What are some methods of the death penalty

ACAT Switzerland - For a world free from torture and the death penalty

Definition: what is the death penalty?

The death penalty is a punitive measure that prescribes the killing of a convicted person. It is imposed on a person who has been found guilty of a crime for which this penalty is provided for in the law and is pronounced during a trial. There are other cases in which state officials take the life of a person, but in this context one speaks of extrajudicial execution, summary execution or simply murder. Despite progress towards abolition, the debate on the death penalty is not over. Proponents of the death penalty cite the need to protect society, deter criminals, or please victims. Proponents of the total abolition of the death penalty rely in particular on the fundamental right to life, the cruelty and irrevocability of this penalty.

ACAT's mandate was extended to include the fight against the death penalty for the following reasons:

  • The belief that torture and the death penalty are closely related, including through the suffering the convict goes through while awaiting execution;
  • The importance attached to promoting human rights: every individual has the right to life (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Art. 3);
  • The fact that, for a Christian, every human being - no matter how guilty - is made in the image of God and no one has the right to take his or her life.

Since then, ACAT has been active on four major axes:

  • Assistance to those sentenced to death by asking the authorities concerned to retrial and / or convert the sentence or by initiating an exchange of letters with some of the convicts in order to reduce the suffering of waiting, often several years;
  • The exertion of pressure on national or international authorities to achieve legal progress in the fight against the death penalty: the abolition of this penalty, the introduction of moratoria, the strengthening of international laws prohibiting the resumption of executions in countries which have already abolished them;
  • The call to the authorities of all Christian churches to speak out clearly against the death penalty or to take action in favor of certain convicts;
  • Reflecting on the ethical and theological principles of our commitment to the abolition of the death penalty.

Facts about the death penalty

The exact figures are not known, but overall the number of executions per year is steadily decreasing. In 2015, the vast majority of the recorded executions took place in Iran, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. China, which keeps the number of state killings a secret, allegedly executes more people than all other countries combined. The USA and Japan are the only two democratic states that still practice the death penalty.

Execution Methods

Even if the earlier barbaric methods are no longer used (crucifixion, quartering, wheel, pyre ...), there is no "human" technique and no gentle method to take someone's life.

The following methods have been used since 2000:

  • Beheading (saudi arabia)
  • Fatal electric shock (USA)
  • Hanging (Egypt, India, Iraq, Iran, Japan, Jordan, Pakistan, Singapore, etc.)
  • Poison Injection (China, USA)
  • Shoot them (Belarus, China, Vietnam and others.)
  • Stoning (Afghanistan, Iran)

In some countries, the executions still take place in public: hanging in the open with a crane in Iran or shot in the neck in China. After the hanging, the corpses may be on display for several days.

Crimes punishable by the death penalty

In all countries that practice the death penalty, murder is the main crime for which the death penalty is pronounced. But other crimes can also result in the death penalty: rape, kidnapping, endangering state security, terrorism, espionage, drug trafficking, arson, homosexuality, adultery. Executions for homosexuality or adultery take place in Muslim countries that practice Sharia law. The definition of adultery there is much broader than ours and a raped woman can also be convicted of "adultery".

China is the record holder for the number of crimes punishable by the death penalty (68), including many - tax fraud, embezzlement, etc. - that are not violent crimes. Often death sentences are pronounced according to sloppy or very quick procedures: Missing or manipulated evidence, lack of a legal representative, absence of the accused themselves, lack of translators, merely incriminating evidence, false testimony, confessions obtained under torture, lack of appeal, etc.

However, it must be emphasized that international jurisdiction has excluded recourse to the death penalty for the worst crimes such as genocide or crimes against humanity.

Sources: ACAT-France and the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty