Death Penalty

Death Chamber

In 2006, the death penalty has not been routinely applied in any democratic country, but the United States of America. It still exists in Japan and India, yet executions are rare there (one in India in 2004, none since then). Philippines abolished the death penalty for all crimes in June 2006.

Death penalty is forbidden in all countries inside the European Union. Its abolition is even a mandatory criterion for application.

According to Amnesty International, at least 2,148 people were executed in 22 countries in 2005, among whom 1,770 people  in China. True figures are probably much higher thoug, since Chinese statistics on death penalty are classified as a state secret. Iran executed at least 94 people, and Saudi Arabia at least 86. There were 60 executions in the USA, bringing the total to 1004 executed in this country since the use of the death penalty was resumed in 1977.

International treaties prohibit to sentence to death or execute people under 18 years old at the time of the crime. Most countries whose laws still provide for the death penalty specifically exclude the execution of child offenders. Since 1990 however, eight countries executed young people: China, Congo (DR), Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, USA and Yemen. China, Pakistan USA and Yemen have now changed their law and raised the minimum age for the death penalty to 18. Yet the USA and Iran have each executed more child offenders than the other six countries combined.

Scientific studies have consistently failed to find convincing evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than other punishments. Statistics show that abolition does not have harmful effect on the curve of crime; for instance, in Canada where death penalty was abolished in 1976, the homicide rate per 100,000 population fell from 3.09 in 1975, to 2.41 in 1980, and 1.73 in 2003.

The persistence of death penalty is not that surprising in countries such as China, Saudi Arabia or Iran, that are not democracies. It is a stain for the USA. Death penalty is not only barbaric, it is unfair. Whether you receive the death penalty in the USA depends not so much on what you have done, but:

— where you committed your crime: the use of the death penalty not only varies from state to state (12 US states have no death penalty) but from jurisdiction to jurisdiction within a state.
— what colour your skin is: repeated studies have shown a pattern of racial discrimination in the administration of the sentence. For example, among the 205 people executed for inter-racial murders in the USA, 193 were black defendants charged with killing a white person, while only 12 were white defendants charged with killing a black individual.
— and how much money you have: 90% of defendants are too poor to hire their own lawyer, so most rely on overworked court-appointed lawyers.

Proved lack of efficiency as a deterrent, unfairness, knowlegde that innocent people were killed, and 'simply' untenable notion of legal murder of individuals by a state on an ethical point of view: isn't it enough?

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