At the dawn of the 21st century, the death penalty is considered by
most civilized nations as a cruel and inhuman punishment. It has been
abolished de jure or de facto by 106 nations, 30 countries have
abolished it since 1990. However, the death penalty continues to be
commonly applied in other nations. China, the Democratic Republic of
Congo, the United States and Iran are the most prolific executioners
in the world. Indeed, the US is one of six countries (including also
Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Yemen) which executes people
who were under 18 years-old at the time they committed their crimes.
While international documents have restricted and in some cases even
banned the death penalty, its application is still not against
customary international law. Much debate continues in the US as to
whether it constitutes an appropriate punishment, at least to the most
heinous crimes. In recent years, the debate has been further fuelled
by the use of new technologies, which have shown that a large
proportion of people sentenced to death are, indeed, innocent.
The death penalty is no more effective a deterrent than life
imprisonment... It is also evident that the burden of capital
punishment falls upon the poor, the ignorant and the underprivileged
members of society."
- United States Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.
Each year since 1976, three more countries a year have added their
names to the list of countries that have abolished the death penalty.
A majority of nations have ended capital punishment in law or
The United Nations Human Right...
... middle of paper ...
...hought to what will happen to them
when in the heat of the moment they pick up the carving knife?
It is unlikely that a handful of executions a year will have any real
deterrent effect particularly on the people whom society would most
like to be deterred, e.g. serial killers, multiple rapists and drugs
barons. Yet these particular criminals are the least likely to be
executed, the serial killers will be found insane and the drug barons
will use any means to avoid conviction e.g. intimidation of witnesses.
So we go back to the situation where only "sane" murderers can be
executed. Thus a modern day Ruth Ellis might also hang because she was
sane, whilst Beverley Allitt, who murdered four small children, would
be reprieved after because she has Munchausen's Syndrome by Proxy, or
so she and certain psychiatrists claim.
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