Death penalty

The death penalty has now been abolished by 106 countries across the world.

56 governments still claim their right to execute felons if a court of law finds them guilty for heinous crimes such as murder, terrorism, treason and espionage. Guidelines for execution are broad and vary from country to country.

Calls from political groups for reinstatement of the death penalty often make headlines in instances of mass murder, aggravated rape, hijacking, piracy and drug trafficking.

Those in favour of abolishing the death sentence cite cases of people who despite having proclaimed their innocence, have been executed and only later was it discovered they were innocent. The death sentence is final so before sentencing, a judge must have incontrovertible evidence regarding the guilt of the accused.

Public calls for the death penalty often occur as a consequence of terrorist attacks and mass murders. Campaigners believe that with no respect for the loss of human life, offenders should receive the same punishment.

Perhaps of most concern regarding countries where the death penalty is enforceable is that a corrupt government could fabricate charges of treason against political dissidents to remove opposition.

It’s logical to assume that serious crime rates will fall if the death sentence is a consequence, but studies do not seem to corroborate this view. However, countries like China where the death penalty is in operation do manage to control the population through fear. 

The death penalty may be enforced by hanging, lethal injection, firing squad or beheading. While the process may be as fast and painless as is humanely possible, mental anguish will occur in the lead up to the execution.

Death sentences can also be turned into a public spectacle.  In some Islamic states, public beheadings or hangings are carried out and shared online which may violate a person’s right to die with dignity and in private.

When Canada abolished the death penalty in 1974 instead of murder rates rising, they fell to a new low in 2016 that was equivalent to 50 years previously in 1966. Does the death penalty create a better society?