The right to life is an inalienable right protected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rightss (UDHR) and all key human rights standards ratified by the UK, including the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR), International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Forms of Punishment (CAT).
It is worth highlighting that the right to life is "non-derogable" as per Article 4(2) of the ICCPR, ratified by the UK in May 1976. This means the inherent right to life must be respected by the state under all circumstances - even in a "time of emergency which threatens the life of the nation..."
The right to life ranks right up there with other non-derogable rights, including the following.
- Freedom from torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
- Freedom from slavery and servitude.
- Freedom from imprisonment due to inability to fulfill a contractual obligation.
- The right to be recognized as a person before the law.
- Freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
The UK abolished capital punishment in 1969 (source: France 24) and has a legal obligation under duly ratified international covenants not to deprive any individual of the right to life.
Protocol No. 13 to the ECHR expressly prohibits the death penalty in "all circumstances" and asserts that "the abolition of the death penalty is essential for... the full recognition of the inherent dignity of all human beings." Article 1 of the Protocol states: "The death penalty shall be abolished. No one shall be condemned to such penalty or executed."
It is true that the death penalty undermines human dignity. Calls to bring back the death penalty in the UK are misguided and do no provide real solutions to violent crimes. Countries that still have the death penalty in legislation have no shortage of heinous crimes that proponents of the death penalty in the UK mistakenly think capital punishment would deter.
State-sponsored killing is no solution to crime. A reinstatement of the death penalty in the UK, more than 40 years after it was abolished, would be a move backwards.