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Capital punishment and human rights does death penalty bre

Andrew Hammel argues that reactions to the recent trial of Anders Behring Breivik in Norway illustrate how far removed capital punishment is from the political agenda in Europe. There was little appetite within Norway and the rest of Europe for bringing back the death penalty for Breivik and the abolition of capital punishment is effectively guaranteed by international agreements such as the European Convention on Human Rights.

This consensus, built over a period of decades, means there is little prospect of European countries reintroducing the death penalty. A Norwegian judge recently sentenced Anders Behring Breivik to the maximum penalty under Norwegian law, 21 years in prison, or approximately 3 months for each of the 77 murders he committed in his July 2011 massacre. Yet, although it seems unlikely now, it is not impossible that Breivik could be released from prison even before the 21-year term has expired.

Norwegian mass murderer Arnfinn Nesset, convicted in 1983 of poisoning 22 victims to death in a nursing home, was released after serving only 12 years of his 21-year-sentence, and now lives quietly under an assumed name. Foreign observers were surprised at the comparative lightness of the sentence. A Washington Post columnist chastised Norway for not bringing back capital punishment for Breivik.

  • This consensus, built over a period of decades, means there is little prospect of European countries reintroducing the death penalty;
  • Since inertia always a powerful force in politics now favours abolition, there seems little point re-opening the emotional debate over executions;
  • Globalization 'Death penalty abolition has a way to go' Recently, Maryland became the 18th US state to abolish the death penalty;
  • Notably, this opposition may be relatively weak — as I found while researching my book on this subject, leading questions can elicit support for capital punishment even among people who consider themselves abolitionist;
  • Majorities continue to support the death penalty in Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.

For those who believe in capital punishment, Breivik would seem to be the perfect candidate. His was a calculated political massacre, planned by a legally sane person. Yet reactions to the Breivik verdict in Norway were muted, with most Norwegians, according to a poll, satisfied to see him receive the maximum sentence. Norway is not alone in its lenient, rehabilitation-oriented approach to criminal justice: A recent study of European sentencing laws by Dirk van Zyl Smit found that only three European nations England, Wales, and the Netherlands had laws theoretically permitting irreducible life sentences, and that these laws were used extremely sparingly.

Criminologists see Europe — with its continent-wide ban on capital punishment and rehabilitation-oriented prisons — as an outlier in a global penal landscape. Both legal and cultural factors account for this state of affairs. The most obvious factors today are Protocols 6 and 13 to the European Convention on Human Rightswhich together require signatories to ban capital punishment in all circumstances.

Destinations

All aspiring EU member states must eliminate the death penalty from their law books. These protocols represent the culmination of the European movement to abolish capital punishment. Smaller nations formed the vanguard: After France became the final piece in the puzzle, the stage was set for lawmakers and opinion leaders across Europe to irrevocably anchor the abolitionist consensus in international instruments.

As of now, all European countries except for Russia and some former Soviet republics have signed and ratified Protocols 6 and 13.

It might theoretically be possible for a member of the Council of Europe to renounce or derogate from these protocols, but the political costs of doing so make the step unthinkable, at least in peacetime.

Yet what is perhaps more interesting than the legal consensus is the popular consensus around this issue.

Opinion: A populist ruling

Capital punishment was supported by strong majorities when it was eliminated in Germany, the UK, and France. Abolition was possible only because the legal and parliamentary elites in those countries had decided that abolition was a human-rights principle, not a crime-control technique. Put bluntly, these elites decided to ignore public opinion in the name of moral progress.

Which countries still use the death penalty?

Abolition was accompanied by intense political controversy in all these countries. After a few years, however, the debate died down, and support for executions began a slow but steady decline. Across Western Europe, support for capital punishment now hovers at between 15 per cent and 30 per cent of the population.

  1. There is an almost 100 percent conviction rate, which just shows these trials in a large number are faulty.
  2. That is only a very small minority of 10 percent of countries in the world - and this minority continues to shrink almost year-on-year, but certainly in the last decade.
  3. Which countries still have the death penalty? At least 328 people were killed for drug-related offences.
  4. Nevertheless, with increasing prosperity and tighter integration, public opinion in the new EU nations seems likely to follow the pattern established in Western Europe.
  5. Shortened URL for this post. Last year we counted quite a few death sentences and executions in Sudan, which implies there seems to be a rise.

This public consensus appears immune to changing events: The situation in Eastern Europe is somewhat more volatile. There, abolition was imposed not by national elites, but by European institutions. Majorities continue to support the death penalty in Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic.

Nevertheless, with increasing prosperity and tighter integration, public opinion in the new EU nations seems likely to follow the pattern established in Western Europe. This pattern can be summarized as follows. After a period of active controversy, interest in the subject of capital punishment fades.

Since inertia always a powerful force in politics now favours abolition, there seems little point re-opening the emotional debate over executions. No drastic increase in violent crime will occur after abolition. If there is a crime increase, the experts will reassure the public that abolition had nothing to do with it, as the death penalty has no proven deterrent effect.

The adoption of capital punishment by fringe parties therefore creates a sort of self-reinforcing ring-fence around the issue: Notably, this opposition may be relatively weak — as I found while researching my book on this subject, leading questions can elicit support for capital punishment even among people who consider themselves abolitionist.

Belarus: The death penalty returns to Europe

This is where treaties come into play. The central paradox of capital punishment is that its abolition itself is the most important factor in creating a democratic consensus against the death penalty.

  • On the other hand, we don't have access - Amnesty International hasn't been allowed access to Sudan since 2006;
  • Capital punishment was supported by strong majorities when it was eliminated in Germany, the UK, and France.

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