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The two sides of the Death Penalty


The penalty for murder in Iraq, as in many other countries, is death and the former president of Iraq Saddam Hussein, who was found guilty of sending persons to their death, met his fate on the gallows on December 30th, 2006 after he had exhausted his appeals. Hanging is still the method of execution in Iraq and it must be done within 30 days of the decision by the final court of Appeal.{{more}}

Other forms of execution

In some other countries, for example, the United States of America, execution is by lethal injection in some states and by the electric chair in others. In about eight states including Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Maryland, Missouri, Ohio, and South Dakota, execution by lethal injection has been stayed because of the challenges to the practice. The reason proffered is that the drugs used in the execution cause extreme and unnecessary pain and violate the ban by the 8th amendment on cruel and unusual punishments.

Position in the USA

The death penalty was declared unconstitutional in New York in 2004 and the state of New Hampshire has no more persons on death row. The death penalty in the United States is used less and less. The year 2006 could be the year when it was used the least. The latest on the death penalty comes from New Jersey which had suspended execution a year ago. The New Jersey Study Commission created by the legislature gave its final report on January 2, 2007. It calls on the Governor to repeal the death penalty and replace it with life imprisonment without parole. Among its findings is that it serves no legitimate penological interest, that it is inconsistent with evolving standards of decency among others.

The two sides

The death penalty is a highly controversial issue and the debates on both sides have been quite intense. Supporters argue that it deters crime, prevents recidivism and is appropriate as a punishment for the crime of murder. Opponents argue that it does not deter crime and it violates certain human rights and innocent persons could be executed. Many of the established Christian churches and denominations appear to be strongly against the death penalty. The Catholic Church is against the death penalty. According to Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace the Catholic Church’s opposition to the death penalty is based on its recognition of every human life as a gift of God that must be defended from conception to death. On December 30, he told Vatican Radio that he hoped and prayed that “the hanging of Saddam will not aggravate the already critical situation in Iraq.” He further stated that “that position excludes abortion, experimentation on embryos, euthanasia and the death penalty which are denials of the transcendental dignity of the human person created in the image of God.”

In “The Tablet” of January 6, 2007, Cindy Wooden’s article captioned “Vatican opposed Saddam’s Execution” reports that according to one source executing someone guilty of a crime is not the way to restore justice and reconcile society.”

Amnesty International is an organization that works for an end to executions and the abolition of the death penalty. Those who subscribe to this organization feel that the death penalty is the ultimate cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment. It violates the right to life. It is irrevocable and can be inflicted on the innocent and it has never been shown to deter crime more effectively than other punishments. Next week the history of the death penalty and the death penalty in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

• Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law.
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