Death Penalty and the Victims

image of Death Penalty and the Victims
This book includes perspectives from a broad range of victims. While some of them are family members of the crime victims, others are victims of the human rights violations in application of the death penalty, of its brutality and traumatic effects. Victims’ perspectives, taken holistically, make a compelling case against the death penalty. When it comes to the death penalty, almost everyone loses.Victims’ family members mostly end up frustrated. If they are against the death penalty and the death penalty is imposed on the perpetrator, the cycle of violence is continuing instead of being broken. If they want revenge, just a few can get it, and often, only after many years. Meanwhile, the expectation of the execution prevents closure and moving forward.The convicted persons may be considered victims if the criminal response of the justice system violates their human rights, through wrongful convictions, unequal and discriminatory application of justice, lack of a due process, imposing the death penalty for crimes that do not meet the “most serious crimes” threshold or to the categories of perpetrators that should be protected from the death penalty (minors, persons with mental or intellectual disabilities,pregnant women). Long delays, conditions on a death row and the application of the death penalty may amount to torture, or at least inhuman and degrading treatment. Third parties are the “hidden victims” of the death penalty. When compared to other forms of punishment, the death penalty disproportionality affects mental health and well-being of family members of the convicted person (especially children and primary care-takers), as well as third persons included in criminal proceedings or executions (such as prosecutors, judges, lawyer and executioners). Finally, the state’s right to execute violates the right to life and negatively reflects on human rights of its citizens in general.The perspectives of the victims on the death penalty as reflected in this book are likely to provoke tough discussions and polemics. This may be a welcome challenge. There is a strong and empirically proven correlation between the evidence-based discussion on the death penalty and moving away from it.




In 1931, George Orwell famously described a hanging. As the condemned man was marched, in handcuffs, to the gallows, he stepped slightly aside to avoid a puddle—an ordinary, tender, very human gesture. Orwell wrote: “Till that moment I had never realised what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man…the unspeakable wrongness.” What Orwell understood so well was how human reason, tugged by the presence of one puddle placed inconveniently in the path of a man about to die, demanded a more complex human response. What he saw was fundamentally a form of revenge. And revenge, however dressed up it was by a judicial process, still remained a crude act of state vengeance. And with 8,000 years of practice behind it, drawn from the belief that life, even though not created by society, can nevertheless be withdrawn by it, the urge for vengeance had separated humanity from its own, very necessary, sense of decency. This notion of justice in the form of revenge is, however, changing.


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