Saturday, March 21, 2009

Is it "cruel, inhuman, or degrading" punishment?

From the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty, "Is the death penalty a cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment under international law?":

The United Nations's special rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, Manfred Nowak, caused a stir at the tenth session of the UN's Human Rights Council by releasing a report in which he recommended investigating whether the death penalty was a cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment.

“The differing views reached by the Human Rights Committee and other authorities in grappling with the question whether detention on death row and if various methods of execution are compatible with the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment suggest the need for a different, more fundamental approach to the matter”, he wrote.

His report draws a parallel with corporal punishment, deemed acceptable a few decades ago and now banned in international law.

While he acknowledged that the death penalty is not currently banned by global treaties, he suggested that a “more comprehensive legal study” be carried out to take modern interpretations of the law into account.

“I proposed to interpret the death penalty in light of the present-day understanding of 'cruel, unusual or degrading treatment and punishment',” he explained when he presented his report on March 12, 2009, adding that that notion “has been evolving”.

Two World Coalition member organisations with consultative status at the UN welcomed the report. In a statement on behalf of the World Coalition, the International Federation of ACATs (FIACAT) said the death penalty “should be banned in international law and opposed by all means”. It urged the Human Rights Committee to go ahead with the comprehensive legal study suggested by the rapporteur.

World Coalition members Penal Reform International, National Coalition for the Abolition of the Death Penalty, National Association of Criminal Lawyers and Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights co-signed the statement. ...

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