In various parts of the world, a variety of opinions have been expressed regarding capital punishment. Capital punishment “also known as the death penalty, is a state-sanctioned practise of putting a person to death as a punishment for a crime. The sentence order that an offender is to be punished in such a manner is known as a death sentence, and the act of carrying out the sentence is known as an execution” [Source].
Origins of such a judgement are linked to an assessment by the lawmakers in which they would not find a better punishment for a person who had committed a heinous crime. In a world where life imprisonment exists, giving the death penalty would that the criminal might have committed an unforgivable and unforgettable crime against humanity.
History records reveal that capital punishment has been in existence for a very long time and can be traced back to a period where people were executed through “boiling to death, flaying, slow slicing, crucifixion, impalement, crushing, disembowelment, stoning, burning, decapitation, dismemberment and scaphism” [Source]. Modern trends of executing a person include hanging, lethal injection or electrocution, and these have been used on popular convicted persons such as Saddam Hussein.
This issue is so sensitive to the extent of dividing the whole world into two, with others supporting capital punishment and some opposing it completely. Such a debate was also necessitated by vast religious views in which people have different belief systems. The world is currently marred by equal rights, tolerance, equality, and human rights movements that have sparked heated discussions on this subject.
“Those in support of capital punishment believe it deters crimes and, more often than not, believe that certain crimes eliminate one’s right to life”. For instance, people would agree that Hussein might have deserved the death penalty since he killed about 250 000+ people, and one can only imagine what would happen if people came across Hitler or Mussolini. Osama Binladen and Pablo Escobar are two figures who were shot on the spot because their crimes were thought to be huge in terms of murdering innocent people. Recently, Colombian forces captured a drug trafficker, kingpin Dairo “Otoniel” Antonio Usuga, who was causing havoc in the country for a long time. These crimes seem like “too much” for societies, and others might call for the needle.
Stemming from the bible verse Matthew chapter 26 vs 52: “Live by the sword, die by the sword”, supporters of the death penalty believe in this judgement.
Those who oppose capital punishment argue “that any person, including the government, has no right to take a life for any reason. They often believe that living with one’s crime is a worse punishment than death and that the threat of capital punishment will not deter a person from committing a crime”.
Also, the system is meant to punish or rehabilitate a person to change, but the death penalty betrays this mission of rehabilitating criminals. Mistrials are a common feature in this world, and since capital punishment is a judgement, there are risks of killing the wrong person, which cannot be reversed. Human rights activists argue that there are no universal crimes or principles of criminality that qualify one for the death penalty, meaning every death penalty is based on the context. Because of this, it is so easy for lawmakers to be persuaded towards being biased, especially if the story attracts a lot of attention, like the George Floyd incident, which saw an uproar globally. Thus, there might be no fairness in giving certain judgements. Bias in using this punishment method is also linked to certain governments who are quick to execute people who commit treason or plan a coup, which means they do not weigh other options but go for “murder”.
Surveys revealed that most people support the death penalty when the crime involved is linked to murder, but the use of punishment is declining worldwide as people now see it as a human rights violation [Source].
According to Amnesty International, 483 executions were recorded in 18 countries in 2020, and it is a decrease of 26% from 657, which was recorded in the previous year [Source]. Only 16 women were among these executions. It was noted that China is the world’s leading executioner, but the figures are not known as these executions are classified under state security secrets. By the end of 2020, 108 countries had abolished capital punishment in law for all crimes and “144 countries had abolished the death penalty in law or practice,” showing how people are now moving away from the ‘an eye for an eye mentality.
However, several countries still have people on death row, and the Justice Departments will make sure these inmates are executed.