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The presentation was on the topic of capital punishment, which undeniably has a distinct connection with human rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), set up by the United Nations was the first international statement to use the term “human rights.” It states that the rights of individuals are:* The right to legal recourse when their rights have been violated, even if the violator was acting in an official capacity* The right to life* The right to liberty and freedom of movement* The right to equality before the law* The right to presumption of innocence till proven guilty* The right to appeal a conviction* The right to be recognised as a person before the law* Freedom of thought, conscience, and religion* Freedom of opinion and expression* Freedom of assembly and associationIt has predominantly questioned whether capital punishment abuses the criminal’s right to a life of sanctity as well as the right to human dignity.Proponents of capital punishment may believe that the death sentence as an implication of the criminal losing right to call himself human. Such people may believe that society has the right to retaliate against offenders and that the best way of showing their retribution against a murderer would be to see him put to death.It may be strongly believed by the government, that capital punishment has the potential to act assuredly as a deterrent and retributive. Retribution is a sensibly considered decision to uphold society’s values. It is moral and it is a way of expressing common beliefs in what’s right and wrong. Some believe that the instinct for retribution is part of the human nature. Some supporters may believe that channelling that human instinct would have a favourable effect, in promoting the stability of a society governed by law.Capital punishment may be also considered acceptable in cases where it would be impossible to defend society otherwise. According to encyclical Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life,1995), by John Paul II, “we ought not to go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity – only when it would be otherwise impossible to defend society.” The UDHR also restricts the death penalty to the most serious of crimes, guarantees condemned people the right to “appeal for commutation to a lesser penalty.”However it is believed that there are much stronger arguments against capital punishment, which outnumber those arguments for capital punishment. There are less murders in areas were the death penalty does not exist than in places where it exists. Perhaps this could be linked to the great possibility that it can lead to a society upholding rather barbaric values. Instead of mourning the tragedy of a murder, people are encouraged to have the desire to have their bloodlust satisfied in killing the offender. Undoubtedly such societies must learn punish criminals without becoming of them. The encouragement of revenge and violence, which the death penalty brings is directly linked to the high occurrence of crime. Hence the effect of being a deterrent is significantly weakened.The death penalty provides us the tragic illusion that we can defend life by taking life. It brutalises our sensitivities to the precious nature of human life. Our witness to respect life is more apparent when we demand respect for each and every human life, including the lives of those who fail to show respect for others.Strong emotion, alcohol, drugs, terrorism or psychopathic personalities can be in most cases the influences of crime. In order to be deterred rational thinking is required. Therefore it cannot be assured the capital punishment would act as an effective deterrent. Many of the criminals on death row may also tend to be zealots who would anyway want to die for the cause, such as in the case of Timothy McVeigh. Hence in such cases there would be not much deterrence value.Despite the USA likes to see itself as a champion of human rights, the death penalty in many of its states is rather too abolitionist to support that claim. Simple or easy solutions should not be expected to overcome intense evil. Therefore we should not rely on capital punishment as such a solution. Capital punishment is a survival from a less refined age. Therefore it is incompatible with our present standard of civilisation and humanity. According to Pacem En Terris, 1963, a civilised society can only develop providing that the dignity of every person is respected and protected and this should even apply in the case of punishment. According to Gen 4:15, “God put a mark on Cain, lest any who come upon him should kill him.” Cain was not to be condemned to the hatred of others but was to be protected from those wishing to kill him. Therefore not even a murderer should lose his personal dignity.Many of the offenders tend to victims of poverty, mentally illness, or having a very low IQ. Some of the offenders are child murderers (i.e. those who were under 18 when they committed their crime). The criminal should therefore be not entirely blamed for his crime. Obviously those without financial resources, who cannot pay for their own lawyers, are much more likely to be executed. We need to recognise that the destructive life histories of criminals may have damaged their humanity to the point that it is unfair to hold them fully accountable for their wrongdoing. According to the encyclical, Pacem En Terris, 1963, “considerations of justice and equity demand that those involved in civil government give more attention to the less fortunate members of the community, since they are less able to defend their rights and assert their legitimate claims.” According to the UDHR everyone deserves the right to equality before the law.It is usually the criminal who has fallen through the mistakes present in our social structure, for which we are more or less responsible. Therefore killing criminals insults our culture – society must stop making them and if made, we must reform them.Through vengeance justice cannot be achieved as according to the scriptures. In the Gospels, Jesus said that retaliation was an incorrect response to violence. He tells us to offer the other cheek and extend our hand in blessing and healing (Matthew 5:38-48).According to Pacem En Terris, 1963, “we are obliged as Christians to the development of social policies which meet the needs of victims as well as reforming those threatening public order.” In a peaceful society there should be reconciliation between the criminal and the victim. Hence society should be sought and designed to rehabilitate the offender and understanding what led to the criminality should “redress the disorder caused by the offence” as stated in the encyclical Evangelium Vitae(The Gospel of Life) , by John Paul II.

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