      taslima nasrin

      No one is born a criminal. There are always reasons for committing crimes. A lot depends on how we are brought up. Instead of having prisons, we should have correction centers for criminals.

      1. Disagreeable Me

        No one is born a criminal. There are always reasons for committing crimes.

        I’m not so sure about that. I think some people are just wired differently for genetic reasons. There’s no amount of correction that can make them responsible law-abiding citizens.

        Still not in favour of the death penalty though.

      2. Pinky

        Ms. Nasreen

        What are the differences between prisons and correction centers? It is a term I am unfamiliar with.

        I think using nurture, “how we are brought up”, is an over simplification of the how criminals arise. I have read of, and known, many families who produced a criminal, but also produced many decent citizens. Should we not be seeing more offenders in the same family that raises one criminal if nurture is a predominate cause?

        As for rehabilitation, which I’m guessing is the function of the correction centers you refer to (and please correct me if I’m wrong), the US has undergone a lengthy attempt at rehabilitation in its justice system with unimpressive results.

        I do think one way to reduce the amount of criminals is to stop the misery of the war on drug. Prisons are said to be training grounds. Lets not send otherwise law abiding citizens who are caught with some marijuana to prison to learn criminality.

  4. 4
    Pinky

    Annie you raise some good points worth thinking about. I also think the death penalty should be stopped, but like almost everything in life its complicated and seeing lines in the gray is difficult.

    We should try to address the concerns many have about criminals and the safety of society instead of leaving discussion of justice and safety in the realm of pro-death penalty activists who offer limited options through their appeal to fear.

    Society needs to ensure the public’s safety by ensuring a criminal who has committed a heinous not be allowed to re-enter society.

    What of “life without parole” being circumvented because a span of years has dimmed and softened the circumstances of the crime and a sympathetic group of celebrities (who are seldom accused of over studying a cause) sees an old sick man whom they believe should be released to enjoy what life they have left?

    Speaking of celebrities remember the song Bob Dylan sang about the imprisonment of Rubin “Hurricane” Carter. Dylan’s song and a subsequent movie of a version of Carter’s life caused an upwelling of public support for Carter that resulted in his release from prison. Carter was not released because he was declared innocent, the ruling was of suspected procedural errors in his trial and he could be retried.

    Although I shy away from labels because they lock in how others perceive my views; I think of myself as a progressive. I know there is evidence of racial inequality in the US and I’ll do what I can to alleviate the situation, however the need to see each person as an individual is important. I have spent numerous hours (I’m retired) reading through the papers of the Rubin Carter and the Mumia Abu-Jamal cases. In my layman opinion I think both are guilty. Neither should be executed, but neither should be out in society.

  5. 5
    Paul Durrant

    One would think that the United States of America would be ashamed to be seen in company with most of the countries on that list.

  6. 6
    pavel

    i do not oppose death penalty because someone has commited something irreversable its natural they will get the irreversable effect as well .I guess its the rule of nature .If i do something horrific that reverse so many involved i have no right to be happy or treated or whatever .whatever the reason when a crime is commited its a criome and it will be a crime regardless of the explanations may be produced.

    i have to mention its a great frear of death people have and refrein from doing the unimaginable .Thats in a way good for the law and order in some cases . Now no matter you have life sentences or you have death penalty the crimes will be commited by the people who wants to commit crime .The matter to be noted is if they see people got hanged for that and excected surely they would think 10 times before the crime.

    Vicious criminals need to have maximum security prisons wr so much money needed.Kasab the Mumbai Killing terrorist security bill is more than 8 cr Rupi..So as a country with less resourses and corrupted government its essential that death penalties have to be done .We dont have money for Education water food why would the state would spend hundreds of thousands to keeep them alive on the name of human rights?..

    My last point is howcome Yemen have 109 but have 152 executed?…wr did the extra people come from ?..Goodness me ..Yemen is surely a camel republic:)

  7. 7
    oldebabe

    It doesn’t seem meaningful to me to have a definite opinion about the death penalty without having been victimized by the crime of murder or similar gross actions. It seems that some parents of abused and murdered children, for instance, need the ritualized, final, punishment of the perpetrator in order to end the pain of loss and ugliness. It’s one thing to speak philosophically, even ethically, but quite another to experience the tragedy.

    And not all court decided death penalties, or punishment in general, result in the same type of action, i.e.not all use the lawful methods of the U. S. Not all provide just a lifetime of incarceration as the worst punishment.

    On the less emotional side, and potentially anti-death penalty, and one to which we can all relate, is there’s the financial aspect, too, of the years of continued court appearances, etc., which needs to be taken into consideration, as well as the potential innocence of the perceived perpetrator.

    It’s a hard decision either way, it seems to me.

    1. 7.1
      Mary2

      ALL victims of serious crime probably want their persecutor dead – this is why we do not allow them on the jury or to be involved in sentencing. A criminal justice system is supposed to be about justice not vengeance.

      It doesn’t seem meaningful to me to allow victims to make this decision. The decision for a State to kill people should be made by the State as a whole, not those with every reason to hate and want revenge.

      I reiterate Paul’s comment: I do not understand why the USA does not think it concerning that they (and Japan) are the only Western countries on that list, they have 7 times more of their citizens in prison than the next nearest country (the UK) and yet they have one of the highest murder rates in the world.

      1. Phillip Helbig

        Japan is Western? I thought it was in the Far East. Yes, I know what you mean, but note the prejudice it entails.

  8. 8
    Keith Harwood

    In 1967 Ronald Ryan was the last man to be executed in Australia. A friend of a friend was a newspaper reporter who had followed and reported on Ryan’s case from the beginning. He was firmly convinced of Ryan’s guilt and strongly in favour of the death penalty. He witnessed the hanging. Afterwards he said that the state should never do that to anyone and from then on worked hard to abolish the death penalty.

  9. 9
    Abdulla Madumoole

    I fully agree. Death penalty shlould be abolished worldwide.Agree with all the points Taslima made above, I have been a strongest propogonist of abolistion of death penalty. The purpose of any penal law should be reforming the society and not taking revenge on individuals.

  10. 10
    burpy

    Go and have a look at the website of the “Innocence Project”.

    The Innocence Project was founded in 1992 by Barry C. Scheck and Peter J. Neufeld at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law at Yeshiva University to assist prisoners who could be proven innocent through DNA testing. To date, 289 people in the United States have been exonerated by DNA testing, including 17 who served time on death row. These people served an average of 13 years in prison before exoneration and release.

    This includes people who “confessed” to crimes, and many, many people who were convicted by prosecutors who were “100% sure” that they had got the right person.

    For me that is the number one argument against the death penalty.

    1. 10.1
      burpy

      *Note* ^^ I don´t know how to blockquote on here.

    2. 10.2
      Phillip Helbig

      Agreed, and trumps all arguments in favour of it.

  11. 11
    Phillip Helbig

    The issue of free will is a non-starter with regard to crime and punishment. In most countries, vengeance is not part of the law anymore. However, punishment exists as a deterrent, to protect society from known criminals and as a chance for rehabilitation. At least one of these is always present for any crime, thus punishment itself is justified.

    What about punishing the mentally ill? While I agree that putting someone in jail who quite literally did not know what he did serves little purpose (though some sort of incarceration is necessary in order to protect society), in the case of someone like Breivik, who obviously realized the consequences of his actions (at least the immediate ones, though he is deluded with respect to the longer-term goals, (though it is not clear if he really ever believed in these at all), whether or not he is formally mentally ill is beside the point. Threat of prison will be a deterrent (maybe not perfect, then what is?) for similar folks in the future and also clearly protecting society are necessary as well. Rehabilitation? Hard to say in his case, though in Norway (where the fraction of repeat offenders is lower than anywhere else in the world and where also life in prison is better than life outside prison in many other places (the two are actually probably positively correlated) there is probably a better chance than elsewhere. Just because he is in prison doesn’t mean he can’t be treated for mental illness, if he has one.

    As others have pointed out, a big problem with the death penalty is punishing the wrong person, and this cannot be compensated in any way. In practice, that is a reason to abolish it. Even in the case of 100% clear evidence, unless the people making the decisions were actually reliable eye-witnesses themselves, there is still the possibility of fabricated or even mistaken evidence. So, in practice, abolishing it is a good idea. However, from a moral point of view, I tend to agree with #3, though I realize it puts me in a place many people are uncomfortable with (at least with respect to what they state publicly), as long as the person actually realized what he was doing. (Again, formally mentally ill or not is beside the point if he realized what he was doing.)

  12. 12
    John Lennox

    For me the overriding reason for abolishing the death penalty is its irreversibility.
    The number of people on death row in states like Illinois and Texas who have been exonerated
    by DNA evidence, sometimes after their execution, is all the reason one requires to conclude that government sponsored killing should be ended.

  13. 13
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    Leandro Michaeli

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