OP/ED: The Death Penalty Goes Against Human Rights!

Recently Washington state abolished the death penalty. But why should we fight for the abolition of death penalty all over the world?

In 2014, Washington State already froze the death penalty under a moratorium by the Governor Jay Inslee. He complained about the high costs, but also the randomness and the missing evidence it was carried out with. He wanted to set a statement with the moratorium in the whole debate about death penalty. Since 2014 there haven’t been anymore death penalties implemented in Washington.

In October 11, 2018 the Washington State Supreme Court considered the death penalty in their state as “unconstitutional and racially biased.”

With these arguments they officially ended the death penalty in the state of Washington. With that decision, Washington state is now the 20th state in the United States without death penalty according to records by the Death Penalty Information Center.

Article 6.1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights says: “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.” This article states that death penalty is against human rights and should be illegal in every country. This was signed by nations around the world. One of these countries are the United States.

Human rights are very important for everyone. There are a lot of human rights violations in the world just like death penalty. We can do something! (Jennifer Schwarz/Lion Tales)

Right now, there are 61 countries in the whole world which still have death penalty, 24 of them are members of the United Nations. There are no real explanations why members of the United Nations which have signed to follow the human rights still offend the rights.  Also, there are no explanations why they are still part of the United Nations. The United Nations exists to protect human rights all over the world, so every member of the UN should follow these human rights to reach this goal.

Also, in California, the death penalty is not officially forbidden by law. Since July 17, 2014, there exists a permanent moratorium which freezes the death penalty until a time when there is an official decision by the Supreme Court. That actually means that everybody in our school can be affected by the death penalty.

To be honest, I was really shocked when I read about California’s law about the death penalty. I always thought that death penalty is already forbidden by law in California. California is such a modern, liberal, and opened state that I was really surprised. Isn’t the death penalty a kind of an old and conservative punishment? Isn’t there a better way? I really did not have the impression of California being conservative and old-school in their thinking.

Of course it is horrible if you kill other people, and it is obvious that people who did really bad things should be punished for that. But should it really be allowed to kill a person as a punishment for killing another person? Isn’t that just as ethically unjustifiable as murdering a person from whatever cause? You cannot stop violence by more violence. And you also cannot stop murdering by more murdering. If one really thinks about it, one realizes that there is absolute no sense behind that.

But what can you personally do to stop the death penalty and protect human rights not only in the United States and California, but also in the rest of the world?

There are several organizations like Amnesty International which try to protect human rights with demonstrations, campaigns, discussions, and support of moratoriums and actions by the abolitionist movement. You can support organizations like that by spending money, showing support, becoming a member, informing people, and spreading information on social media.

What is interesting about Washington’s law is that death dignity is legal in Washington since March 5, 2009. The law is called Washington Death With Dignity Act, Initiative 1000 and allows terminally ill adults to end their life by getting lethal doses of medication from medical and osteopathic physicians. These terminally ill patients must be Washington residents who have less than six months to live.

I think that is interesting because death with dignity is something which is really disputed in a lot of countries and requires at least a little bit of modern and liberal thinking. So the interesting question about that is: Why did Washington state legalized death dignity already in 2009 which is kind of early, but abolished death penalty  not until 2018?

I can’t answer this question, and I don’t think anyone can. But it is something interesting to think about. Especially because for both – the abolition of death penalty and the legalization of death dignity – it is a delicate discussion, and also an important one.