Even as individuals and groups make clarion calls for death penalty against convicted criminals and frequent offenders, its efficacy on preventing crimes remains to be proven.
International human rights organisation Amnesty International, which has campaigned against this form of punishment for decades now, has studied the impacts of death penalty globally.
In lieu of this, they have debunked five crucial myths associated with death penalty:
Death penalty is fine as long as the majority of the public supports it
Amnesty International argues, “History is littered with human rights violations that were supported by the majority, but which were subsequently looked upon with horror. Slavery, racial segregation and lynching all had support in the societies where they occurred but constituted gross violations of the people’s human rights.”
Death penalty deters violent crime and makes society safer
Amnesty International argues, “There is no convincing evidence that the death penalty has a unique deterrent effect. More than three decades after abolishing the death penalty, Canada’s murder rate remains over one third lower than it was in 1976.”
They further quote a 35-year study that compared murder rates between Hong Kong, where there is no death penalty, and Singapore, which has a similar size population and executed regularly. The death penalty had little impact on crime rates.
Threat of execution is an effective strategy in preventing terrorist attacks
Amnesty International argues, “The prospect of execution is unlikely to act as a deterrent to people prepared to kill and injure for the sake of a political or other ideology.”
In fact, counter-terrorism officials have repeatedly pointed out that those who are executed can be perceived as martyrs and become a rallying point for their ideology or organisations.
Armed opposition groups have also pointed to the use of the death penalty as a justification for reprisals, thereby continuing the cycle of violence.
All people who are executed have been proven guilty of serious crimes
Amnesty International argues, “Around the world, hundreds of prisoners are executed after grossly unfair trials. This can include the use of “confessions” extracted under torture, the denial of access to lawyers and inadequate legal representation.”
They state, “The 144 exonerations of death row prisoners recorded in the USA since 1973 show that, regardless of how many legal safeguards are in place, no justice system is free from error. As long as human justice remains fallible, the risk of executing the innocent can never be eliminated.”
Relatives of murder victims demand capital punishment
Amnesty International argues, “The worldwide anti-death penalty movement includes many who have lost their loved ones to, or have themselves been victims of, violent crime, but for ethical or religious reasons do not want the death penalty imposed 'in their name'. In the USA, organisations such as Murder Victims’ Families for Human Rights are driving the movement to abolish the death penalty.