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Capital Punishment





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Capital punishment is legal infliction of death as a penalty for violating criminal law. Throughout history people have been put to death for various forms of wrongdoing. Methods of execution have included such practices as crucifixion, stoning, drowning, burning at the stake, impaling, and beheading. Today capital punishment is typically accomplished by lethal gas or injection, electrocution, hanging, or shooting.

The death penalty is the most controversial penal practice in the modern world. The practice of capital punishment is as old as government itself. Since ancient times most governments have punished a wide variety of crimes by death.

The first significant movement to abolish the death penalty began during the era known as the Age of Enlightenment. Critics of capital punishment contend that it is brutal and degrading, while supporters consider it a necessary form of retribution (revenge) for terrible crimes. Executions were public involving cruel methods. Opponents of capital punishment assert that it is degrading to the humanity of the person punished. Early opponents of capital punishment also argued that inflicting death was not necessary to control crime and properly punish wrongdoers. Instead, alternative punishment—such as imprisonment—could effectively isolate criminals from the community, deter other potential offenders from committing offenses. Supporters of capital punishment countered that the ultimate penalty of death was necessary for the punishment of terrible crimes because it provided the most complete retribution and condemnation. Furthermore, they argued that the threat of execution was a unique deterrent. Supporters and opponents of capital punishment still debate its effectiveness.

Modern opposition to the death penalty is seen as a reaction to the political history of the 20th century, most notably the Holocaust—the systematic mass killing of Jews and others during World War II (1939-1945). Some of the nations involved in the war supported the abolition of capital punishment. Italy formally abolished the death penalty in 1947 and the Federal Republic of Germany did so in 1949. The British government instituted a Royal Commission to study capital punishment in 1950 and abolished the death penalty in 1965. By the early 1980s every major country in Western Europe had stopped executing criminals. Canada abolished the death penalty in 1976. New Zealand held its last execution in 1957.

By 2005, 83 countries all over the world no longer authorized the penalty of death for any crimes. Another 13 countries authorized capital punishment only for exceptional crimes, such as crimes under military law and crimes committed in exceptional circumstances, such as during wartime. Asian countries and Islamic nations tend to practice capital punishment. The majority of countries in Africa also authorize the death penalty. Only two advanced industrial democracies, the United States and Japan, retain the death penalty. A number of newly industrialized Asian nations, such as South Korea, also practice capital punishment.

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 practice capital punishment it is reserved for murder, espionage, treason, or as part of military justice. In some countries sexual crimes, such as rape, adultery, and incest carry the death penalty. In many countries that use the death penalty, drug trafficking is also a capital offense. The following is a list of countries with statutory provisions for the death penalty for drug-related offenses: United States, Iran, Singapore, India (no execution carried out for such offenses), Kuwait, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Iraq, Oman, Republic of China.

 

 

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