5 reasons to abolish the death penalty

Florida is planning to carry out its first execution in more than a year and a half. Governor Rick Scott issued a death warrant that reschedules Mark James Asay’s execution for 24 August at 6pm. 

We must challenge the notion of “an eye for an eye” and 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 was executed in Texas in 2004 for allegedly setting a fire that killed his three daughters. Following his execution, further evidence revealed that Willingham did not set the fire that caused their deaths. But it came too late.

2. It doesn’t deter criminals

There is no credible evidence that the death penalty deters crime more effectively than a prison term. 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.

Twenty seven years after abolishing the death penalty, Canada saw a 44 per cent drop in murders across the country.

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 brutal methods of execution used around the world include hanging, shooting and beheading. The nature of these deaths only continues to perpetuate 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. According to UN human rights experts, executions in public serve no legitimate purpose and only increase the cruel, inhuman and degrading nature of this punishment.

“All executions violate the right to life. Those carried out publicly are a gross affront to human dignity which cannot be tolerated,” said Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty International’s Deputy Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“All executions violate the right to life. Those carried out publicly are a gross affront to human dignity which cannot be tolerated.”

Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui

5. The death penalty is disappearing

While executions spiked in 2015, they were counterbalanced by a spate of abolitions. Four countries abolished the death penalty for all crimes – the highest number to do so in the space of one year for almost a decade. These developments are a clear indication that the trend towards abolition remains strong.

Today, 103 countries have turned their backs on the death penalty for good.Those that continue to execute are a tiny minority standing against a wave of opposition.

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?

Find out more about the death penalty and how you can help save lives today

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This article was contributed by a guest blogger. This blog entry does not necessarily represent the position or opinion of Amnesty International Australia.