The extent of misuse of the death penalty is another reason that calls for its abolition. In the political context, the death penalty has often been used to eliminate opponents and suppress popular uprisings. Here, the question of fairness in making the judgment becomes a very subjective one. What is punishable by death for one political regime could very well be deemed a heroic act of valor for another. The labeling of the act therefore depends very much on the actors and the circumstances and the environment in which they operate.
That is the reason why people who are executed are often subsequently turned into martyrs. It happened in Hitler’s Germany, in India and in South Africa. It is happening in Iraq, in Afghanistan, in Serbia and in many other places wherever two groups of people look at the world with conflicting perspectives. Take the example of Saddam Hussien. Richard Dicker’s, director of Human Rights Watch’s International Justice Program, was a rational voice when he said , “Saddam Hussein was responsible for massive human rights violations, but that can’t justify giving him the death penalty, which is a cruel and inhuman punishment.
” (Human Rights Watch) A November 2006 report by Human Rights Watch pointed out numerous serious flaws in the trial of Saddam Hussein. Among other defects, the report found that Iraqi government actions had all along undermined the Iraqi High Tribunal and threatened its independence and perceived impartiality. Handing Saddam Hussein the death penalty has been viewed by a large section of the world as a measure made necessary by the prevailing political and military situation rather than a quest for justice.
There is also a very strong view in the United States that the application of the death sentence is racially discriminatory. Studies have been conducted to examine the relationship between race and death penalty in all the states that where the death penalty is still active. The Capital Punishment Project reports that 96% studies found a pattern of either race-of-victim or race-of-defendant discrimination. Of those executed since 1976, approximately 35% have been black, even though blacks constitute only 12% of the population.
It has been found that the odds of receiving a death sentence are almost four times higher if the defendant is black. The Amnesty International has also asserted that races does have an impact on capital punishment, and that the judicial system of the United States have been able to do precious little about it. Amnesty International has attributed this failure of the courts and legislatures of the USA to act decisively at the face of evidence that race has an impact on the death sentence to a collective ‘blind faith’ that America will never waver on the ‘non-negotiable’ demands of human dignity including ‘equal justice.
’ Even if the death penalty was justifiable, there is compelling evidence that its implementation falls far short of the standards of fairness expected. There is a tendency to use this extreme measure as an intimidating factor by the powerful forces of the world to assert themselves and to wrongfully dominate and suppress others. The world is coming around The good news is that the world at large is coming together to prove that the death penalty is an unacceptable proposition.
The United Nations has declared itself in favour of abolition. Two-thirds of the countries of the world have now abolished the death penalty in law or in practice. In the United States itself, 13 states are now without the death penalty. The latest information from Amnesty International shows that: i. 90 countries and territories have abolished the death penalty for all crimes; ii. 11 countries have abolished the death penalty for all but exceptional crimes such as wartime crimes; iii.
30 countries can be considered abolitionist in practice: they retain the death penalty in law but have not carried out any executions for the past 10 years or more and are believed to have a policy or established practice of not carrying out executions, iv. a total of 131 countries have abolished the death penalty in law or practice, v. 66 other countries and territories retain and use the death penalty, but the number of countries which actually execute prisoners in any one year is much smaller. The debate over capital punishment has raged on long enough.
The world is finally showing the door to the death penalty. In doing so, it is stating in no uncertain terms that the sanctity of life of a fellow human being is above the purview of all man-made laws. That only the giver of life has the right to take it back.
1. Amnesty international, “United States of America, Death by discrimination – the continuing role of race in capital cases”, April 24, 2003. Library, Online Documentation Archive. November 10, 2007 <http://web. amnesty. org/library/index/engamr510462003 >