Executions in 2013: min. 778 plus 'thousands' in China

Arguments For and Against Capital Punishment


For: Against:
Capital punishment has a deterrent effect. Fear of the death penalty will keep potential murderers from committing the crime. Research has failed to provide valid scientific proof that capital punishment has a deterrent effect. In fact, U.S. states that abolished the death penalty have lower homicide rates than retentionist states, as do countries without the death penalty.

In 18th century England even pickpocketing was punishable by hanging. Public hangings of pickpockets would often serve as an excellent opportunity for other pickpockets to pursue their 'trade' in the throngs, thus at best proving pointless the alleged deterrent effect.

In order to find what causes criminal behavior one has to look at the complex psychological and social circumstances of human existence. To think this issue could be solved with the death penalty would be naïve.

A good example for the positive effects of its abolition is the case of Canada: Since capital punishment was abolished there the murder rate has decreased by some 24% compared to the time when it was still applied.


For: Against:
"An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth". Justice means to give someone a taste of their own medicine. If we give back to the perpetrator what he gave the victim, we would prove to be no better than the offender. For example, we do not rape a rapist nor do we do cause bodily harm to a person guilty of assault.

Executing a perpetrator neither abates nor undoes a crime. The sole necessity of an execution is to meet the need for retaliation, which in itself is neither necessary or morally just.  A nation that alleges its morally superior must avoid acting in the very same way the criminal and act in a way that is not only legal but moral.

The "eye for an eye" passage from the Old Testament,  has been misinterpreted time and again. It is not a call for retribution but proportionality in order to  limit excessive punishments.  It also dates back to times rife with blood vengeance. The New Testament refutes vengeance and calls for forgiveness, restoration, and reconciliation.

Terrorism is different

For: Against:
Terrorists attack a nation and human society at their roots, thereby threatening the continued existence of modern civilization and cultures. The death penalty does not deter any terrorist from committing terrorist acts. Terrorists fanatically believe in what they do and the brutality they often apply is an effort to martyr themselves for for their cause, which for them is a means of "salvation."

If we argue that an offender ought to be executed not because his or her crime was especially cruel but because of his political views, we suggest that offenders committing equally cruel albeit non-political criminal acts should not get the death penalty.  This in turn would mean we punish an offender for his political views as opposed to his criminal action. (Douwe Korff, Max-Planck-Institut, Freiburg, Germany)

Additionally, the prospect of getting the death penalty may even be rather appealing to terrorists who may hope for becoming a martyr at the same time furthering the causes of their groups.

Protection of society

For: Against:
An executed offender can never again commit murder ("specific deterrence"). Society can not be protected by incarceration as the perpetrator may kill if he is released from prison or harm fellow inmates or officers. Data have failed to prove that 'once a killer, always a killer'. Additionally, Incarceration is equally effective at protecting society.
More importantly, capital punishment does not provide "general deterrence," that which deters others from killing.

Undoubtedly, society needs to be protected from dangerous individuals. In this day and age, incarceration is an equally effective option. 

States have a duty to recognize the santity of all life and foster that principle to all their citizens. Therefore, they are not morally entitled to violate people's right to life just to satisfy some alleged need for safety.  

In particular, media coverage and pertinent fiction have added to the commonly shared view that death row houses mainly serial killers. However, pathological killers of the likes of Hannibal Lecter are clearly the exception.

Costs for life in prison

For: Against:
Hardened criminals have it nice and easy in a “cushy” environment with TV and gaves, and are fed with taxpayers' money. We should not waste taxpayers’ money on lenthy incarceration. Currently, in the US the costs for an execution from start of trial until death warrant is enforced exceed by far the costs for a life sentence.

Any humane society is a community based on the principle of mutual solidarity and it is required to provide the resources needed for dealing with its offenders. However, the financial aspect, especially when provoked by base motives such as resentment or revenge, must never be rated as highly as the legal principle of inviolability of human life. To set off costs against a human life can only be described as a mean and disrespectful attitude.

Public opinion

For: Against:
In a democratic system the will of the people has to be heeded - in most US states the majority favour capital punishment. Public opinion is dangerous by nature, as 'opinion' is not an equivalent to knowledge. Human instinct must not be disavowed, however, when it comes to institutions such as the legal system decisions ought not to be based on it.

In general, the public is uninformed or misinformed about the facts of the death penalty. The more superficially and the less informed the public is the more radically it will judge. A large majority of experts (criminologists, criminal law experts, lawyers, sociologists, psychologists, judges and district attorneys) favours worldwide abolition of the death penalty. From the above explanations you can easily see the obvious reasons for this attitude.

Death Penalty world-wide

There are still 46 countries and territories which keep capital punishment in their law and carried out executions in the past 10 years, among these countries are also the USA and Japan.

We want to give you a short overview over the death penalty world-wide here.



In our shop we offer miscellaneous articles which you can use to demonstrate your rejection of the death penalty in public. There are t-shirts, sweaters and jackets in different forms and colors, but also cups, bags, baseball caps and buttons.