Why the death penalty is wrong!
As human rights activists we all strongly believe in the values contained within the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Therefore when I read an article in the Belfast Telegraph with a rather muddled argument that the death penalty should be supported( Sharon Owens, "Despite its awful history, I'd sometimes back the death penalty", Belfast telegraph, 5th August 2009) I feel the need to respond and point out the ignorance to this view.
We at Amnesty believe the death penalty can have no place in our modern criminal justice system. It brutalises society and breeds contempt for human life. To justify its use is to give the state the power to become a premeditated and cold-blooded killer, all in the name of 'justice'. Do we have a fool-proof justice system where the verdict is right 100% of the time?Did the Birmingham Six never happen? We must oppose the death penalty in all cases without exception regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to kill the prisoner.
We know all criminal justice systems are vulnerable to discrimination and error. Expediency, discretionary decisions and prevailing public opinion may influence the proceedings at every stage from the intial arrest through to verdict and sentencing. As Amnesty knows, the reality of the death penalty worldwide-from China to Saudi Arabia to the United States- is that what determines who shall be executed and who shall be spared is often not only the nature of the crimes but also the ethnic and social background, the financial means or the political opinions of the defendant. The death penalty is used disproportionately against the poor, the powerless, the marginalised or those whom repressive governments deem it expedient to eliminate.
As Human Rights activists can we afford not to shout loudly in protest of such articles? For once a person has been sentenced to death it cannot be remedied or undone. Whether executions take place within hours of a summary trail or after years of protracted legal proceedings, states will continue to execute people who are later found to be innocent. But by then its too late.
So I say to all human rights supporters, the time has come to abolish the death penalty worldwide. Step up and shout about governments violating two fundamental human rights; the right to life (Article 3); and the right not to be tortured or subject to any cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment (Article 5). Lets make our voice heard!
Amnesty International Belfast
Belfast Telegraph Article
Amnesty end the death penalty campaign
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.