For Whom the Bell Tolls
sildenafil serif;”>Darragh Ó Tuathail examines the debate on Capital Punishment
view serif;”>Crime can be a horrible experience, medicine an experience never fully understood by many until they themselves have been some form of victim. It has lasting emotional and physical consequences not just for the victim, but the victim’s family and friends. Some crimes, such as child murder, abuse and serial killings can be so horrific that society screams out for the harshest punishments to be inflicted on the perpetrators. It is because of crimes and monsters like this that in the year 2012, the global community are still having a bitter debate on Capital punishment.
Capital punishment, commonly known as the death penalty, is the most serious and severe punishment set down by a large number of national judicial systems around the World. As of 2012, 58 countries practice the death penalty, however as many countries are rather secretive regarding their domestic policies; it is difficult to accurately determine how many actually carry out the punishment. A number of these 58 countries have strict laws and guidelines regarding the use of the penalty, with Israel only using the sentence twice to kill convicted Nazis.
Around 97 countries have abolished capital punishment, with the European Union being the most widespread and influential example. Under Article Two of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, the death penalty is forbidden in the European Union. Member States must adhere to these laws and countries attempting to join the Union must pass laws abolishing the death penalty. Belarus has remained the only European country to actively practice the punishment and their refusal to debate the issue is one of the main factors in their inability to receive consideration for EU membership. The United Nations General Assembly passed Resolutions 8 and 10 which called for a general suspension of global capital punishment. Similar to other UN Resolutions, these are not binding on any nation state. On top of this, with over 60% of the global population living in countries which practice the punishment (including China, India, USA and India) the likelihood of the UN influencing their judicial system is diminished.
The most famous countries to carry out the death penalty are the United States and China, yet the sheer difference in number of executions is simply staggering. The US, which decides capital punishment state-by-state, executes on average 50 people every year. Although the country is incredibly secretive regarding domestic politics, it is believed China executed up to 5,000 people every year over a whole range of serious and petty crimes. A number of notable cases including foreign nations being executed over drug trafficking in the last few years have highlighted human rights issues in China on a more widespread scale. It would be interesting to question whether or not the Communist system and large population has played a central role in the devaluing of human life and continuation of the death penalty.
Many opponents to the death penalty put forward the argument that putting a prisoner to death is much cheaper than life imprisonment, and although this may be the case in many cases and factors, the figures around the death penalty are quite shocking. With its reinstatement in 1978, California has spent roughly 4 billion dollars on capital punishment (appeals over roughly 10 years and imprisonment); they have executed only 13 prisoners. Recently cost cutting reports in California have stated that the State Government and tax payers could save roughly 170 million dollars every year if capital punishment were to be abolished in 2012, with total savings of 5 billion dollars by 2032.
Many claim that the death penalty deters the population from committing serious crimes and criminals from reoffending, however, there is no evidence to support this claim, with crime rates in the United States clear proof. The old adage of ‘an eye for an eye’ is one of the most commonly used arguments supporting capital punishment and, to a certain degree, one could support this belief. Many would look at murderers and child abusers, demanding that they receive the treatment and pain they carried out on others, with death being the only suitable punishment for people capable for bringing misery to others. However, would life imprisonment in sparse conditions without a chance of parole be a far more effective punishment? The knowledge that you will never leave the prison, stuck with contemplation and hard labour for the rest of your life, certainly would be a far greater mental punishment. For families, knowing the monster that hurt your family is locked up forever would be of great comfort, but for many, a swift end to his/her life would be of greater comfort.
With United Nations resolutions and binding European Union laws, the world appears to be turning to a more safe and humanitarian global community. It is clear that many powerful countries, such as China, may never change their overall attitude towards the death penalty and that the world may be powerful to change their mind. Yet, if the majority of nations around the World lead by example and respect human rights, we may leave this World a better and more respectable place to live in for generations to come.