Is the death penalty morally acceptable?
Arguments against the death penalty
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights grants everyone the right to life and states: "Nobody may be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." The death penalty violates these basic human rights.
Killing can never be fair, even if it is ordered by the state. A state cannot legally prohibit killing and kill itself at the same time. The international human rights norms that protect the life of every human being take precedence over national law.
There is no such thing as a “humane” form of the death penalty. Every method of execution has only one purpose: to wipe out a life. The death penalty denies a person the opportunity to atone for an act through reparation, repentance, and reform.
The death penalty does not prevent crime. Scientific studies have failed to provide any evidence that the death penalty is supposed to be a deterrent. In Canada, for example, the homicide rate has decreased since the death penalty was abolished.
In the United States, on the other hand, the homicide rate is higher in the states with the death penalty than in those that have abolished them. In order to prevent crime effectively, a high rate of investigation into crimes and a fair, fast and consistently working judicial system are required.
Errors of justice and wrong judgments can never be completely ruled out. Once executed, a death sentence is irreversible. Since 1973, 164 people sentenced to death have been released in the United States after their innocence had been proven (as of March 2019. Source: Death Penalty Information Center).
The exact number of proven misjudgments, errors of justice and executions of innocent people is controversial. False confessions, false statements by witnesses and incorrect reports can determine the outcome of the process and thus lead to a judicial murder.
In addition, in some countries there is no right to a solid defense of the accused in capital punishment proceedings and there is no right of appeal.
The death penalty is disproportionately used against the poor or members of minorities. In the USA, the proportion of Afro-Americans sentenced to death is disproportionately high. In Saudi Arabia it often affects guest workers.
States often satisfy populist thirst for revenge with the death penalty - not infrequently with public show trials and mass executions, such as in Iran or China.
Most executions are not carried out for violent crimes but for political reasons. The death penalty makes it easy for those in power to get rid of people who are unpopular. There are death sentences for homosexuality (Nigeria, Saudi Arabia), drug offenses (Indonesia, Malaysia) or for theft, corruption or tax offenses (China).
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