Human Rights and the Death Penalty

  • Death Penalty Map

  • Blue: Abolished for all crimes
  • Green: Abolished for crimes not committed in exceptional circumstances (such as crimes committed in time of war)
  • Orange: Abolished in practice
  • Red: Legal form of punishment for certain offences

The death penalty, o­nce a common practice throughout the entire planet, has now become extremely controversial in many areas. In fact, the majority of the world's nations have now ceased using the death penalty as a punishment. However, there are several nations that continue to use the death penalty in order to deter crimes. The list of nations that permit use of the death penalty is made up mostly of developing nations such as Afghanistan and Nigeria, but there are also several developed nations such as the United States, Japan and South Korea, present o­n the list.

The majority of nations that have abolished the death penalty have done so o­n the basis of human rights. Such nations tend to consider the death penalty a violation of what they define as a basic human right to life and liberty. For example, when Spain abolished the death penalty in 1995, its reasoning was that there was no treatment more "degrading or afflictive" imaginable than the death penalty.

Nations that use the death penalty are less likely to define the punishment as a human rights issue. Nations that feel that the issue of capital punishment does not fall within the scope of human rights include Singapore and China. Other nations still use the death penalty, but tend to o­nly define capital punishment as a human rights violation when it occurs in other nations. The United States is especially guilty of this, because the majority of the nation expresses concern with the use of capital punishment in developing countries without considering whether capital punishment occuring within the United States might be a human rights violation.

The status of capital punishment as a human rights issue may not have reached an overall concensus as of yet, but the current trend abolishing its use points to it becoming an accepted human rights issue in the near future.