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One of the problems in criminal law, which concerns not only lawyers, but also the whole society, which causes a lot of discussions, disputes and debates, was and still is the problem of the death penalty. Currently, its relevance is also connected with the fact that today many countries try to soften the legislation, while abolishing the death penalty. In this connection, the question arises as to the legitimacy and admissibility of the use of the death penalty, as well as its necessity and expediency.

The topic for a death penalty essay was chosen not by chance. Why is it so widely used? How effective is the death penalty? How does the public opinion influence the abolition or retention of the death penalty? Why, in the modern world, as well as in the past, does the death penalty still apply? Aren’t we so far away from our cruel ancestors? In this work, many other issues on the topic will be analyzed, as well as moral and social aspects of this type of punishment will be discussed, using sources of both legal literature and regulations and works of various authors.

The typology of death penalties

The information about the death penalty has approximately the same age as information about the first states. As a legal form of punishment, the death penalty appeared at the transition of society to legal relations. Later, the talion principle arose, according to which punishment should be equal to a crime. Later, the death penalty was associated with ritual murder and sacrifice to the gods.

In many ancient and medieval states, the form of the death penalty depended on the personality and position of the convict. Many ancient types of executions sought not to alleviate but extend the sufferings of the convict.

Outdated types of death penalty

In the past, the attitude towards death and the death penalty among many peoples was different than it is now. Although executions were carried out in public and the corpses and body parts of the executed were put up for intimidation, executions did not produce upheavals, did not cause disgust or protest, and the role of the executioner was even considered honorable.

The crucifixion was used in ancient Greece and Rome, and also in the East, which was probably the most famous form of execution in antiquity because this way Jesus Christ was executed.

The burning was actively used in many ancient countries, but the flourishing of this type of execution happened in the Middle Ages because this is how the Inquisition executed heretics. Over the whole of Europe, this execution has reached enormous proportions: thousands of people have been burned alive, often by the masses, on charges of witchcraft, cohabitation with the devil, blasphemy, and even deviation from the norm.

Drowning was used when it was necessary to execute many people simultaneously. This way, the murderers of parents in ancient Rome and Greece were executed.

Exotic types of death penalty

In the past, a huge number of types of the death penalty were used, many of them were also fixed in legislation, and the methods of execution were designed to intensify the tortures of the executed, often combined with torture. Despite this, many rulers introduced their own methods such as:
  • Burying alive in the ground
  • Kicking with sticks
  • Nonpublic poisoning
  • Throwing off the cliff
  • Secret strangulation

Modern methods of the death penalty

In most countries of the world in our time, simple methods of the death penalty are applied, the lawmakers strive to make the deprivation of human life, if possible, painless and quick. However, in some countries, qualifying types of the death penalty persist.

In modern legislation, there are 7 ways to enforce a sentence:
  • The hanging is applied in 78 countries.
  • The shooting is used by 86 countries.
  • Decapitation is stipulated in the legislation of 7 countries, but in practice it is used only in Saudi Arabia.
  • Stoning is used in 7 Arab states.
The following 3 types of death penalty are applied only in the USA:
  • Execution in the electric chair introduced in 1888
  • Gas poisoning
  • A fatal injection is carried out by intravenous administration of a combination of substances that cause loss of consciousness, cessation of breathing, stopping breathing and death

Death penalty today

There is no doubt that the world is moving towards the complete abolition of the death penalty. In 1977, only 16 countries abolished the death penalty for all types of crimes. Today, this figure reached 90.

There is a handful of countries where, as before, death sentences are imposed and carried out. Today, more than ever, a strong international will is required to decide on the total prohibition of capital punishment.

In January 2007, in South Korea, eight people were acquitted on charges of high treason. This happened more than 30 years after their hanging. Such cases of justification after death reveal the whimsical, dangerous, and inhuman true essence of the death penalty.

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA), the main UN body consisting of all member countries of the organization, should now adopt a resolution calling for a moratorium on the execution of death sentences. This appeal would become a powerful and timely impulse towards a final and irrevocable prohibition of the death penalty.

The governments of many countries not only excluded this measure of punishment from the current legislation, but also put forward or supported international initiatives aimed at the universal prohibition of the death penalty. Ninety-five countries signed or joined the statement made at the 61st session of the UN General Assembly on December 19, 2006. You can read more about this in the death penalty essay.

Here is why it is necessary to forbid the death penalty:
  • The death penalty is irreversible and takes the lives of innocent victims. They cannot be brought back.
  • The higher penalty is applied in a discriminatory way, most often in relation to the poor, minority representatives, as well as on racial, ethnic or religious grounds.
  • Often, defendants are sentenced to death following extremely unfair trials.
  • The death penalty is a cruel punishment.
  • Execution violates the right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.
  • Numerous studies have shown that the application of capital punishment does not lead to a decrease in the level of crime.
  • 30 years ago, the UNGA supported the goal of achieving the complete abolition of the death penalty. The UNGA took a number of important measures to protect people who were threatened with execution. And it would be quite logical, if now the UN General Assembly issued an appeal to impose a moratorium on the execution of death sentences and proceeded to the stated goal – the final abolition of the death penalty.
Although already 90 states have completely abolished the supreme penalty for all types of crimes, 40 countries have abolished it only for ordinary crimes or do not use this type of punishment in practice. These are countries, in which an exceptional measure of punishment is provided for by law, but no one has been executed in the past 10 years. In 2006, only 25 countries carried out death sentences. 91% of all executions known to have occurred in six countries:
  • Iraq
  • Iran
  • China
  • Pakistan
  • Sudan
  • The United States

A truly worldwide trend

In Central Asia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan abolished the death penalty or imposed moratoria on the execution of sentences.

Europe is almost completely free from the death penalty – the only exception is Belarus.

In Africa, as far as we know, in 2006, only six of the 53 countries of the continent killed the criminals. Fourteen African countries have abolished the exceptional measure of law legislatively, and another 17 do not apply it in practice.

After the abolition of the death penalty in the Philippines in June 2006, the Asia-Pacific region began to number 25 abolitionist countries de jure or de facto.

Both Americans are almost completely free from the death penalty. Since 2003, only the United States continues to routinely execute criminals. In Central and South America, countries such as Belize, Guatemala, and Guyana continue to carry out executions.

Cruel punishment

Any execution is cruel. It deprives humanity of all who are involved in this procedure and devalues human life. There is no acceptable way that the state could kill. And yet, sometimes the executed have to suffer even longer. In November 2006, a citizen of Sri Lanka, Sanjay Rovan Kumara, was executed in Kuwait. After he was removed from the gallows, and the doctor ascertained death, he was taken to the morgue. Employees of the morgue found that he was still moving. According to press reports, the survey showed a weak pulse. The final statement of death took place five hours after the execution began.

In Iran, for adultery, death through stoning is deemed to be. Despite the fact that in 2002 the Minister of Justice reportedly declared a moratorium on stoning, on July 5, 2007, Jafar Kiani (a man) was executed in this way in a village not far from Takestan, Qazvin Province, for adultery. Subsequently, a representative of the Ministry of Justice admitted that the stoning had indeed taken place. This method of execution is designed to inflict maximum suffering: the size of the stones is selected in such a way that death does not come immediately, but only after much suffering.

In the US, in December 2007, by the introduction of a lethal injection, Angela Diaz was executed. After the first injection, Diaz continued to move. Then the second dose was introduced. Only after 34 minutes the doctor ascertained death. Concern for the inhuman nature of the execution by introducing poison is so great that many US states temporarily suspended the execution of sentences until the end of the study of this issue. This death penalty essay describes more about the problem.

The world moratorium paves the way for a complete ban on the death penalty

The resolution of the UN General Assembly calling for a moratorium on the execution of sentences will be a big step forward towards a world free from the death penalty.

The adoption of such a resolution alone does not prevent countries from issuing or executing death sentences. However, dealing with the decision of an authoritative body representing all UN member states, it will be much more difficult for states to continue to execute people. This resolution will pave the way for a worldwide ban on the death penalty.

Such a resolution should contain the following items:
  • A paragraph confirming the right to life and stating that the abolition of the death penalty is extremely important for the protection of human rights
  • The paragraph calling on states, in which the death penalty is still retained, to declare a moratorium on the execution of sentences as a first step towards the abolition of the death penalty.
  • A paragraph calling on states, in which the death penalty still exists, to comply with international standards that guarantee the protection of the rights of persons facing the death penalty.

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