World Day Against Death Penalty: Do Executions Belong In the 21st Century?

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Every day, people all over the world are executed for a wide variety of crimes. Though in the west it is mostly used to punish serious crimes like murder, in some places you can be executed for who you sleep with, how you dress, or if you have a different opinion from your government. Some countries execute people who were underage at the time of committing a crime and some do it to the mentally ill. Monday, October 10 marks the World Day Against Death Penalty.

Some countries still use the death penalty for homosexuality.

Amnesty International is committed to abolishing the death penalty worldwide and presents some of the main arguments for why. The fact is that by sentencing someone to death, you are denying the person’s right to life–which was established in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Additionally, because mistakes do happen, there have been several cases when an innocent person has been executed. There is also no proof that the use of the death penalty reduces the crime rate in a country. It is a discriminatory practice; death sentences are more likely to to be given to someone from a religious or racial minority as well as the poor and those who cannot afford an expensive lawyer for a lengthy trial.

Lastly, the risk that it is used as a political tool to quiet dissent in countries with a deeply corrupt justice system is too big.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement on Monday:

Let us be clear: participation in peaceful protests and criticism of a government–whether in private, on the Internet, or in the media–are neither crimes nor terrorist acts. The threat or use of the death penalty in such cases is an egregious violation of human rights.

The U.N. Secretary-General also pointed out that although many countries seem to believe the death penalty is an effective way to handle terrorism, by scaring off future assailants, it actually has the opposite effect. He said:

This is not true. Experience has shown that putting terrorists to death serves as propaganda for their movements by creating perceived martyrs and making their macabre recruiting campaigns more effective.

Many Twitter users expressed their opposition to the practice.

Places like China and Iran frequently execute people who dare to stand up against the government or reveal unflattering depictions of what life is like there. According to the most recent numbers from Amnesty International, Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia account for almost 90 percent of all recorded executions in 2015. But this percentage does not include China, where thousands of people are believed to be executed each year, though data on executions is considered a state secret and is highly classified. The data also shows that last year saw the highest number of executions worldwide in 25 years.

Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General said in a statement:

The rise in executions last year is profoundly disturbing. Not for the last 25 years have so many people been put to death by states around the world. In 2015 governments continued relentlessly to deprive people of their lives on the false premise that the death penalty would make us safer.

California has a particularly high number of prisoners on death row–prisoners who have been sentenced to death but not yet executed. Only 13 people have been executed since the death penalty was reinstated in 1978, and nearly 750 remain on death row. In November, Californians will vote on two ballot initiatives that will change the state’s death penalty practice. Proposition 62 would repeal the death penalty entirely, and Proposition 66 would change the current system to speed up the appeals process to reduce the number of prisoners on death row. If both pass ,the initiative with the most “yes” votes will become law.

California, we’ve fallen far behind the times. It’s time to end the death penalty for good. RT if you agree.

According to Amnesty International, the United States has the fifth highest number of executions worldwide, following China, Iran, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. Last year, it was also the only country in the Americas to actually perform an execution. We share a place on a list of countries that are infamous for violating human rights, while our neighboring countries and Europe got rid of this practice many years ago. It makes you wonder, does the death penalty really have a place in the United States in the 21st century?

Emma Von Zeipel
Emma Von Zeipel is a staff writer at Law Street Media. She is originally from one of the islands of Stockholm, Sweden. After working for Democratic Voice of Burma in Thailand, she ended up in New York City. She has a BA in journalism from Stockholm University and is passionate about human rights, good books, horses, and European chocolate. Contact Emma at



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