The death sentence is a sentence issued to effect the killing of a person as punishment for crimes, which is called the death penalty.
The death penalty or capital punishment is an act of the government in which a person is executed to punish them for a crime after a law court finds them guilty of the charges brought against them.
Many crimes could lead to a death penalty. Offenses such as murder, espionage, treason, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing such as genocides are all punishable by death penalty.
According to Wikipedia, 56 countries still carry out capital punishment, 103 countries have completely repealed it from their laws, and 30 countries maintain an abolitionist stance, while sixcountries have removed it for regular crimes but still retain it for situations such as war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The death penalty is a source of global argument and controversy, with many people and groups agitating for and against the practice. Countries such as China, India, Indonesia and the United States make some of the most prominent countries in the world still practising the death penalty. The United Nations General Assembly for many years has adopted non-binding resolutions which called for a global moratorium on capital punishment as a step toward the complete abolition of the practice.
When is Death Penalty Applied?
The history of humanity is replete with stories of executions as a form of punishment, atonement for sins, and so on. Some religions sanction the death penalty as the punishment for some crimes. The death penalty may be due to a serious civilian crime or a military crime. In countries that still execute their prisoners, the death penalty may be issued because a person was found guilty of murder, espionage, crimes against humanity, treason, and war crimes.
In the military, soldiers may be executed if a court martial finds themguilty of desertion, cowardice, mutiny, and insubordination. Furthermore, some countries such as China punish state officials guilty of wanton corruption with the death penalty, while countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and China also execute drug traffickers. In Islamic countries that practice Sharia law, the death penalty may be used to punish adultery, incest, sodomy, homosexuality, apostasy, blasphemy, and witchcraft. Also, in some countries with a heavy incidence of kidnapping, human trafficking and rape, the death penalty is used to punish these crimes to deter others from towing the same line and as a form of retribution.
Death Penalty In USA. Broden & Mickelsen
Methods of Execution
The method of executed prisoners on death row varies in different countries. They include:
- Lethal Injection: China, Guatemala, Thailand, United States, and Vietnam use this method of execution.
- Beheading: Saudi Arabia uses this.
- Shooting: China, Taiwan, North Korea, Yemen, Belarus, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Oklahoma and Utah states of the United States.
- Hanging: Used by many countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Washington State of the United States of America.
- Electrocution and gas inhalation: Used by some US states when lethal injection is not available or if the prisoner requests it.
Worldwide, the death penalty is a constant source of rancor among many pro and con right groups and governments. For some rights groups such as the Amnesty International which has been fighting against capital punishment since 1977, the death penalty is an inhuman, degrading, and cruel practice. Many opponents of the practice argue that death penalty does not deter others from committing crime, as available crime statistics show that executing criminals has no significant effect on the rate of serious crimes.
There have been calls from some human rights activists that most people on death row are the poor and downtrodden in the society who can’t afford good lawyers who can give them a fighting chance in court. Some activists against death penalty say that the practice is biased as it affects more offenders from minorities, and in fact, researchers have been able to prove this biase against black American offenders in cases where the defendant was white.
Others feel that the practice is the worse violation of the human right, as it denies the victim the right to live.
Supporters of the death sentence believe that the practice is a just retribution for serious crimes such as murder, war crimes, genocide, rape, and others.
They argue that the offender must also made to feel the pain of the victim, especially in the case of murder or multiple killings of innocent people.
Wrong Death Sentences: The case against the death penalty
One of the main arguments put forward by abolitionists is the issue of wrong death sentences, as there are many cases where prisoners were executed for crimes they never committed. During the last decade, many prisoners have been acquitted of their death sentences after new evidence emerged which exonerated them of the crimes they were accused of committing.
DNA testing from the sites of many crimes have led to the release of 159 death row inmates in the United States alone!
There have been many cases where the court was presented with compelling evidence to support the innocence of an accused, but the court still proceeded to issue a death sentence. In some cases, death sentences were issued after trials in a biased court, and some death penalty are issued deliberately to punish political opponents of some regimes. All these reasons and more cast a lot of doubt on the effectiveness and necessity of the death sentence as a form of punishment for crimes.
Feature Image – en.prothom-alo