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Posted: January 25th, 2024

Capital Punishment: A Violation of Human Rights?

Capital Punishment: A Violation of Human Rights?

Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is the practice of executing a person as a punishment for a crime. It is one of the most controversial and debated issues in the world, with many arguments for and against it. Some of the questions that arise are: Is capital punishment a violation of human rights? What crimes deserve capital punishment? How effective is capital punishment as a deterrent to crime? In this blog post, we will explore these questions and examine the pros and cons of capital punishment.

Is Capital Punishment a Violation of Human Rights?

One of the main arguments against capital punishment is that it violates the right to life, which is a fundamental human right. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the United Nations in 1948, “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person” (Article 3). Moreover, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, ratified by 173 countries, states that “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life” (Article 6). Therefore, capital punishment may be seen as a form of arbitrary killing that disregards the dignity and worth of human beings.

Another argument against capital punishment is that it violates the right to a fair trial, which is also a basic human right. According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone charged with a penal offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty according to law in a public trial at which he has had all the guarantees necessary for his defence” (Article 11). However, capital punishment may involve wrongful convictions, due to human error, bias, corruption, or lack of evidence. According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences, at least 4.1% of defendants sentenced to death in the United States are innocent (Gross et al., 2014). This means that innocent people may be executed for crimes they did not commit, which is a grave injustice and a violation of their right to a fair trial.

What Crimes Deserve Capital Punishment?

Another question that arises is what crimes deserve capital punishment. Different countries have different laws and criteria for imposing the death penalty. According to Amnesty International, as of 2020, 106 countries have abolished capital punishment for all crimes, 8 countries have abolished it for ordinary crimes only, 28 countries are abolitionist in practice (meaning they have not executed anyone for at least 10 years), and 56 countries are retentionist (meaning they still use capital punishment) (Amnesty International, 2020). Among the retentionist countries, some of the most common crimes punishable by death are murder, terrorism, treason, espionage, drug trafficking, rape, and kidnapping. However, some countries also impose the death penalty for crimes that are not considered serious or violent by international standards, such as apostasy, blasphemy, adultery, homosexuality, and witchcraft.

The question of what crimes deserve capital punishment is not only a legal one, but also a moral one. Some people may argue that capital punishment is justified for certain heinous crimes that cause great harm and suffering to the victims and society. They may claim that capital punishment is a proportional and deserved response to such crimes, and that it expresses society’s condemnation and outrage. They may also claim that capital punishment serves as a deterrent to potential offenders, by instilling fear and preventing them from committing similar crimes.

However, other people may argue that capital punishment is never justified for any crime, no matter how serious or atrocious. They may claim that capital punishment is an inhumane and barbaric practice that lowers society’s moral standards and devalues human life. They may also claim that capital punishment is not an effective deterrent to crime,


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