This essay examines the worldwide decline in the use of capital punishment.
The number of countries to abolish capital punishment has increased remarkably since the end of the 1988. A "new dynamic" has emerged that recognizes capital punishment as a denial of the universal human rights to life and to freedom from tortuous, cruel, and inhuman punishment, and international human rights treaties and institutions that embody the abolition of capital punishment as a universal goal have developed. The authors pay attention to the political forces important in generating the new dynamic: the emergence of countries from totalitarian and colonial repression, the development of democratic constitutions, and the emergence of European political institutions wedded to the spread of human rights. Where abolition has not been formally achieved in law, the authors discuss the extent to which capital punishment has been bridled and by what means. Finally, the authors examine the prospects for further reduction and final abolition in those countries that hang on to the death penalty. More and more of these countries are accepting that capital punishment must be used sparingly, judiciously, and with every safeguard necessary to protect the accused from abuse and wrongful conviction. From there, it is not a long step to the final elimination of the death penalty worldwide. (Published Abstract)
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