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Last Man Hanging: Newsletter debate

When I was asked to write a short 300 word piece for the Newsletter on the Death Penalty, ( see below) I didn't know that my opponent would be no less that Ian Junior. Now I am used to be called a "wishy washy liberal", in fact I am proud to be called a liberal, but I think that any one who has had dealings with me knows there is nothing wishy-washy about me, or indeed my "human rights industry" colleagues.

 It actually takes a fair amount of resiliance  and steel to consistently challenge what is all too often received opinion, and sometimes it can be exhausting. To change society and shift public opinion sometimes means that we have to take unpopular positions, it just takes time and patience. However these often become the majority view. Think women's suffrage or even attitudes to drink driving. I have very confidence that the tide of world opinion has turned on the death penalty, even in the US. Read the Newsltter article below:

 In 1961 it was still accepted – and indeed expected – that the brutal murder of Pearl Gamble by Robert McGladdery would result in the latter’s execution by hanging. Even today, support for the death penalty is an understandable reaction by some to the anger and fear caused by violent crime and the belief that executions can deter criminality. 

Yet the belief is mistaken.

The death penalty has never been shown to be an effective deterrent against crime. In fact in the USA, where the death penalty was reintroduced in 1976, it seems to have had no impact on the rise of violent crime. Thirty years on, those States like Texas which use the death penalty still have the highest murder rates in the country.

The death penalty is nothing more than State-sanctioned killing in the name of justice. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and reduces the State (all of us, if you like) to the level of the cold-blooded killer.

Last year at least 1,250 people – possibly thousands more – were executed by some 24 countries. Our research worldwide shows that it is often inflicted on the innocent, and is used disproportionately against ethnic minorities, the poorest and least powerful within those countries.

Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases and we campaign for its abolition worldwide. It is a battle we are winning. On average, every year another two countries end executions. The tide of history has turned and those countries – like China, Saudi Arabia and the United States – still executing their own citizens are in an ever-diminishing minority.

Far from contemplating any return to the bad old days of flogging and hanging, Northern Ireland should celebrate being part of the civilised majority and should encourage others to follow suit.

 You can join the Newsletter debate.




About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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