This is a strange question to be asked on the blog of a master in international human rights law but it is worth asking: do you believe in the death penalty?
This is a very important question because even human rights advocates do not have clear cut answers to the question. During my masters studies, I asked the same question to one of my classmates and I was taken aback by his response. He said he believes in the death penalty if the offender is a mass murderer. I was shocked by my classmate's ideology but I later realised that he is not the only human rights advocate who tolerates the death penalty. As a matter of fact, many human rights lawyers who push for the death penalty go unnoticed while those who oppose the death penalty, like Mohammad Mostafaei get arrested.
Being against the death penalty means being for the opinion that life is secret and the State should preserve life and not take it away in the name of administering justice.
This morning, 11/11/09, I woke up to the news of the execution of the DC sniper John Muhammad (seen in the picture above). He was executed by lethal injection in the Greensville Correctional Centre. In case you missed it, John Muhammad was a 48 year old man who was sentenced to death 7 years ago and held in the Virginia Department of Corrections, after he and his teenage accomplice terrorized the Washington DC area for 3 weeks. It is worth mentioning that the pair killed a total of 10 people in the Washington DC area and were suspected of murders in Louisiana, Alabama and Arizona. (Click here to read more).
The execution of John Muhammad has left me with even more questions about the legality of the death penalty. If the execution of criminals is the administration of justice, why was his accomplice, Lee Boyde Malvo, (who was 17 at the time of the shooting) not executed as well? Why was he given a life sentence for the same offence? Was he "more" human?
At this point, you've probably noticed that I'm not a proponent of the death penalty and I do not believe the execution of a criminal is synonymous to the administration of justice. I support the United Nation's call for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty. The death penalty is immoral and illegal in international Law.
For more information about the death penalty in International Law, click here.
You're welcome to let me know what you think about the death penalty. Luckily, we live in a free world and everyone has the right to his/her opinion.
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