Death Penalty

10 October 2016

Capital punishment or the death penalty is a legal process whereby a person is put to death by the state as a punishment for a crime. The judicial decree that someone be punished in this manner is a death sentence, while the actual process of killing the person is an execution. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences. The term capital originates from the Latin capitalis, literally “regarding the head” (referring to execution by beheading). 1] Capital punishment has, in the past, been practised by most societies (one notable exception being Kievan Rus);[2] currently 58 nations actively practise it, and 97 countries have abolished it (the remainder have not used it for 10 years or allow it only in exceptional circumstances such as wartime).

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It is a matter of active controversy in various countries and states, and positions can vary within a single political ideology or cultural region. In the European Union member states, Article 2 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union prohibits the use of capital punishment. 4] Currently, Amnesty International considers most countries abolitionist. [5] The UN General Assembly has adopted, in 2007, 2008 and 2010, non-binding resolutions calling for a global moratorium on executions, with a view to eventual abolition. [6] Although many nations have abolished capital punishment, over 60% of the world’s population live in countries where executions take place, such as the People’s Republic of China, India, the United States of America and Indonesia, the four most-populous countries in the world, which continue to apply the death penalty (although in India, Indonesia and in many US states it is rarely employed).

In many countries that use the death penalty, drug trafficking is also a capital offence. In China, human trafficking and serious cases of corruption are punished by the death penalty. In militaries around the world courts-martial have imposed death sentences for offences such as cowardice, desertion, insubordination, and mutiny. [16] Anarchist Auguste Vaillant guillotined in France in 1894 The use of formal execution extends to the beginning of recorded history. Most historical records and various primitive tribal practices indicate that the death penalty was a part of their justice system.

Communal punishment for wrongdoing generally included compensation by the wrongdoer, corporal punishment, shunning, banishment and execution. Usually, compensation and shunning were enough as a form of justice. [17] The response to crime committed by neighbouring tribes or communities included formal apology, compensation or blood feuds. A blood feud or vendetta occurs when arbitration between families or tribes fails or an arbitration system is non-existent. This form of justice was common before the emergence of an arbitration system based on state or organised religion. It may result from crime, land disputes or a code of honour.

Acts of retaliation underscore the ability of the social collective to defend itself and demonstrate to enemies (as well as potential allies) that injury to property, rights, or the person will not go unpunished. “[18] However, in practice, it is often difficult to distinguish between a war of vendetta and one of conquest. Severe historical penalties include breaking wheel, boiling to death, flaying, slow slicing, disembowelment, crucifixion, impalement, crushing (including crushing by elephant), stoning, execution by burning, dismemberment, sawing, decapitation, scaphism, necklacing or blowing from a gun.

Elaborations of tribal arbitration of feuds included peace settlements often done in a religious context and compensation system. Compensation was based on the principle of substitution which might include material (for example, cattle, slave) compensation, exchange of brides or grooms, or payment of the blood debt. Settlement rules could allow for animal blood to replace human blood, or transfers of property or blood money or in some case an offer of a person for execution. The person offered for execution did not have to be an original perpetrator of the crime because the system was based on tribes, not individuals.

Blood feuds could be regulated at meetings, such as the Viking things. [22] Systems deriving from blood feuds may survive alongside more advanced legal systems or be given recognition by courts (for example, trial by combat). One of the more modern refinements of the blood feud is the duel. Giovanni Battista Bugatti, executioner of the Papal States between 1796 and 1865, carried out 516 executions (Bugatti pictured offering snuff to a condemned prisoner). Vatican City abolished its capital punishment statute in 1969. In certain parts of the world, nations in the form of ancient republics, monarchies or tribal oligarchies emerged.

These nations were often united by common linguistic, religious or family ties. Moreover, expansion of these nations often occurred by conquest of neighbouring tribes or nations. Consequently, various classes of royalty, nobility, various commoners and slave emerged. Accordingly, the systems of tribal arbitration were submerged into a more unified system of justice which formalised the relation between the different “classes” rather than “tribes”. The earliest and most famous example is Code of Hammurabi which set the different punishment and compensation according to the different class/group of victims and perpetrators.

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