Amnesty International Policy on Death Penalty

Amnesty International Policy on Death Penalty

            Amnesty International policy on death penalty calls for its abolition because it is an irreversible, ultimate denial of human rights. Under this policy Amnesty International works towards the abolition of the penalty with an aim of ending the cycle of violence developed by a system riddled with racial and economic bias and tainted by errors (Amnesty International, 2013). According to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which is recognized by the UN General Assembly, the UN recognizes individual rights to life. Under article five of this declaration no one should be subjected to inhumane, cruel or degrading treatment, torture or punishment. In view of this, Amnesty International views death penalty as a violation of this right, and therefore, works towards its abolishment in Nations that still offer death penalties such as the United States. Amnesty International works towards this by educating the public on the flaws in the system, supporting repeals on death penalties and reviewing individual cases of injustice (Amnesty International, 2013).

On the contrary, the U.S views the use of death penalty as a decision of a democratically elected government at the state and federal level, which does not go against international law or OSCE commitments. The US justifies its use of death penalty by stating that the people of US have acted through their duly elected representatives to choose to continue with death penalty as a form of punishment in most states. The U.S through its Supreme Court has held that death penalty itself is not a violation of the U.S Constitution. However, it holds that its use should be carried out subject to the use of due process, establishment of protection requirements and only after exhaustive appeals. The U.S states that this ensures that capital punishment is not applied in an arbitrary manner (Embassy of the United States, Brussels, 2010).

The policy by Amnesty International on capital punishment is mainly based on, and informed by the fact that there is some chance of erroneous implementation of the penalty. However, with the elimination of such errors through implementation of exhaustive due process, the penalty may indeed be the only just way to deliver justice to victims, friends and family in some cases. Though it is essential to make sure that the rights of the accused are protected sufficiently, we cannot forget about the nature of some heinous crimes and the plight of the victims. If the U.S adopted such a policy, then perhaps most other nations round the globe would do the same. A number of many other nations look up to the U.S as a standard in justice and democracy. As such, their decisions on such issues are informed and influenced by the stand held by this exemplary democracy. On a personal opinion, if the biggest democracy finds capital punishment just, then as a benchmark it should be just.


Are the justifications of capital punishment through democracy and the choice of the electorate an example of how the tyranny of numbers or majority can influence bad policy?

If yes, which would be the way to go? Adopt policies based on their soundness and just nature or based on popular vote?



Amnesty International (2013). Death penalty in international law, retrieved from

Embassy of the United States, Brussels (2010). Death Penalty – United States Policy towards the Death Penalty: a Dossier. Retrieved from





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