16th World Day Against Death Penalty

Last October 10th was the 16th “World Day against Death Penalty”, organised by the World Coalition against the Death Penalty.

Although many people could think it is an obsolete and distant institution, unfortunately, in the 21st century, there are still countries that keep death penalty in their criminal system. Precisely fifty-six, according to Amnesty International report for 2018. Only last year, twenty-three of them have sentenced to death at least 993 people. This number is even more impressive if we consider that is reached not counting China, which marks death sentences as state secret, in order to hide these data from organizations and medias.

Due to this circumstance, Amnesty International launched a campaign in Belarus, Ghana, Japan, Iran and Malaysia, so that national governments cease to treat convicted people in an inhumane way and take on initiatives to abolish definitively the capital punishment.

One of the most meaningful testimonies gathered by Amnesty is Mohammad’s one, he was imprisoned and sentenced to death by an Iranian court at the age of 15, despite being underage, in open violation of international law. He was subjected to a process very distant from the criteria proided by the European Convention on Human Rights and the ouraged reaction of the public opinion only succeeded in postponing the execution, six times in the last fourteen years.

After the last deferment, Mohammad asked for a new process but the Iranian Supreme Court refused to evaluate his request, deeming not enough a punishment fourteen years spent with the threat of the execution, maybe worst than the execution itself.

In most cases the capital punishment constitutes the end of the sufferings of sentenced people, which change depending on the legal sysem of the retentionist countries. From solitary confinement in the United States, to the overcrowded prisons in several countries in Africa and Asia, the living conditions for the people sentenced tend to dehumanize and take away the dignity of individuals, because the State has given up on them end, even before being executed, they were no longer alive, they were no longer considered as “human beings “.

In addition, death row prisoners have very little contact with their family and lawyers, so the conditions of detention affect not only the person sentenced to death but also the families, relatives and legal team.

Death penalty is useless because lacking of deterrence, even for those who commit the most serious crimes, who can be rehabilitated with a long-lasting but gentle punishment, that respect human dignity.

It is in open contrast with many provisions in international law and the constitutions of many countries that guarantee the right to life, like Art. 2 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which states “Everyone has the right to life. No one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed”.

And, to conclude, it represents an abuse of power perpetrated by the State, which should protect the citizen with laws but uses violence against him, “It is therefore a war of a whole nation against a citizen, whose destruction they consider as necessary or useful to the general good. Buti f i can further demonstrate that it is neither necessary nor useful, I shall have gained the cause of humanity” (Cesare Beccaria, On Crimes and Punishments, 1764).

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