Death Penalty Does Not Deter Sexual Crimes
Nazir Ahmed Khan argues that death penalty is discriminatory against people from weak socioeconomic backgrounds and statistics have revealed that crime rates are low in countries that have abolished the capital punishment. Death penalty is an organised form of violence committed by the state. One form of violence cannot be abolished by another.
There are five recognised purposes or justifications for punishment: deterrence, incapacitation, restitution, rehabilitation and retribution. It is generally believed that death penalty serves the purpose of deterrence. The rationale behind deterrence is that the risk of getting executed in the future prohibits a significant number of potential criminals from committing a heinous crime in the present.
Based on the same rationale, the lawmaking body of Pakistan recently passed a resolution in the lower house, which proposes public hanging for child abusers. So, now the question is, do such laws really deter the offenders? Are they really helpful in curbing the issue?
First of all, no matter what purpose the death penalty serves, it is against the dignity of a person, which is guaranteed by the Article 14 of Constitution of Pakistan. This law gives the criminal their fundamental right to dignity, regardless of the gravity and heinousness of the crime committed. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has held in 1994 SCMR 1028 that the right guaranteed by Article 14 is an absolute and inviolable right which cannot be violated in any situation, “Accordingly, in all circumstances; the dignity of every man is inviolable and executing in public, even the worst criminal, appears to violate the dignity of man and constitutes, therefore, a violation of the fundamental right contained in Article 14.”
In the Zaineb murder case in 2019, the Lahore High Court (LHC) upheld the apex court’s judgment and did not allow public hanging of the culprit. Moreover, Pakistan, being the signatory of the United Nations Charter and Human Rights Treaties, has the responsibility to protect the dignity of a human being.
Secondly, the effectiveness of death penalty in deterring crimes is still unknown. A 2012 report which is based on a review of decades of research, and published by the National Research Council of the National Academies concluded that ‘the effect of capital punishment on homicide is not informative about whether capital punishment decreases, increases, or has no effect on homicide rates’. It would be logically wrong to adopt something whose effects are unknown to us.
Statistics have revealed that crime rates are low in countries which have abolished death penalty. Abdorrahman Boroumand Center studied crime in eleven countries, which had abolished death penalty, and found that the crime rate went down in ten of those eleven countries. The findings of this study indicate that abolishing death penalty and likelihood of committing a crime have an inverse relation. In fact, death penalty is an organised form of violence committed by the state. One form of violence cannot be abolished by another.
According to Amnesty International, by the end of 2018, 106 countries around the globe had abolished death penalty. Many countries still have a death penalty clause in their laws, but it has remained unused for decades. There are very few countries that use death penalty frequently. The list includes China, Iran and Saudi Arabia.
It is evident from the data that the practice of death penalty has not reduced crime, and countries without the death penalty can live in an even more peaceful environment than those practicing the capital punishment. Moreover, many prominent judges like Harry Blackmun and Lewis Powell, after their retirement, have actively advocated putting an end to the death penalty.
If people like these are against this law, then there might be something terribly wrong with this form of punishment, since a player knows better what is happening on the ground and how to play as opposed to a spectator.
Death penalty is not only cruel, barbaric, and discriminatory but also engulfs many innocent people’s lives. According to a report by the Justice Project Pakistan, the Supreme Court of Pakistan has overturned 85 percent of death sentences based on faulty investigation and evidence since 2014. Those 85 percent are the lucky ones whose lives were saved, but many innocent people like Ghulam Qadir and Ghulam Sarwar have been hanged before their acquittal.
In addition to killing innocent people, the death penalty is discriminatory against people from weak socioeconomic groups. People with strong connections and those who can afford a good lawyer can escape from this monstrous law. However, those who cannot afford an expensive lawyer or who belong to a minority religious or an ethnic group are easy prey for the laws which calls the death penalty.
The case of Asia Bibi is an excellent illustration of the biased nature of our system, which is inherent in this law. So, in a nutshell, even if there is the remotest chance of deterrence, it is outweighed by the barbarism which this law promotes.
Life imprisonment is one of the alternatives to death penalty, which serves the purpose of deterrence more effectively, according to a number of studies, and is humane as well. This way, if innocent people do not get justice in a true sense, they will at least not be strangled to death.
In the presence of such violent laws, a society cannot be expected to be civilized. “The death penalty is a symptom of a culture of violence, not a solution to it”, Amnesty International.