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The death penalty is not progress in modern society

By Michael Hayworth - posted Friday, 24 May 2013

In fact, the only thing we can be sure of is that the kind of punishments we allow our government to administer on our behalf, are just as revealing of ourselves as a society, as they are of the crime.

The risks of taking an innocent life, an irreversible execution, far outweigh the value in punishing a criminal in such a cruel and inhuman manner. And it denies the state the opportunity to genuinely reform those that are guilty of crimes.

Another common assertion is that abolishing the punishment will see crime rates skyrocket.


It sounds logical that a tougher penalty would reduce crime, but evidence from around the world does not show this - in fact, it suggests the opposite.

A 2004 study on violent crime showed that US states with the death penalty had higher murder rates per capita than states without the punishment and that 27 years after abolishing the death penalty the murder rate in Canada had fallen by 44 per cent.

Less than a decade ago, it would have been hard to imagine Singapore taking the first step toward becoming a death penalty free country. Singapore has observed a moratorium on executions while considering amendments to its death penalty laws for some drug-related offenses.

But we have seen setbacks on our own doorstep. The last twelve months have seen Indonesia, Japan, India and Pakistan all carry out executions for the first time in years, in some cases motivated by nothing more than pure politics.

In Japan, in what seemed more populist measure than prevailing justice, executions were resumed after a 20-month break.

In November 2012, Ajmal Kasab, the lone surviving gunman from the 2008 Mumbai attacks, was suddenly hanged - it was the first execution in India since 2004.


In Indonesia in March this year, Adami Wilson was shot by a firing squad - the first execution since 2008, leaving global civil society dismayed and making it all the more urgent for the our government to support the calls for the 130 people on death row in Indonesia, including Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

Earlier this year, Amnesty International began campaigning for Li Yan, a Chinese woman on death for killing her husband in self-defense after suffering months of horrific domestic violence at his hands.

We have called on governments like that of Saudi Arabia to stop the execution by beheading of Siti Zainab, Indonesian migrant worker on death row, and mother of two. To date 15,000 Australians have taken action supporting calls for Siti's clemency.

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About the Author

Michael Hayworth is the Crisis Response Campaign Coordinator for Amnesty International Australia. Follow him on Twitter

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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