Five reasons why 17 Indians in the United Arab Emirates shouldnt be executed

Reading about the 17 Indians sentenced to death in the UAE after an alleged gang attack where someone was stabbed repeatedly (shades of the Victoria Station school attack), you might think … OK, fair enough. They had it coming. Merciless gang violence – if ever there was a case for at least limited use of capital punishment, this is it. Isn’t it? 
I don’t think so. OK, this is an Amnesty blog. I’m not going to say how it’s a jolly good thing to kill people in the name of justice. But here are five reasons why a death penalty supporter should change their minds:
1. The majority of people condemned to death don’t even get fair trials. In UAE, for example, unfair trials are common. So is torturing people into making false confessions used in convictions. This means that people facing death sentences can typically range from those who are totally innocent to those who could easily have received a less harsh sentence if it wasn’t for judicial malpractice, arbitrariness, bias or a host of other problems. Know any perfect justice systems? No, nor me.
2. The death penalty is not a deterrent. Though some people like to say we need “tough” penalties like capital punishment to deter would-be criminals, having a noose or a lethal injection chamber in your justice system doesn’t make society safer. The UN has analysed this issue internationally and found … no evidence whatsoever that the death penalty is a unique deterrent.
3. The death penalty is cruel and unworthy of a modern justice system. However you dress it up, extinguishing a life is an extreme act, always involving a certain amount of physical and/or psychological pain. Add in the anguish of incarceration on death row (an appointment with death) and you have a man-made hell.
4. The death penalty is irreversible. Made a mistake? It’s too late to fix it.
5. The death penalty is often politicised. The UAE case involves alleged turf wars over illicit alcohol production. Something very similar was said of a group of Westerners sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia nearly 10 years ago. It turned out that the authorities had essentially framed those concerned to cover up a spate of al-Qa’dia-related terrorism attacks that were embarrassing to the government. Similarly, last year protestors in Iran didn’t just get beaten up in the streets by government militia; some of them were also put on trial for “enmity against god” offences, sentenced to death and executed.
Well, that’s five of many reasons against it. If you’re still not convinced, there are more counter-arguments in my previous posts here, here, here, here and here (I’ve actually blogged on the topic about 20 other times as well, but I’ll spare you those!)
For up-to-date death penalty information on a country-by-country basis, see Amnesty’s new figures, out today.
And if you’re STILL not convinced, well post a comment here and I’ll reply.


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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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