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

Is the death penalty just retribution for murder?

Quotes from letters:

....... Those who murder or rape children and woman deserve nothing less!!........
....... The death penalty is the only just punishment for murderers, rapists and child molesters.........
....... The death penalty must stay. The murderers must burn and suffer agonizing pain, just as they made their victims suffer......
          

Behind this opinion stands an archaic understanding of penal law in which the purpose of the punishment in particular is revenge and retaliation.

The from the Old Testament 'Eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth' is often and readily quoted in connection with this.

This understanding of the purpose of punishment is derived from ancient times and has no place in a civilised and humane society.

Already in the 18th Century in Europe and especially in the newly established US, new approaches to the understanding of criminal law and an entirely new perception of the purpose of punishment existed. (For example to be read in Beccaria, On Crime and Punishment, based on the publication of 1766.)

Naturally, punishment was supposed to protect the community, to discourage criminal offences, but especially to lead to an improvement or rehabilitation of culprits. The purpose of the death penalty was questioned for the first time (from Beccaria) and in the 19th century the death penalty was abolished in some American states.

The development took its course in which the horrid punishments were gradually abolished. Based on the experiences of the Nazi terror and the 2nd world war as well and in order to prevent a relapse into barbarity and to secure for each human a minimum of protective rights from the state, the United Nations declared the Universal Declaration of Human Rights as the 'common standard of achievement for all peoples and nations'.  

In article 3 it is stated: Everyone has the right to life, liberty and the security of person.

In article 5: No one shall be subject to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

As can be seen in numerous posts on our website, the death penalty clearly violates both articles. 

Albert Camus formulated it as follows:

The death penalty is 'the most premeditated murder with which no planned crime can be compared to. To draw a comparison: The death penalty should punish a criminal, who would inform the victim of the exact time of death at which point the victim would be delivered at the criminals mercy or disgrace. In real life however such a beast cannot be found.'

During the second half of the 20th century a development took place that increasingly suppressed the death penalty in all democracies as well as in the US.

During the 70`s it was completely abolished within the European Community. In the meantime, Balarus is the only European country that still makes use of the death penalty.

The abolishment of the death penalty is a prerequisite in order to be admitted to the EU.

In 1972 the death penalty was declared as unconstitutional in the US also.

During the 80's however a development took place in the US which differed completely to that of Europe. The death penalty was declared as constitutional again in 1976.

But the impact of the change took place with the conservative revolution under Ronald Reagan. The social state was massively driven back; the neoliberalism deepened the disunion significantly and along with a rampant weapons cult, this development led to an increase of crime. At the same time, liberal criminal laws came ever more into discredit and the demand for harsher punishments became increasingly louder.

The questions about the causes of crimes were secondary and the explanatory approach to understand man as a product of his social surroundings was scorned. Instead historical roots of the U.S. culture survived and religious fundamentalist-coloured worldviews witnessed a tremendous Renaissance.

Man as a criminal offender was principally regarded as entirely responsible for his actions. He is in principle always capable to differentiate between good and evil. If he decides to do evil, he must be punished with utmost severity – also with the death penalty.

As a result of this criminal law apprehension, prisons and death row filled up quickly with members from the lower class of society. No other country in the world keeps such a large amount of its own population behind bars as the US does – over 2.4 million.

Under the Bush administration this resurgence to religious fundamentalism reached a new high. Supportive members of fundamentalist sects rose up in the highest offices of the state (e.g. justice minister Ashcroft).

Anyone who in this country loudly believes that harsh punishment is the only true means to fight crime, should consider well, if he really wants to live in a society in which one attempts to solve the social question in that people in masses are socially disadvantaged, discriminated, excluded, confined and murdered, instead of taking an approach against the actual causes of poverty and violence.    

Do you know your Rights?

Over and over again we can read about the 'Human Rights' in the media. But barely anybody knows what really belongs to these 'Human Rights' and what doesn’t.  

You’ll find the most important Human Rights tools here.