Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases, regardless of the characteristics of the offender, the crime or the method of execution. Amnesty International opposes the death penalty on the grounds that it is a violation of the right to life and the right not to be subject to cruel or inhumane treatment or punishment.
These rights are fundamental rights enshrined in the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
However in practice the death penalty regularly violates many other human rights:
- The death penalty disproportionately affects the poor
- The death penalty disproportionately affects visible minorities and other marginalised groups
- Death sentences in many parts of the world routinely result from evidence extracted through torture
- Innocent people have been executed and nothing short of abolition can guarantee that no innocent person will be executed
- Capital punishment is often used for crimes or circumstances which international law or standards say should not have a death penalty such as against those who were under the age of 18 at the time of the offence, following an unfair trial and for non-lethal crimes such as drug trafficking or political offences.
Furthermore, study after study has shown the death penalty is:
- Ineffective at deterring crime
- Extremely costly, draining resources that could more effectively be used to solve and prevent crime
Every year executions take place in a number of countries. Regularly countries such as China, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran and the United States feature as countries with the highest number of executions in the world.
But there is reason for hope. Each year more countries abolish the death penalty in law or practice. Several UN General Assembly motions have been passed in recent years calling for a universal moratorium on executions with a view to abolition. By far more countries have abolished the death penalty than practice it and each year executions only take place in a small number of countries.