The Death Penalty
Human rights are fundamental rights which every human being is
entitled to just because they are human.
The death penalty is the ultimate, irreversible denial of human
rights. It is the cold blooded killing of a human being in the name of
‘justice’. In 1948, the United Nations adopted the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights; in Articles 3 and 5 it states that “no
one shall be subjected to cruel or degrading punishment and everyone
has the right to life and liberty”. The death penalty violates both of
these fundamental rights.
The United Nations Rights Commission (UNHRC) has passed a resolution
calling for all nations that continue executions, to restrict the
number of offenses for which the death penalty may be imposed and to
suspend executions with a view towards abolishing the death penalty.
While most nations have abolished the death penalty in law or
practice, the US is one of few industrialized countries in the world
which continues to execute criminals. The US accounts for the highest
number of executions; 65 people were executed in 2003, bringing a
total of 885 prisoners put to death since the US Supreme Court lifted
a moratorium on executions in 1976.
In the US, the death penalty is often promoted as a way to deter
violence and make society safer. Yet, states with the death penalty
have consistently had a much higher rate than those without the death
penalty. Those who promote abolition of capital punishment often point
to the homicide rate as evidence that the death penalty is
ineffective. Those who support the death penalty often point out that
the death penalty is badly needed in their states to prevent the
murder rate from being even higher.
There are 3 international instruments in force which commit State
parties to not have the death penalty. They are:
- The Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil
and Political Rights aiming at abolition of the death penalty, which
has now been ratified by 53 states. Nine other states have signed the
Protocol, indicating their intention to become parties to it at a
- Protocol No. 6 to the European Convention for the Protection of
Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms concerning the abolition of the
death penalty, which has now been ratified by 44 European states and
signed by one other; and the
- Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to Abolish the
Death Penalty, which has been ratified by eight states.
Protocol No. 6 concerns the abolition of the death penalty in
peacetime, whereas the other two protocols provide for the total
abolition of the death penalty but allow States wishing to do so to
keep the death penalty in wartime.
A recent study found African American defendants were almost 4 times
more likely to receive the death...