The 11th World Day Against the Death Penalty is marked today, on October 10, 2013. Throughout the world, civil society activists and abolitionism associations unite to remind the international community about the absurdity of the punishment and the cruelty of executions.
“Long Live Death!” With these words, Franco’s rebels would celebrate their victories during the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s. Thus, states that prefer death to life and barbarism to the mind have always existed and, unfortunately, continue to exist. The death penalty itself is a manifestation of this distorted thinking.
58 more or less affluent countries that are either democracies or dictatorships can now legally sentence one of its citizens to death. In 2012, 21 states took advantage of this right, putting life on the altar of injustice. Just like murderers, they trample upon the most basic right of all rights – the right to life.
The fact that some individuals do not respect this right is unacceptable: states should convict murderers and fight crime, but they should in no way mimic their actions. A modern and just society cannot be based on the ideology of death and view justice as a primitive law of retaliation, “an eye for an eye.”
This argument is the basis of the abolitionism movement that has both philosophical and legal nature. Our societies should be superior to a low revenge. What is an example that the citizens see when the judges sentence to death, when prisons turn into a scaffold and when those entitled to pardon refuse to give it? Could there be an action more severe and, at the same time, the greatest proof of the worst weakness than condemnation to death of one of the citizens of the country by the authorities of the country?
After all, the death penalty is always severe, and most importantly – inhuman. Iran and Japan have practiced hanging, in the U.S. and China death convicts receive lethal injections. Despite its pseudomedical nature, the latter often leads to a severe and painful death. It is not accidental that executions were taken in charge by the UN Rapporteur on Torture.
Moreover, the death penalty is unfair and useless. No system of justice is immune to miscarriages of justice or an unfair trial. Not all persons condemned to death are provided with the opportunity to have a decent defense in court. Finally, the existence of the death penalty in society has never helped to reduce the number of murders or other violent acts.
Imagine that a murderer has confessed to his crimes and the evidence of his guilt in court cannot be questioned. Should he still die? No. Our societies must look for other solutions and offer legal alternatives to the capital punishment.
In 1981, when France abolished the death penalty, more than 150 countries around the world still practiced death sentences and executions. To date, there are only 21. Over the past five years, Uzbekistan, Argentina, Togo, Gabon and Latvia have abolished the capital punishment. Efforts by the civil society are yielding fruit. Soon, the death penalty will be abolished everywhere. Its abolition is a necessary milestone on the way of historical progress and the triumph of human rights.
Deputy Chairman of the Human Rights Center “Viasna”
French lawyer known for his struggle against the death penalty, the abolition of which he successfully sponsored in Parliament on 30 September, 1981
President of FIDH
Deputy Secretary General of FIDH and President of the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty