Violation of the Human Right to Life: Death Penalty

The problem of the death penalty cannot be separated from the general concept of human rights as it violates the paramount right of a human to life. In particular, the death penalty is contrary to the international legal standards in the field of human rights, violating the universally recognized norms of the right to life. According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, the establishment of a prohibition on the use of capital punishment in modern international law is associated with the statement of a basic principle of respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, and the general recognition of the absolute right to life (The death penalty is a human rights violation, 2012). This prohibition has already been recognized by plenty of countries – members of the UN, the European Union, the OSCE, and others. Speaking of the US Constitution adopted in 1787, it is essential to note that it does not contain a specific title or chapter on human rights and freedoms while the right to life is enshrined in Amendment V (The death penalty is a human rights violation, 2012). The right to life as a pivotal constitutional right was recognized by the US Constitution, but, at the same time, capital punishment is not abolished in the 34 states of the country.

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Impact on Crime Rates

In terms of overall crime rates, it should be emphasized that there is no scientific evidence that proves a deterrent role of the death penalty towards crime (Nagin & Pepper, 2012). This is the conclusion of the research team working at the National Academy of Sciences of the USA. Focusing on various issues related to capital punishment, those studies that have suggested evidence supporting a deterrent role of the death penalty were assessed in terms of the quality of the evidence (Nagin & Pepper, 2012). As a result, serious mistakes were detected that, in turn, made scholars question their scientific character.

Another authoritative organization, a Brennan Center for Justice at the School of Law at New York University, conducted a study to evaluate the impact of a wide range of factors on crime rates, including the death penalty. The conclusion was clear: the existence of the death penalty does not affect the crime rate (Roeder, Eisen, Bowling, Stiglitz, & Chettiar, 2015). The fact is that the crime rate and violent crime are determined by the common long-term trends occurring in society. If the frequency of crime increases in the country, it equally affects the states having capital punishment and those that do not practice it. Moreover, comparing the level of crime in the states applying the death penalty and those that do not, researchers found that the overall crime rate is higher in the states where there is the capital form of punishment (Roeder et al., 2015). This situation would not occur in the case the death penalty had some impact on crime rates.

Regarding retribution or revenge, the death penalty generates cruelty in society. A state that supports such punishment declares that killing is an acceptable way of solving problems. Society perceives it as an act of justice and, therefore, has a distorted notion of solving the problems of crime (Iyer, 2013). As a result, citizens are beginning to think that crime issues can be resolved by killing. It should also be noted that with the accomplishment of capital punishment, justice cannot achieve the objectives of punishment such as the reconstruction of social justice, correction of the convict, and prevention of new crimes. Considering each of the items separately, it becomes evident that the objectives cannot be reached by the death penalty. Under the reconstruction of social justice, the recovery of violated rights and freedoms is understood (Iyer, 2013). However, the rights and freedoms of the victim or his or her relatives cannot be restored after the criminal’s death. Also, with the death of criminal offenders, it is impossible to correct them (Iyer, 2013). Moreover, the expectation of death often motivates and encourages the sentenced to believe that nothing will change.

Tendency to Decline

Attitudes to the death penalty in the United States are not stated clearly. According to Dieter (2014), an executive director of the Death Penalty Information Center, the number of cases associated with the death penalty is significantly reduced in recent years as the judges are often offered an alternative way of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. Dieter (2014) explains this trend by a miscarriage of justice that is regarded as a focal argument of the death penalty abolition supporters. For instance, in their work, Gross, O’brien, Hu, and Kennedy (2014) state that until the death penalty is maintained, society cannot avoid the risk of incorrect execution of the sentence. No one can correct a fault of justice if the person is dead. At that, the irreversibility of death warrant created by mistake cannot be completely excluded in any legal system. Even the most advanced and powerful system of justice with numerous assurances cannot provide the full accuracy of the facts in all cases (Gross et al., 2014). In any case, there is a serious risk that a person will be executed for a crime he or she did not commit. It is confirmed by too many examples when people were justified after conviction, often due to DNA analysis.

Alternative Way

Plenty of crimes force to shudder from cruelty with which they were committed. Nevertheless, this cruel and unusual punishment that was identified before might be substituted by more suitable ones. However, it is pinpointed by Dieter (2014) based on the experience that the change in the current US system is difficult because it requires a decision states.

Precisely speaking, if the state is moving towards the abolition of the death penalty, it should find an adequate alternative. Such factors as politics, culture, and religion should undoubtedly be taken into account (Dieter, 2014). The presence or absence of the death penalty is an indicator of the particular level of culture, security, and public awareness. Meanwhile, it is significant that the process of abolishing the death penalty should flow steadily preventing any critical situations. These solutions can be achieved through the deep conviction that this type of punishment is unacceptable in a humane and democratic society (Dieter, 2014).

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Therefore, the abolition of capital punishment is possible only in the context of a civil, humane, ethical, and fair society. Only then it will be possible to punish the criminals without depriving them of the most valuable human right – the right to life. In other words, the death penalty is essential to consider in a broader context throughout the interdependence of social, economic, political, legal, spiritual, and moral factors. It is considered that life imprisonment and isolation from society scares criminals much more than the death penalty. Therefore, life imprisonment seems to be an adequate alternative to such inhumane punishment like the death penalty.


Dieter, R. (2014). Use of the death penalty is rare and decreasing. Web.

Gross, S. R., O’brien, B., Hu, C., & Kennedy, E. H. (2014). Rate of false conviction of criminal defendants who are sentenced to death. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 111(20), 7230-7235.

Iyer, D. (2013). Death penalty is not a solution to the issue. Web.

Nagin, D., & Pepper, J. (2012). Deterrence and the death penalty. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press.

Roeder, O. K., Eisen, L., Bowling, J., Stiglitz, J. E., & Chettiar, I. M. (2015). What caused the crime decline? New York, NY: Brennan Center for Justice at the School of Law.

The death penalty is a human rights violation. (2012). Web.

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