FIDU is involved in the campaign for the universal abolition of the death penalty.
Thanks to the commitment of a global network composed by abolitionist movements, to which FIDU belongs, so far more than half of the worldwide countries have abolished the death penalty from their legal systems for any crime.
THE DEATH PENALTY AND ITS ABOLITION AROUND THE WORLD
Despite the fact that the data regarding the executions in some countries are still worrying, the global trend towards abolition remains certain.
The countries that decided to abolish the death penalty by law or in practice are 162. In particular:
- 106 fully abolitionist countries
- 7 abolitionist countries for ordinary crimes
- 6 countries implement a moratorium on executions
- 43 de facto abolitionist countries, namely those which have not carried out executions for more than ten years or are internationally committed to abolish the death penalty
- 36 countries are still keeping the death penalty (*).
Compared to the previous years, a reduction in the number of executions was registered in 2018. The majority of death sentences was carried out in China, Iran and Saudi Arabia. Although it is not possible to have exact figures of the death sentences executed in China because they are still deemed a state secret, China is considered the first country to implement executions.
THE DEATH PENALTY IN DEMOCRATIC COUNTRIES
Although countries run by totalitarian forces are carrying out most of the executions, the reality of the death penalty also concerns the so-called liberal democracies, or those countries whose political system aims to protect human rights. In 2016, 4 democratic states applied the death penalty: the United States, Japan, Botswana, and Taiwan.
THE DEATH PENALTY AND THE ISLAMIC LAW
Shari’a, or Islamic law, is a system of rules of conduct that aims to regulate every aspect of a Muslim’s life, including relationships inside and outside the community of believers (ummat al-Islamiya). Its task is to preserve the five elements defined essential (al-daruruyyãt al-khamsa) for the well-being of the individual, namely religion, life, intellect, offspring and property. However, his raison d’etre is not limited to the sphere of the individual, but also embraces the public interest (al-masalih), which must be protected from any threat that may jeopardize its balance. The most important source of the shari’a is the Koran, but the most substantial one is the interpretation of the ahadith transmitted by the Prophet orally, which are examples of life that Muhammad believed should be taken as a model. A secondary source that derives from the Islamic law lies in the methods developed to find answers to the new problems related to modernity in the Qur’an and ahadith. The various schools of interpretation of the Islamic law are mainly five:
- Hanafi (Sunni)
- Maliki (Sunni)
- Shafi’i (Sunni)
- Hanbali (Sunni)
- Ja’fari (Shiite)
As part of this complex system, the death penalty is considered a deterrent, an antidote to the spread of crimes and sins within Islam.
THE CRIMES PUNISHED BY THE DEATH SENTENCE WITHIN THE ISLAMIC JURISPRUDENCE
There are three categories of crimes punished by the death penalty in the Islamic jurisprudence (fiqh):
- The murder, which falls within the category of crimes whose sanction follows the “eye for an eye” principle (Qisas).
- The crimes for which the Koran and the ahadith provide for penalties (Hudud = limit) that the judge cannot amend because ordered by God. The death penalty concerns apostasy (riddah), adultery (zina) and “War against God” (hirabah). The latter definition includes crimes which, due to their violence or the fact of bringing corruption on Earth, are considered as a declaration of hostility towards God. Terrorism is an example; but it is a category that lends itself easily to politicization and can be used by governments to silence opposition.
- The sentence established for crimes called Ta’zir, which may also consist of death penalty, is discretionary and derives from a judge’s decision. These are crimes that do not have the technical requirements to fall into one of the two categories just described, such as the attempted adultery.
The death penalty, in the context of shari’a, should therefore be applied to a limited number of cases, considered particularly serious. However, in several Muslim countries, criminal law goes beyond the prescriptions of Islamic law and provides for the death penalty also for homosexuality, witchcraft, drug-related crimes.
REASONS TO ABOLISH THE DEATH PENALTY
There are many reasons to abolish the death penalty. Here are the most common arguments:
- It is a cruel, inhuman, degrading punishment;
- It is inconsistent with the respect for human dignity;
- It is not a deterrent against crime;
- Its application is subject to voluntary and involuntary errors;
- It is not less expensive than detention;
- It is configured as an instrument of social discrimination since the majority of people who are executed belongs to the weaker social classes.
In addition to these arguments, there is another one that we believe to be stronger, because it can be applied to all cases: it is not acceptable that a State can dispose of the life of its citizens, as stated by Cesare Beccaria in his On Crimes and Punishments (Dei Delitti e delle Pene), where he highlights the absurdity of a state which, while condemning the murder, commits one in the name of justice.
WHAT WE DO
In addition to the activities of monitoring, advocacy and raising direct awareness among governments and international bodies, the initiatives of FIDU supporting the campaign against the death penalty include the constant work of information and training, which is part of the broader framework of the human rights education.