Friday, January 26, 2007

Kumari on the History of the Death Penalty Debate

Areti Krishna Kumari, ICFAI University (India), has posted a new paper, Capital Punishment - The Never Ending Debate, which sees the debate on capital punishment as having deep historic roots. Here's the abstract:
The history of Capital Punishment is as old as that of mankind. In the Western world the first instance seems to be The Law of Moses, inflicting death for blasphemy. By 1179 B.C. murder was a capital crime among Egyptians and Greeks. In the beginning, offences against religion and morality attracted Capital Punishment. However, the primitive societies soon grew up into kingdoms and consequently criminal law also changed quickly. Whether it was West or East, offences against the King were considered as more serious. Thus, the political offences were also added to the religious and moral offences and Capital Punishment was prescribed for such offences also. With the advent of industrialization and advancement of civilization, Capital Punishment was prescribed for offences against the property and human body. Now, in the modern world, capital offences further covered drug-trafficking, hijacking the airplanes, bribery etc. Some Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia even want to add artificial insemination also to the list of capital offences.
Retentionists of Capital Punishment argue that Capital Punishment is necessary to maintain peace in the world since it acts as a deterrent to potential offenders. In the beginning, public opinion was also in favor of Capital Punishment in preference to life imprisonment. On the other hand abolitionists argue that Capital Punishment failed as a deterrent and no major work of any researcher ever proved its efficacy. Further they maintain that it is an inhuman punishment arbitrarily imposed on the poor, the minority, the uneducated and the downtrodden. The conflict of opinion between the abolitionists and retentionists over Capital Punishment generated a debate throughout the world about the utility of Capital Punishment in the modern world, where great importance is attached to basic human freedoms.