DEATH PENALTY : Reasons for the total abolition of this degrading and inhuman punishment

1 – Death Penalty violates the right to life.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) recognizes each person’s right to life. Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR) states that Human beings are inviolables. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the physical and moral integrity of his person. this view is reinforced by the existance of international and regional treaties providing for the abolition of the death penalty, notably the second optional protocol of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1989.


2 – Death Penalty is a cruel and inhuman death.

The UDHR categorically states that No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. All forms of execution are inhuman. No government can guarantee a dignified and painless death to condemned prisoners, who also suffer psychological pain in the period between their sentence and execution.


3 – Death Penalty has no dissuasive effect.

No scientific study has proved that the death penalty has a more dissuasive effect on crime than other punishments. The most recent investigation into the links of cause and effect between capital punishment and the murder rate, was conducted by the United Nations in 1988 and updated in 2002. It came to the following conclusion :

“…it is not prudent to accept the hypothesis that capital punishment deters murder to a marginally greater extent than does the threat and application of the supposedly lesser punishment of life imprisonment.”


4 – Death Penalty is premeditated murder, demeans the state and makes society more violent.

By executing a person, the state commits a murder and shows the same readiness to use physical violence against its victim as a criminal. Moreover, studies have shown that the murder rate increases immediately after executions. Researchers have suggested that this increase is similar to that caused by other violent public events, such as massacres and assassinations.

5 – Death Penalty is discriminatory in its application.

Throughout the world, the death penalty is dsproportionately used agianst disadvantaged people. Some condemned prisoners from the most impoverrished social classes would not have been sentenced to death if they were from wealthier sectors of society. In these cases, either the accused are less able to find their way through the maze of the judicial system (because of a lack of knowledge, confidence or financial means), or the system reflects the generally negative attitude of sociéty and the powerful towards them. It has also been proved that certain criminals run a greater risk of being condemned to death if their victims come from higher social classes.

6 – Death Penalty denies the capacity of people to mend their ways and become a better person.

Defenders of the death penalty consider that anyone sentenced to death is unable to mend their ways and could re-offend at any time if they are released. However, there are many examples of offenders who have been reintegrated and who have not re-offended. Amnesty International believes that the way to prevent re-offending is to review procedures for conditional release and the psychological monitoring of prisoners during detention, and under no circumstances to increase the number of executions. In addition, the death penalty removes any possibility for the condemned person to repent.

7 – Death Penalty cannot provide social stability nor bring peace to the victims.

An execution cannot give the victim his or her life back nor ease the suffering felt by their family. Far from reducing the pain, the length of the trial and the appeal procedure often prolong the family’s suffering.

8 – Death Penalty denies the fallibility of human institutions.

The risk of executing innocent people remains indissolubly linked to the use of the death penalty.

Since 1973, 116 people condemned to death in the United States have been released after proof of their innocence has been established. Some of them have only just escaped execution, after having passed years on death row. These repeated judicial errors have been especially due to irregularities committed by prosecution or police officers, recourse to doubtful evidence, material information or confessions, or the incompetence of defense lawyers. Other prisoners have been sent to their deaths when serious doubts existed about their guilt

9 – Death Penalty is a collective punishment.

 This punishment affects all the family, friends and those sympathizers with the condemned person. The close relatives of an executed prisoner, who generally do not have anything to do with the crime, could feel, as a result of the death penalty, the same dreadful sense of loss as the victim’s parents felt at the death of their loved one.

10 – Death Penalty goes against the religious and humanist values that are common to all humanity. Human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent.

11. The convicted has a family.

  A mother, who commited no crime and suffers even more than the convicted man, what is her crime ? Her loving son or daughter ? Is she less of a mother than the victim’s mother ? Sometimes baby sons and daughters, or worse ; in an age where they realize what is going on…old grandmothers who die of grief, is that fair ?

12. Scientists are studying the brain of violent criminals and finding out that their brain chemistry is different, and therefore they are unable to feel regret, even facing death… So where is the punishment if he or she never regrets ? Isn’t that the goal of death penalty ?

13. Many countries condemn children to death too.

 Boys with 14 years of age or less… Children are sacred anywhere, it is scaring and inhuman enough for an adult, a child has a whole life ahead to realize his or her mistake…

14. Death penalty is expensive to the public exchequer and money spent there should not be used to killing people, but to heal them, to help those sick : whether the convicted or other citizens by public health measures.

15. A crime should not be punished with another.

The State has to give the good example.

16. In the cost/benefits balance the «against» arguments certainly are heavier !

Since it is expensive and does not achieve any of its goals : punishment/regret or crime dissuasion, besides the fact that it punishes those around the convicted sine no man is an island, and if it is, there should be understanding to him or her, sympathizing with one who has suffered much already…

17. Many of these men and women are judged for 5 minutes, 30 minutes of their liveswhere they made a mistake, their personal history is ignored and not seen with wisdom as law should do.

18. It may in fact encourage crime because you can only apply death penalty once, and so killing on, two, or ten : the price is the same, so if the murder gets caught for one he gets caught for all.

19. It also encourages crime because the family of the executed, namely sons and daughters, may increase their hate towards the State, the victims family, and may wanna do justice their way…


BY Laurence Meylemans


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