Against Capital Punishment

Against Capital Punishment

Feb. 23, 2013, 5:45 p.m. Published in Magazine Issue: Vol: 06 No. -17 Feb 22- 2013 (Falgun 11, 2069)

Just some days ago, Mohammed Afzal Guru was hanged to death in India. Some months earlier, Ajmal Kasab was hanged as well. Even more brutally an underage Sri Lankan maid was put to death in Saudi Arabia some time back due to the flaws in the judicial system after being tried for so many months. While some 90% of the countries in the world do not choose execution, the remaining nations do continue to kill the criminals. The capital punishment, however, is a debatable act.

If all the people mentioned above were killed for killing others, how can we be taught that killing is wrong? It is no justice to take lives when lives have been lost, it is simply a revenge. Taking lives of even the most brutal criminals is not humane. If we repeat what they do, how can we be any better? How can the judicial system be just by killing for killing? This is vengeance, not justice.

 In US alone, it has been found, upon later verifications, that half the people sentenced for life in 60s and 70s were not guilty. The Sri Lankan immigrant to Saudi Arabia was put to death without a lawyer, and she was forced to confess a crime she did not commit as she did not know the language everyone around her was speaking. Similarly, witnesses can be wrong, motives of people filing cases against others can be selfish, and judges could be biased due to several reasons.

Civilized people living in civilized societies do not tolerate brutal crimes; murders and rapes and so on. If this is the notion behind punishing the offenders and putting them to death, how can the civilized societies tolerate killing of someone else too? Moreover, if killing the offender is fair for his crime of killing, why are not rapist raped and domestic violators repeated with their actions?

Hanging is just one way of killing which dates back to medieval times. The past however had even more brutal ways of killing like guillotine, suffocating in ash, boiling, burning, and crucifixion and sometimes leaving to elephants. Slowly and gradually killing people for crimes were replaced by other forms of punishments, life imprisonment for example. It was even considered brutal in those times and banished by many emperors and rulers, who thought deciding the fate of other people was not in their hands, criminals or not.   Recent developments include lethal injections and electric chairs, which are better perceived as compared to hanging or other forms of executions like as in the past. Similarly, this notion should be carried on till today and we should look towards a society which does not kill its criminals, but tries to perhaps render them guilty but still give them a chance to improve in case they learn repentance.

Talking about capital punishments, the harshest form today is stoning to death. This is carried out in many Muslim countries with Sharia laws even to minors and women for reasons like treachery or adultery. Despite it being deemed fair in the eyes of orthodox religious practitioners, this is a worse form of execution.

The main ideas behind putting people to death as part of their punishment for committing certain types of crimes like felony, murder, terrorist attacks, rapes and so on is to avert the risk for the rest of the society to repeat the same actions by threatening them to death. Nonetheless, countless women continue to be raped everyday and threatening terrorists to death apparently has not worked as of yet. Also, how many Afzals and Kasabs do we hear of? Very few. So unless the state can do justice and kill either ALL or NONE of the offenders for the same crime, putting people to death should be stopped. What should be changed and wiped off is the mentality to commit crimes not the criminals. Kill one Kasab or Guru, they will make another thousand of them hungry for revenge. India and also the rest of the world should live by Gandhi’s words again, that he could not in all conscience agree to anyone going to the gallows. If God has given life, He should only be the one to decide what to do with it.

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