January 03, 2010

How do you teach ‘thou shalt not kill’ by killing?

The death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights. It is the premeditated and cold-blooded killing of a human being by the state in the name of justice.

The death penalty is a symptom of a culture of violence, not a solution to it. It is an affront to human dignity. Where the death penalty exists, there is no proof whatsoever that it is a deterrent to crime.

Tax evasion, fraud, bigamy, publication of pornographic material, hacking and other cyber crimes, blasphemy, apostasy, adultery, prostitution and homosexuality, murder, rape, armed robbery and drug trafficking all attract the death penalty.

Forms of death by state decree include electrocution, hanging, gassing, beheading, lethal injection, stoning, and shooting.

Many executions are not the humane and peaceful end to life we are led to believe, they are hideous unbearable torture. Lethal injection is no more humane than any other means of execution. It can cause excruciating pain. Many executions are botched. These atrocities are carried out in the name of all who support the antiquated ‘eye for an eye’ doctrine, and all who stay silent on the subject. http://www.ccadp.org/botchedx.htm .

Because of the potential for masking pain, the American Veterinary Medical Association has rejected the use of paralyzing agents like pancuronium bromide in animal euthanasia. In Tennessee and Texas pancuronium bromide is banned for use on animals; yet it continues to be used on humans.

Execution constitutes an extreme physical and mental assault on an individual. The physical pain caused by the action of killing a human being cannot be quantified, nor can the psychological suffering caused by foreknowledge of death at the hands of the state; knowledge in many cases that the sentence is wrongful.

As long as human justice remains fallible, the risk of executing the innocent can never be eliminated. The fundamental nature of the right to life; the unacceptable risk of executing innocent people by mistake; the absence of proof that the death penalty serves as a deterrent; all this makes the sentence of death, for any crime, inappropriate, irreversible and vengeful .

The recent case of British Citizen Akmal Shaikh, in China, has highlighted the problem of cross border judicial process and cultural norms. In China the judicial process is not public and therefore it is impossible know if the accused has had a fair trial. One in 10 executions in China is for non-violent, economic crimes. The Chinese courts describe themselves as independent, but in reality the Communist Party controls them.

China carries out by far the greatest number of actual executions. While Amnesty International has confirmed at least 1718 executions during 2008 the true figure is certain to be much higher. Estimates suggest the annual figure may have been as high as 7,500.

In the Islamic Republic of Iran it is illegal to execute a woman if she is a virgin. Members of Iran's feared Basij militia forcibly marry female virgin prisoners the night before scheduled executions, raping their new "wives" and making it religiously acceptable to execute them. In a November 2007 meeting with his British counterpart, Iranian MP Mohsen Yahyavi admitted that Iran believes in the death penalty for homosexuality. According to Yahyavi, gays deserve to be tortured, executed, or both.

In Somalia, October, 2008, a girl, Aisho Ibrahim Dhuhulow was buried up to her neck at a football stadium and stoned to death in front of more than 1,000 people. Amnesty International has learned that the girl was 13 years old and had been arrested by al-Shabab militia after she had reported being gang-raped by three men.

A survey carried out in August 2009 found that 83% of Pakistanis believe that adulterers should be stoned. (Pew Report)

The vast majority of those executed are poor. About 90% could not afford a lawyer when they went to trial.

A recent US study has found that the murder rate in states that do not have the death penalty is consistently lower than in states with the death penalty. The South, which carries out over 80% of the executions in the U. S., has the highest murder rate. Police chiefs do not believe that the death penalty significantly reduces the number of homicides.


An execution is not simply death. It is just as different from the privation of life as a concentration camp is from prison. It adds to death a rule, a public premeditation known to the future victim, an organization which is itself a source of moral sufferings more terrible than death. Capital punishment is the most premeditated of murders, to which no criminal's deed, however calculated can be compared. Albert Camus---"Reflections on the Guillotine, Resistance, Rebellion & Death" (1957).

At least 8,864 people (and probably considerably more) were sentenced to death during 2008, and at the end of the year as many as 30,000 were on death row around the world - with the largest death row populations being in Pakistan (approximately 7500) and the USA (over 3000).

Enlightened contributions are always welcome. Catch up with past mailings at www.coexister.blogspot.com