Posts Tagged ‘US police killing people’

The execution debate

By Jonathan Power

The first recorded parliamentary debate on the use of the death penalty was held in 427 BC when Diodotus, arguing that the penalty was not a deterrent, persuaded the Athenian assembly not to execute the Mitylene rebels.

The debate goes on- in America in particular, a big time user of the penalty where opinion, belatedly, is turning towards using it more sparingly and recently, in Australia, when Indonesia decided to go ahead with the execution last week of convicted Australian drug traffickers. This event got major news coverage all over the world. These two developments suggest that in many countries there is a new think going on about the efficacy and morality of capital punishment.

The modern abolitionist movement is usually traced back to the Italian, Cesare Beccaria’s pioneering work, “On Crimes and Punishment”, published in 1764. But it was an American state, Michigan, that in 1846 that became the first jurisdiction in the world to abolish permanently the death penalty. In 1863 Venezuela became the first country.

Amnesty International recently reported that the number of countries still executing people fell from 41 in 1995 to 22 last year, while the number of states which have abolished the death penalty climbed from 59 to 98.

Abolishing-minded governments are often ahead of their own public opinion. Even in Europe, the word’s pioneer in abolition, if there has been a particularly gruesome and heinous murder polls often show an upswing in support for its re-introduction.

In Hungary last week the prime minister proposed re-instating the death penalty following the stabbing of a young tobacco store clerk. Read the rest of this entry »


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