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The death penalty SOURCE: WIKIPEDIA 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). [3] 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).

Each of these four nations voted against the General Assembly resolutions. [7][8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15] Contents [hide] 1 History 1. 1 Ancient history 1. 2 Ancient Tang China 1. 3 Middle Ages 1. 4 Modern era 1. 5 Contemporary era 2 Movements towards humane execution 3 Abolitionism 4 Contemporary use 4. 1 Global distribution 4. 2 Execution for drug-related offences 4. 3 Juvenile offenders 4. 3. 1 Iran 4. 3. 2 Somalia 4. 4 Methods 5 Controversy and debate 5. 1 Human rights 5. 2 Wrongful execution 5. 3 Retribution 5. 4 International views 6 Religious views 6. 1 Buddhism 6. 2 Christianity 6. 2. 1 Roman Catholic Church 6. 2. 2 Protestants 6. . 3 Mormonism 6. 3 Hinduism 6. 4 Islam 6. 5 Judaism 7 See also 8 References 9 Further reading 10 External links 10. 1 Opposing 10. 2 In favour 10. 3 Religious views History Execution of criminals and political opponents has been used by nearly all societies—both to punish crime and to suppress political dissent. In most places that practise capital punishment it is reserved for murder, espionage, treason, or as part of military justice. In some countries sexual crimes, such as rape, adultery, incest and sodomy, carry the death penalty, as do religious crimes such as apostasy in Islamic nations (the formal renunciation of the state religion).

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.

The Christian Martyrs’ Last Prayer, by Jean-Leon Gerome (1883). Roman Colosseum. Islam on the whole accepts capital punishment,[19] and the Abbasid Caliphs in Baghdad, such as Al-Mu’tadid, were often cruel in their punishments. [20] Nevertheless, mercy is considered preferable in Islam,[citation needed], and in Sharia law the victim’s family can choose to spare the life of the killer, which is not uncommon. citation needed] In the One Thousand and One Nights, also known as the Arabian Nights, the fictional storyteller Sheherazade is portrayed as being the “voice of sanity and mercy”, with her philosophical position being generally opposed to punishment by death. She expresses this through several of her tales, including “The Merchant and the Jinni”, “The Fisherman and the Jinni”, “The Three Apples”, and “The Hunchback”. [21] The breaking wheel was used during the Middle Ages and was still in use into the 19th century. Ancient history

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.

The Torah (Jewish Law), also known as the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Christian Old Testament), lays down the death penalty for murder, kidnapping, magic, violation of the Sabbath, blasphemy, and a wide range of sexual crimes, although evidence suggests that actual executions were rare. [23] A further example comes from Ancient Greece, where the Athenian legal system was first written down by Draco in about 621 BC: the death penalty was applied for a particularly wide range of crimes, though Solon later repealed Draco’s code and published new laws, retaining only Draco’s homicide statutes. 24] The word draconian derives from Draco’s laws. The Romans also used death penalty for a wide range of offenses. [25][26] Ancient Tang China Although many are executed in China each year in the present day, there was a time in Tang Dynasty China when the death penalty was abolished. [27] This was in the year 747, enacted by Emperor Xuanzong of Tang (r. 712–756). When abolishing the death penalty Xuanzong ordered his officials to refer to the nearest regulation by analogy when sentencing those found guilty of crimes for which the prescribed punishment was execution.

Thus depending on the severity of the crime a punishment of severe scourging with the thick rod or of exile to the remote Lingnan region might take the place of capital punishment. However the death penalty was restored only 12 years later in 759 in response to the An Lushan Rebellion. [28] At this time in China only the emperor had the authority to sentence criminals to execution. Under Xuanzong capital punishment was relatively infrequent, with only 24 executions in the year 730 and 58 executions in the year 736. [27]

Ling Chi – execution by slow slicing – in Beijing around 1910. The two most common forms of execution in China in the Tang period were strangulation and decapitation, which were the prescribed methods of execution for 144 and 89 offences respectively. Strangulation was the prescribed sentence for lodging an accusation against one’s parents or grandparents with a magistrate, scheming to kidnap a person and sell them into slavery and opening a coffin while desecrating a tomb. Decapitation was the method of execution prescribed for more serious crimes such as treason and sedition.

Interestingly, and despite the great discomfort involved, most Chinese during the Tang preferred strangulation to decapitation, as a result of the traditional Chinese belief that the body is a gift from the parents and that it is therefore disrespectful to one’s ancestors to die without returning one’s body to the grave intact. Some further forms of capital punishment were practised in Tang China, of which the first two that follow at least were extralegal. The first of these was scourging to death with the thick rod which was common throughout the Tang especially in cases of gross corruption.

The second was truncation, in which the convicted person was cut in two at the waist with a fodder knife and then left to bleed to death. [29] A further form of execution called Ling Chi (slow slicing), or death by/of a thousand cuts, was used in China from the close of the Tang dynasty (around 900) to its abolition in 1905. When a minister of the fifth grade or above received a death sentence the emperor might grant him a special dispensation allowing him to commit suicide in lieu of execution.

Even when this privilege was not granted, the law required that the condemned minister be provided with food and ale by his keepers and transported to the execution ground in a cart rather than having to walk there. Nearly all executions under the Tang took place in public as a warning to the population. The heads of the executed were displayed on poles or spears. When local authorities decapitated a convicted criminal, the head was boxed and sent to the capital as proof of identity and that the execution had taken place.

In Tang China, when a person was sentenced to decapitation for rebellion or sedition, punishment was also imposed on their relatives, whether or not the relatives were guilty of participation in the crime. In such cases fathers of the convicted under 79 years of age and sons aged over 15 were strangled. Sons under 15, daughters, mothers, wives, concubines, grandfathers, grandsons, brothers and sisters were enslaved and uncles and nephews were banished to the remotest reaches of the empire. Sometimes the tombs of the family’s ancestors were levelled, the ancestors’ coffins were destroyed and their bones scattered. 29] Middle Ages In medieval and early modern Europe, before the development of modern prison systems, the death penalty was also used as a generalised form of punishment. During the reign of Henry VIII, as many as 72,000 people are estimated to have been executed. [30] Despite its wide use, calls for reform were not unknown. The 12th century Sephardic legal scholar, Moses Maimonides, wrote, “It is better and more satisfactory to acquit a thousand guilty persons than to put a single innocent man to death. He argued that executing an accused criminal on anything less than absolute certainty would lead to a slippery slope of decreasing burdens of proof, until we would be convicting merely “according to the judge’s caprice. ” Caprice of various sorts are more visible now with DNA testing, and digital computer searches and discovery requirements opening DA’s files. Maimonides’ concern was maintaining popular respect for law, and he saw errors of commission as much more threatening than errors of omission. [31]