Capital punishment also known as the death penalty is described as a legal process through which an individual is put to death as a form of punishment by the state. ‘Death sentence’ is the judicial decree that a person should be punished by capital punishment while execution if enforcement of the decree.
Crimes that result to capital punishment are termed as capital offenses or capital crimes. The term ‘capital’ is derived from the Latin ‘Capitalis’ which regards the head and infers to execution by beheading. In the past, capital punishment was practiced by majority of societies as the most suitable form of punishment for political, religious and criminal dissidents.
Historically, the death sentence was accompanied by torture and most of the executions were carried out in public. The question on whether it is morally acceptable or not for the state to issue the capital punishment is one that raises a lot of debate and it always has. For centuries, debate has revolved around this topic. There are ethical issues that arise from this mode of punishment such as whether it is morally correct to deprive another being of their life.
Capital punishment can only be executed by states as such, whenever non-state organizations claim to have ‘executed’ a person, it is termed as murder. Usually, this kind of punishment is pronounced serious cases of murder though there are instances when some countries can issue the same in cases of adultery, rape, fraud or treason among other capital crimes.
Many countries across the globe use capital punishment. According to reports by Amnesty International, one hundred and forty one countries as at May 2012 had abolished capital punishment. While this is the case there are about 58 nations which are actively practicing this mode of punishment.
98 countries have abolished use of capital punishment for all crimes, 7 have abolished its use for ordinary crimes while 35 others have abolished it de facto. Roughly, 90% of all capital punishments occur in Asia. China is known to carry out the highest number of executions per year for instance in 2008, it executed 1,718 people. Amnesty also states that 346 people were executed in Iran, 111 in the United States of America, 102 in Saudi Arabia and 36 in Pakistan.
Almost all countries across the globe prohibit the execution of people who were not yet 18 at the time of committing their crimes. Since 2009, only Sudan, Saudi Arabia and Iran have performed such executions and this is despite the fact that under international law, they are prohibited.
There is increasing support in recent years for capital punishment to be abolished. On 18th December 2008, the UN adopted resolution 63/168 which reaffirms its call for moratorium on use of death penalty (62/149) passed in 2007 December. The resolution requests all states to freeze capital punishment with the view of abolition eventually.
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