Death penalty commonly known as capital punishment is the legal imposition of the sentence of killing one by any method accepted upon after being convicted by a court of law. Its historical background can be traced back to the biblical period where this form of punishment was used on criminal, political and religious dissidents. The death penalty laws were established by King Hammurabi of Babylon around the eighteenth century in which they were codified for twenty-five crimes which included adultery and helping a slave to escape. Death sentences were carried out by means of crucifixion, drowning, beating to death, burning alive as well as implement, however, hanging became common in the twentieth century. The death penalty punishment was not only restricted to religious communities or countries; it was also executed in native communities as a form of communal punishment. This form of punishment was only brought to Southern Africa by the colonizing powers were it was used for many offences, for instance in South Africa (SA) it was imposed for heinous crimes such as rape, treason and murder. The Scourage of the Death Penalty has been increased recently. Furthermore, despite the numerous efforts towards its abolition, countries still remain to retain the death penalty particularly to deter crime and safeguard the safety of the community. Moreover, justice has become a relative term and people term incidences that are contrary to their self-will and desire as injustice. Therefore with that, the thirst for vengeance is so evident that states find it difficult to ignore.
This horrific procedure does not cause a corrosive a horrific effect on the accused but it causes tension between states especially in cases where one country is still a retentionist. A typical example will be that of Mariette Bosch case, one of the most popular cases in Botswana that caused a lot of commotion around the World. In an interview, Mariette explains how she had nightmares while waiting for her execution which basically affected her mentally. This on its own is the clear indicator of the need to abolish the death penalty.
What needs to be understood is that justice should not prevail over another individual’s rights. However, justice is available to protect both the rights of the accused and the victim and also to give the accused a chance to rehabilitate from their wrongdoings.
Nevertheless, the end of the Second World War brought about a broader understanding of the sanctity of life, as death penalty had become a human rights issue. Due to the vast understanding of human rights, capital punishment has since been considered a violation of the most important fundamental human rights; the right to life and human dignity. Therefore, with such manifestation it is not surprising that different academic disciplines have risen to oppose capital punishment and have also gone to the extent of referring to it as a barbaric punishment that should not be used in this modern century but rather it should be replaced with other alternatives that will give the accused a chance to rehabilitate.
Lesego Gaetwesepe Studied Gaborone University College of Law, Botswana
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