It Is Time To Abolish The Death Penalty


The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It is a premeditated and cold blooded killing of a human being by a state. This cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment is done in the name of justice. It is barbaric and violates the right to life as proclaimed in the Universal Declaration of human rights.

Amnesty International, which opposes the death penalty in all cases without exception, reports that in 2008 at least 2,390 people were executed worldwide. As in previous years, the five countries with the highest number of executions in 2008 were China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and the United States. Together, these five countries carried out 93 percent of all executions carried out worldwide in 2008. These countries provide the greatest challenge for the push towards global abolition of the death penalty.

While most countries in the world have abolished the death penalty either by law or in practice, the United States remains a notable and disturbing exception. Today, more than 3,000 prisoners in the US are on death row; most of them are too poor to pay for legal representation of their choice.

In April, the US Supreme Court issued a decision that execution by lethal injection did not violate the US Constitution. Executions resumed in May after a seven months hiatus. Since the United States resumed judicial killing in 1977, 1,136 people have been put to death.

The Supreme Court decision, last April, is notable for the dissent opinion expressed by Justice John Paul Stevens, who has served on the Court since 1975, and has therefore witnessed the entire shift of policy towards the death penalty in the United States. Justice Stevens wrote, in his dissent, that his experience had led him to the conclusion that “the imposition of the death penalty represents the pointless and needless extinction of life with only marginal contributions to any discernible social or public purposes. A penalty with such negligible returns to the state is patently excessive and cruel and unusual punishment.” Justice Stevens also added that “racial discrimination continued to play an unacceptable role in capital cases”.

President Obama will be visiting China in a couple of days, and a lot of human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, are putting pressure on him to address China’s despicable records on human rights. However, considering that both countries have the same backward and brutal policy on the issue of the death penalty, it makes it difficult for any American president to lecture a country such as China on human rights.

America should not be called “a shinning city upon a hill whose beacon light guides freedom-loving people everywhere” until the death penalty is abolished. Further, the social Christian conservatives in America, who are so adamant in their pro-life stand against abortion; are, at large, supporters of the death penalty. And most do not even comprehend this blatant philosophical contradiction.


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