British High Commission Banjul recognises world day against the death penalty 2013
The folowing article joint signed by the British High Commission in Banjul and the EU Delegation in Banjul was today printed in Gambian newspapers to mark the 2013 World Day Against the Death Penalty.
On 10 October, every year, the global community campaigns against use of the death penalty. Many countries all over the world share the aim of worldwide total abolition, and progress is being made: There is a worldwide trend towards abolition: between 1993 and 2012, the number of countries that abolished the death penalty by law for all crimes, grew from 55 to 97. As of December 2012, 140 countries - more than 2/3 of the countries of the world - were abolitionist in law or practice. In 2012, the UN General Assembly’s biennial resolution calling for a moratorium on the death penalty was passed with 111 votes in favour – more than ever before. In the USA, Maryland abolished the death penalty, the 6th US state in six years to do so. Of the 58 retentionist countries, in 2012, only 21 countries/territories were known to have carried out executions, a number which has steadily dropped from 31 in 2002. However, some countries resumed executions after a lengthy de facto moratorium.
In retentionist countries it is legal – but those many, many, countries which have fully abolished its use have done so because they have satisfied themselves, usually for several reasons, that executing people is ineffective. And the reasons are an interesting mix of both moral and practical ones.
Should any State have the absolute power to be able to take peoples’ lives?
Does the death penalty actually do any good or achieve its stated purpose, as a deterrent to violent crime? Evidence shows that capital punishment is not at all a deterrent to serious crime. In fact there is no evidence showing a correlation between use of the death penalty and a decrease in crimes punishable by the penalty itself. There is, however, evidence that disproves this idea. Is it worth it then? Especially when evidence shows that crime does not rise following its abolition.
Doesn’t the death penalty risk the death of an innocent person? And how often has that happened? If the Judiciary gets it wrong, as it sometimes does, the results are irreversible. And no judicial system is perfect, anywhere.
Too often, in the past, the death penalty has been used, worldwide, against the poor, the very young and the very old, the mentally ill and against racial and ethnic minorities, even pregnant mothers. Is this right and fair?
Many murder victims’ families do not themselves want the death penalty carried out against the culprit. It doesn’t bring back the loved one, doesn’t make the family feel any better and often offends against their ethical and religious beliefs. Shouldn’t these views be taken into account?
As well as undermining human dignity, isn’t the use of the death penalty inhuman, cruel and degrading? It fails to provide deterrence to criminal behaviour and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity.
We hope that by posing these questions, readers can decide for themselves whether they think use of the death penalty is appropriate. There are plenty of sources on the Internet for more information and detail on this issue. Here are just a few:
Relevant International Instruments
World-wide: 2nd Optional Protocol to the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) (peacetime);
Ban on the execution of juvenile offenders (ICCPR article 6, Convention on the Rights of the Child article 37).
Recent UN documents
Quinquennial Report of the UN Secretary-General to the UN Economic and Social Council: “Capital punishment and implementation of the safeguards guaranteeing protection of the rights of those facing the death penalty”, 18 December 2009
Report of the UN Secretary-General to the UN General Assembly: “Question of the death penalty”, 16 July 2010
Report of the UN Secretary-General to the UN General Assembly: “Moratoriums on the use of the Death Penalty”, 11 August 2010