Should Death Penalty be a Form of Capital Punishment

Ameer Jehan Jamaldini
Death Penalty – a violation of human rights
In my views, death penalty should not be a legitimate form of punishment as it is against the basic rights of a person according Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 3 of UDHR clearly states that everyone has the right to life, liberty and security, which makes death penalty as the violation of most fundamental rights of a person.
Further, death penalty also violates Article 6 of ICCPR which also clearly states everyone human being has the inherent right to life, and no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life. The UN Human Rights Committee has expressed its concerns over the retention of death penalties in State parties of ICCPR and to abolish it in their domestic laws. In a general comment on Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Human Rights Committee has stated: “The Committee believes the expression ‘most serious crimes’ must be read restrictively to mean that the death penalty should be a quite exceptional measure.
The death penalty is mostly discriminatory which includes execution of poor, ethnic and religious minorities, and people with mental disabilities. Mostly governments use it to silence their opponents by executing them with death sentences like in Iran where ethnic and religious people are being tortured and executed in public spaces to spread fear and maintain their control over them.
Death Penalty – Prevent Crime?
There is no credible statistics that capital punishment (death sentence) has reduced in crime rate the countries where death penalty is practiced frequently. It has been seen in few countries like USA where capital punishment has reduced cases of murder in few States. In Pakistan, where terrorists from different banned outfits are given capital punishment by Military Courts, which is a parallel court operated by the military. Executions of such terrorists are just as likely to create martyrs whose memory becomes a rallying point for their organizations. Such executions do not prevent crime or any terrorist activities, sometimes it may have serious results of terrorist organization carrying out serious attacks as of a revenge of executing their organization’s member. They might not understand the physical treatment inflicted on them in the name of punishment as a punishment at all. Rather, they might interpret their being physically harmed as an admirable result of their heroic behavior. The punishment is only successful to those who understand or feel it as a punishment.
In cases of murder and rape, capital punishment can somehow prevent such crimes in future, because it creates a level of fear in people’s mind that if someone involved in such heinous crimes then the only punishment will be of death sentence. According to polling report survey 52% people in USA think that executing people who commit murder deters others to commit such act do not have much effect in the society.
There are few traditional justifications of imposing death penalty in the society: retribution, social contract, and rights forfeiture. The retribution concept of punishment in which death penalty is justified as a proportionate punishment for a serious crime like murder. This concept when applied in a case of murder as ‘a life for a life’, means who ever murder must die. In the concept of social contract, it is justified to prevent peace, rule of law or governance; citizens contractually agree to keep their hostilities and government, or State can punish the lawbreaker, including executing. In this concept, government or state has the right to kill or execute any person under such circumstances which make this law very weak in its shape because government can misuse their power. The third traditional justification is that when a person commits any serious crime, they forfeit their rights to life, and thus may be executed. If you commit a violent crime, you forfeit your liberty rights, and society may place you in prison where you no longer have the freedom of movement and expression
Self Defense
In case of self-defense murder, a person should not be executed as per the traditional justifications of ‘a life for a life’. It has been seen in many cases in Pakistan and other part of the world where a person is accused of murder charge which he did for his own self-defense, and court order for capital punishment which can be unfair ethically, and violation of fundamental rights of the person. It has been seen in many cases, where accused person murdered someone for his/her self-defense like rape attempts, robbery or any civil war situation.
An Iranian women Reyhaneh Jabbari 26 years old sentenced to death for killing a government officer who attempt to rape her. She in her self-defense killed him. According to Amnesty International, Jabbari was convicted of murder after a flawed investigation and unfair trial. In such situation, a person has forced to show his/her intentions to murder someone to safe his/her life or from sexual assault.
Abolition of Death Penalty
The time has come to abolish death penalty worldwide. It has been experienced everywhere that death penalty has no power to control or reduce crime or political violence in a country. It has been more used against as political rivalry, ethnic and religious minorities. Over the past years, it has been observed that at least 3 countries a year have abolished death penalty. It has been seen that the society is not aware of the concept of death penalty, they take it as a protection for the society, but on the other hand its brutality and it has a minor effect in the crime rate.
As the Human Rights Committee set up under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has recognized, “The right to life’’ is the supreme right from which no derogation is permitted even in time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation.
According to the survey of Professor Michael L. Radelet has revealed that 88.2% of criminologists do not believe that the death penalty is a deterrent. The criminologists said that the effect of death penalty is so minor that it cannot be measure in a society where such crimes are carried out. It has been seen that the homicide rate is at least five times greater in the United States than in any Western European country, all without the death penalty. Another research by Professor Tomislav Kovandzic, Associate Professor at University of Texas that there is no empirical support for the argument that the existence or application of the death penalty deters prospective offenders from committing homicide. But the policymakers, government or public support the implementation death penalty on religion, retribution or other such justifications that it has deterrent effect in the society.
 It has been seen that many countries like China, Iran, Iraq, USA and Pakistan where death penalty is used as a form of punishment justify it as the need of a society, and serious crimes can only be reduced through giving capital punishment to the accused person. But in practical it has a very low effect in the society, Europe is almost a death penalty free-zone, but in compare to USA it has low crime rate. It means that capital punishment is not only the way to counter and reduce crime in a society. It has been seen in China, government officers are given death penalty on corruption charges, which ultimately not the only way to fight with corruption in a country. For the certain period, it can create an atmosphere of fear of being executed but it has very lower effect in long term policies.
In Pakistan, there are Military Courts, an alternate form of court which are directly operated by Military officers with no interference of civil courts. Accused persons are being executed without fair trial and investigation, they are even not allowed to have a defense lawyer to fight for their rights. More than 390 people have been executed by the decision of Military Courts, but still the country cannot overcome or reduce terrorist attacks in the country. The Proceedings of military courts, their judgments, reasoning and evidence, and details about the alleged offences for which suspects were tried have been kept secret. The trials were closed to the public and families of the accused — even the National Commission for Human Rights, a statutory body with a mandate to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights, was not given access to observe the trials.
These Military courts also claimed that the courts have helped to reduce threats of terrorism, which is a weak statement by the courts. It has been seen that from last 3 years of establishing Military Courts, and their decisions of giving capital punishment to the terrorists involved in terrorist activities. The crime itself has increased, with more terrorist attacks in the countries.
Death penalty should not remain as a legitimate form of punishment in the countries which are practicing capital punishment for serious crimes. First, death penalty failed as a deterrent, according to studies and experts that death penalty not act as a deterrent to crime. There is also a chance that innocent people get executed under unfair trials and investigations. Innocent people can be released from prison, but if he is executed cannot come back.
In Pakistan, society think that capital punishment to the terrorists is a right way to reduce crime and terrorists attack. But unfortunately, there is an increase in terrorist attacks in Pakistan since the establishment of military courts. According to report, more than 60 executions in 2017, imposed 200 death sentences and more than 7000 people on death row.
The writer is a student of master’s in international human Rights Law in Germany.
DisclaimerViews expressed in this article are those of the author and Balochistan Voices not necessarily agrees with them.
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