Capital punishment, also known as the death penalty, is the execution of a person by the state as punishment for a crime. Crimes that can result in a death penalty are known as capital crimes or capital offences. The term capital origins from Latin capitalis, literally "regarding the head" (Latin caput). Hence, a capital crime originally was to be punished by the loss of the head.
Historically, the execution of criminals and political opponents was used by nearly all societies—both to punish crime and to suppress political dissent. In most places that practice capital punishment today, the death penalty is reserved as punishment for premeditated murder, espionage, treason, or as part of military justice. In some countries sexual crimes, such as rape, adultery and sodomy, carry the death penalty, as do religious crimes such as apostasy (the formal renunciation of the State religion). In many retentionist countries (countries that use the death penalty), drug trafficking is also a capital offense. In China human trafficking and serious cases of corruption are also punished by the death penalty. In militaries around the world courts-martial have imposed death sentences for offenses such as cowardice, desertion, insubordination, and mutiny.
Among countries around the world, almost all European and many Pacific Area states (including Australia, New Zealand and Timor Leste), and Canada have abolished capital punishment. In Latin America, most states have completely abolished the use of capital punishment, while some countries, such as Brazil, allow for capital punishment only in exceptional situations, such as treason committed during wartime. The United States (the federal government and 36 of its states), Guatemala, most of the Caribbean and the majority of democracies in Asia (e.g. Japan and India) and Africa (e.g. Botswana and Zambia) retain it. South Africa, which is probably the most developed African nation, and which has been a democracy since 1994, does not have the death penalty. This fact is currently quite controversial in that country, due to the high levels of violent crime, including murder and rape.
Capital punishment is a contentious issue in some cultures. Supporters of capital punishment argue that it deters crime, prevents recidivism, that it is less expensive than life imprisonmentreference required and is an appropriate form of punishment for some crimes. Opponents of capital punishment argue that it has led to the execution of wrongfully convicted, that it discriminates against minorities and the poor, that it does not deter criminals more than life imprisonment, that it encourages a "culture of violence", that it is more expensive than life imprisonmentreference required, and that it violates human rights.
The latest countries to abolish the death penalty de facto for all crimes were Gabon, which announced on September 14, 2007 that they would no longer apply capital punishment and South Korea in practice on December 31, 2007 after ten years of disuse. The latest to abolish executions de jure was Uzbekistan on January 1, 2008.
- ↑ Shot at Dawn, campaign for pardons for British and Commonwealth soldiers executed in World War I. Shot at Dawn Pardons Campaign. Retrieved on 2006-07-20.
- ↑ Definite no to Death Row - Asmal. Retrieved on 2008-03-08.
- ↑ Gabon moves against death penalty - Afrique-Actualité - Informations, Maroc, Algérie, Tunisie, économie