Death Penalty and Human Rights Activists

The death penalty/capital punishment, involves the cold blooded termination of human life. It is usually done without the proper approval of the convict for a crime committed in the name of justice. The crimes that carry this particular sentence are called ‘capital crimes’ (mainly involving murder). In the recent past, governments have been using capital punishment to inflict fear among their people. This worked in most communities, but with the emergence of non-governmental organizations, people begun to question the justifiability of the death penalty.

Research has shown that there are a good number of condemned individuals in prisons for capital-crimes they did not commit. Reasons for this are that they could not afford the kind of defense they needed or a descent suit to appear with in court. As shown by Mumia, “the kind of defense you get is the kind you can afford. Most genuinely, innocent people have had their lives cut-short despite their innocence pleas. In a murder case, the convict may have committed the act, but maybe without criminal motives” (Mumia, 2000). So far this aspect has been overlooked. In a murder scenario, the only people with the right details are the convict and the deceased. Apparently, the judge only bases his judgments on the facts laid to him on the table which may be true or false.

Therefore this paper is going to focus on the justifiability of the death penalty as punishment on crime in the society. The paper will then conclude by showing measures to be embraced to iron out these issues.

In certain countries, prisoners can be kept on death row for as long as forty years awaiting judgment or the outcome of the appeals they have filed. Some even die in the process. States are supposed to treat convicts as human beings, they have a life and their life is precious too. Death penalties often assumes the trauma, the innocent family goes through during the execution process. However it is quite unfortunate that approximately 55% of the world’s population live in nations actively participating in capital punishment.

There are different types of death penalties; some of these are, “the execution by firing squad (practiced by the Mexicans in the 20th century to punish heinous crimes such as treason), strangulation and decapitation (spotted in china)” (Williamson, 2000). There is also the lethal injection; this is where an individual’s system is injected with poisonous liquids that slowly paralyze the biological function of the body. One inhuman death sentence carried out particularly in Islamic countries is death by stoning.

Cases of death penalties have over time been decreasing. While developed countries like “Korea and the US still put into practice the use of capital reprimand, most third world countries have shunned it. Most poor countries have and still continue to use capital punishment mainly as a tool of political oppression” (Williamson, 2000). Powerful politicians use this to maneuver the law in their favor in order to conquer their rivals. The best example can be seen in Congo where politicians who opposed existing systems either mysteriously disappeared or were charged with minor crimes and hanged for them. According to Amnesty International (2005):

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. This cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment is done in the name of justice. The death penalty violates the right to life, which is why Amnesty International opposes it regardless of the nature of the crime, the characteristics of the offender, or the method used by the state to kill convicts (Amnesty International, 2005).

Abolition of the death punishment has been greatly adopted due to changes in the political scenarios. Most countries have changed their style of leadership from authoritarianism to the practice of democracy. In some cases it is a condition of membership in unions such as the European Union. These are some of the aspects facilitating the abolition of the death punishment.

“Some states have had bans on capital punishment for decades (the earliest is Michigan, where it was abolished in 1847), while others actively use it today. According to Dubois (2008), the death penalty in the society today remains a contagious hotly debated issue”. Over the years it has become a controversial issue attracting debates mainly from non-governmental organizations and human rights groups.

Arguments in support of the death penalty are all based on humane and moral grounds together with religious beliefs. Advocates for this argue that the death penalty is a good tool to be used in trying to improve the society’s morals. They say it improves the community by ensuring that the convicted felons serve as an example and a warning to the entire society. According to (Mikes, 2006), “supporters argue that the threat of life discourages crime more effectively than the threat of prison does”. Conversely opponents argue that it is not an effective way of preventing crime. This is because it is inhuman, barbaric and in some incidents takes away innocent life. It moreover depicts the same government as criminals who take out life with much simplicity.

Human rights activists, consider capital punishment as cruel which despite its intended purpose does not prove practicability. Increase in crime has been realized despite the availability of capital punishment. Terrorist acts in the world today have doubled; murder and other related crimes are also on the rise. Therefore capital punishment should be abolished because it is more of a liability than a helping factor in the war against crime. All governments should again unanimously stand out against the death penalty cases, which have claimed more innocent people than guilty ones. In fact governments should embrace other justifiable judicial processes that are more humane. Therefore governments are required to adopt more justifiable humane punishments that can replace the death penalty i.e. life imprisonment.


Amnesty International. (2000) The death penalty and human rights. International journal on human rights, 7(2), pp. 54-74.

Dubois, M. (2008) The death penalty. International journal of justice, 94 (9), pp. 433-436.

Mikes, D. (2003) The death penalty and crime. New York, NY. Oxford University Press.

Mumia, K. (2000) Justifiability of the death penalty. Nairobi: East African Publishers.

Williamson, D. (2000) The death penalty as a tool of oppression. Longman publishers.

Find out the price of your paper