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5 reasons to abolish the death penalty

Editors, 9 October 2012, 04:42PM

By Jacinda Valeontis, Amnesty International Australia online team

Killers, murderers, terrorists, drug lords. Who cares if they are faced with death, right? These are the arguments of many pro-death penalty advocates who highlight the guilt of the convicted and the serious nature of their crime. But what if you couldn't be sure? What if it wasn't only reserved for the "worst of the worst"? World Day Against the Death Penalty reminds us all to challenge the notion of "an eye for an eye" equals justice.

Here are five reasons why:

1. You can't take it back
The death penalty is irreversible. Absolute judgments may lead to people paying for crimes they did not commit. Texas man Cameron Todd Willingham, for example, was found innocent after his 2004 execution.

2. It doesn't deter criminals

In fact, evidence startlingly reveals the opposite! Twenty seven years after abolishing the death penalty, Canada saw a 44 per cent drop in murders across the country. And it wasn't alone.

3. There's no 'humane' way to kill

The 2006 execution of Angel Nieves Diaz, by a so-called 'humane' lethal injection, took 34 minutes and required two doses. Other methods of execution used around the world include hanging, shooting and beheading. The nature of these deaths only continues toperpetuate the cycle of violence and does not alleviate the pain already suffered by the victims family.

4. It makes a public spectacle of an individual's death

Executions are often undertaken in an extremely public manner, with public hangings in Iran or live broadcasts of lethal injections in the US.

5. The death penalty is disappearing

Out of 198 countries around the world only 21 continue to use capital punishment. And while countries that carried out executions in 2011 did so at an alarming rate, those employing capital punishment have decreased by more than

a third in the last decade. With this clear downward trend, public pressure may help persuade the world's biggest executors China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the USA to stop. There are countless arguments for and against the death penalty. In an imperfect world where we can never be sure we have ever got the "worst of the worst" is it ever justified to take a life?

Michael Wild | Posted on 20 October 2012, 01:19AM | Report comment Dear Peter I wonder if you were talking about the people putting up the comments rather than Amnesty in general. If you meant Amnesty youd be 100% wrong. It is opposed to the death penalty in ALL countries and has said so loud and long for ages. If you look to point 5 (the only one which involves multiple countries) it lists 5: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the USA. I assume youd agree that the first 4 are definitely not Western. (I think they are in order of executions last year. China is definitely number one). Im bemused about your safer isnt it?. This is an Australian site and apart from the psychotic and the extremist ideologues thered be universal agreement you can criticize any country on earth in good old Oz with complete physical safety. Amnesty and its supporters are firm believers this should be the case for of all people and in all countries and deplores the fact this is not yet the case. Weve been working for this freedom and the release of all Prisoners of Conscience in all countries. Join us and well give you as many to write for as you could possibly want.

Peter | Posted on 20 October 2012, 12:20AM | Report comment I amseeing here the usual attack on Western society by those who would not live any where else. Its safer, isnt it? Try aiming your barbs at those countries with a gold medal record in executions and in many cases just for political reasons

Michael Wild | Posted on 17 October 2012, 01:37AM | Report comment Excellent point about not imprisoning kidnappers or fining thieves, Bruce. This argument/ analogy sounds attractive but its straight wrong. Like you the certainty of irrevocable error (eventually) is the clincher with me. With regard to internal exile my feeling is removing a lot of minor offenders from jail and keeping some of the repeat rapists, murders (or single murder if its bad enough) is the way to go. Most people now live to late 60s early 70s. Releasing someone in their still vigorous forties for an offence done in their twenties is no longer just or safe. For those who think otherwise a certain sage once said it is all too easy to be lenient at other peoples expense and then consider yourself a kind and wonderful person.

Bruce Horwood | Posted on 16 October 2012, 12:23AM | Report comment If killing murderers is morally inconsistent then so is imprisoning kidnappers, or fining thieves. It is only seems inconsistent when you forget the distinction between what is done to the guilty and what is done to the innocent. Death does prevent recidivism. And having life with no parole for the worst murderers, means others are let out earlier, every offence down to the most trivial are shunted down the track towards leniency like a line of railway carriages (and some of those may be deterrable).

Yet for all that, I am convinced by the argument that you cant go back if a mistaken conviction is made. There are people who should never be in society for its protection - and not all have killed their victims which means that they would not be eligible for the death penalty (unless it was extended so widely that it created an incentive for criminals to go further than they would otherwise). Could we not have a form of quarantine or internal exile for those whose punishment (prison term) is complete, but who should not be walking the streets? A large area with internal freedoms, which only the worst criminals are sent to?

Caroline | Posted on 14 October 2012, 08:27PM | Report comment Abolishing the death penalty is in some forms correct, but in some ways, I believe, it is more humane to end someones life immediately, then for them to go through torture in prison cells, and I know that some people deserve this torture, but there may be those who are innocent, and should not be there in the first place.

Alan Parsons | Posted on 13 October 2012, 05:06PM | Report comment A couple more reasons to add to the 5: 6. In the western world capital punishment is expensive. By the time a prisoner has exhausted all the appeals that are his or her right in Texas, the cost to the State is far greater than the cost of life in prison 7. Capital punishment is discriminatory. You have a far greater chance of facing execution if you are poor and belong to an ethnic minority. 8. The vast majority of people executed on this planet have not committed a serious crime. Only a very small proportion are serial killers, psychopaths or murderers themselves. 9. We (westerners) are ashamed of it. In the USA, state killings take place away from the people in the middle of the night. If capital punishment is morally acceptable, do the deed in your cathedrals, temples and synagogues. 10. It makes no sense. We disapprove of killing people. In fact we hate killing people so much that if you kill someone, we will kill you! Is it just me or is that just plain ridiculous?

Alan Parsons | Posted on 13 October 2012, 04:49PM | Report comment Texas. A violent government rules over a violent population. Texas kills its citizens. Mostly black and poor. Doesnt kill rich white guys. Consequence? A violent, inequitable society breeds violence and inequity. Texas executes more of its citizens per capita than any other western society on this planet. It condones by its actions extreme violence ( killing people is extreme violence. Cant have a non-violent killing!). Therefore Texans per capita are the most violent people in the Western world. You want to increase extreme violence? Yes ?Then support capital punishment.

Jasmine | Posted on 12 October 2012, 07:35PM | Report comment The courts are for justice not revenge or to play out your emotions towards a human, regardless of the disgusting and vile actions they may have committed. The saying is an eye for an eye and the world goes blind. Leave emotions out of it, and then we will have justice.

Nigel Young | Posted on 12 October 2012, 12:22PM | Report comment It has always seemed strange to me that we can go to war as the tool of another country and kill innocent people but not worry about it. If a shark attacks someone at a beach we hunt it down and kill it (and many others as well). But when it comes to executing a prisoner, a person who has committed a terrible crime, then we go soft on the idea. Personally I prefer to think that all executions should be halted until we get our priorities right and we have a legal system that works effectively, however I dont think that will ever happen. There is too much corruption within police forces and the legal system. I would also argue that the death penalty is a deterrent in many countries but social change and stress will see a rise in capital crimes so using statistics for this argument is pointless.

Olivia | Posted on 11 October 2012, 08:05PM | Report comment The death penalty is ridiculous! It first off can absolutely end the life of an innocent person, which could have so easily been prevented, but then also, would you rather dace life in prison or death by an injection? Death seems much more appealing, its quick, and relatively painless due to the humane circumstances of a developed country, but this is not always the case. also isnt it almost a way out for those se rving life sentences? with staying in prison, they are forced every day to think upon their actions and knowing that they will never feel freedom again, that seems like a real punishment, rather than escaping from all your problems. Lastly, if its illegal to end a life in the first place, then how is it alright for someone to die from capital punishment? It almost seems as ironic as smacking a child and a way of telling them not to hit other children, its contradicting and to me, seems to be an easy way o ut.

Lachlan | Posted on 11 October 2012, 05:17PM | Report comment All life that leaves his/hers mothers womb should be preserved at all costs. An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind

chraiti yemna | Posted on 11 October 2012, 08:07AM | Report comment je suis contre la peine de mort,ce jugement na pas empech les autres de commettre des crimes de plus en plus atroces.Il faut chercher la cause de ces crimes et trouver la solution.

KJ Long | Posted on 11 October 2012, 02:57AM | Report comment Seriously? WHY is everyone so concerned for the crazed mad man/woman, the pe rson who took a loved ones life, raped and tortured children, beat and abused the elderly I am more concerned for the victims, havent they suffered enough? Why should they fear that one day the person who hurt them may be walking around on the streets? Very few are ever truly rehabilitated, as for the ones that claim they are, they are released and re-offend and someone else loses a loved one. Your answer, you say is to lock them away forever.. At whos cost? Why should we work and pay taxes so they can be comfortable, they do not deserve to be comfortable in jail. They have to pay for their crimes. Just because they are behind a locked door is not enough. I could understand if they were placed in prison with the basics, roof, mattress, blanket and food. But NO, they (the offenders) and some of society believe they have rights!!! What a joke. If after investigation the authorities believe they have caught the offender, with todays technology and DNA it can be proved without a doubt if that person is responsible, and if they are, they should be dealt with as strongly as possible. Unfortunately in Australia the laws and sentencing are not strong and long enough. If only we would sentence offenders to the length of time USA do. Maybe, just maybe we have a chance of keeping Australia a beautiful place.

Michael Wild | Posted on 11 October 2012, 02:04AM | Report comment The one thing the death penalty does achieve is it stops re-offending. For that reason I think well-meaning leftish types (Iike me) should be clear eyed and say that some criminals should be in jail for as long as it take to die of natural causes.. Im appalled to repeatedly read of people who committed top of the range murders in their 20s getting released in their late 40s after serving a life sentence. The bottom line for me is that even the best judicial system makes mistakes. Im only 50 ca n remember a number of cases where innocent people would have been hanged had the death penalty been available. One comes from my own, relatively small state of WA. For that reason the death penalty, however tempting, should be put aside. What most Australians need to know that internationally most death sentences come after shockingly bad trials, often based on a withdrawn confession obtained by beating or effective, cruel and invisible psychological pressure. There are many countries where a policeman could threaten to murder or rape a defendants wife or daughter unless they signed, when this would be a quite realistic threat. I recon most Australian red-necks would be shocked if they knew about how easy it is to be executed in some countries.

Lachlan | Posted on 10 October 2012, 06:52PM | Report comment Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends. J.R.R.Tolkien This sums up my pov on this. No one should take another life.

N Fletcher | Posted on 10 October 2012, 05:30PM | Report comment As much as I hate the thought of anyone being put to death, I feel there are certain people who I feel the death penalty should be carried out . . I know how I would feel if some mad man or woman murdered any person I loved .It is bad enough to hear about the victims of people you dont know .As far as I am concerned no person who has

committed a proven ! without a doubt ,premeditated murder should escape the death penalty. ( Lethal injection ) is the way to go I think , and as soon as possible after conviction . Not to be held in goal for months or years. NF

Christina Paul | Posted on 10 October 2012, 05:14PM | Report comment Please read my comment on your face book page, which you posted about abolishing capital punishment. I dont think your likers for AI understand what this is about. There are some horrendous acts of crime, but death as a penalty does not solve anything and most of the people being executed as punishment are people without fair representation. There has to be another option, as human beings, to work out how punitive actions cause suffering. Has nobody learned about positive rewards for good behavior of changed behavior? Abolishment is the only way. I am so saddened by your readers comments on Facebook. How can they be advocates for AI?

Catherine Money | Posted on 10 October 2012, 04:36PM | Report comment No one has the right to take the life of another human being, regardless of the situation. We sign petitions, attend rallies, etc for the protection of animals, wildlife & the environment - we should do even more for the life of a human being. A crazy psychopath, someone who has no remorse, who refuses rehab programs in prison, who has nothing to offer society except fear and violence (Milton Kelly), who gave you the right to express this opinion - wonder how you would feel if YOU were that person - just keep these people locked up for everyones safety, they dont deserve to be killed. You dont know the reason that they are who they are.

Pauline Ferrand | Posted on 10 October 2012, 03:26PM | Report comment The n1 reason contains in itself all the objections to the death penalty. Immuability (of decision) is a divine state- it cannot fit humanity neither nature.

carmel kinsella | Posted on 10 October 2012, 03:16PM | Report comment Mahattma Ghandi , Martin Luther King , Golda Mayer and many others were against the death penalty . I think their thoughts still ring out through time. When will we learn that it is only God and Gods right alone to take life and give life. .. and we are not God.We may be allowed to think like God on occasions ...but only when it encourages life all life. for this is indeed what Christ died on the cross for and our Heaenly father through the Holy Spirit gave us his resurrection .... So that we too can have eternal lifewhen we learn this , Then we too will truly be thinking God Like thoughts. Milton Kelly | Posted on 10 October 2012, 01:44PM | Report comment OK, number 5 other people are doing it so we should too isnt a reason for doing anything. Number 2 complains that it doesnt deter, but number 4 complains that its too public. But unless its public it cant deter, see? You dont get deterred by things you dont know are happening. So you cant really argue that it should deter AND that it shouldnt be public.

I see nothing wrong with killing someone who is a crazy psychopath, who has no remorse, who refuses rehab programs in prison, who has nothing to offer society except fear and violence. I dont have a huge desire to kill them either, but I see nothing wrong with doing so. In fact its my love & value of life that gives me this view. I think the world should be preserved for those people who have something positive to contribute.