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THE DEATH PENALTY Human rights protection ECHR case studies Alison Riley Legal English Course.

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Presentation on theme: "THE DEATH PENALTY Human rights protection ECHR case studies Alison Riley Legal English Course."— Presentation transcript:

1 THE DEATH PENALTY Human rights protection ECHR case studies Alison Riley Legal English Course

2 The implementation of a legal and ethical principle: –Can the State decide legitimately to deprive a person of his life? –What is your view?

3 Amnesty International 2009 Report on the death penalty Decapitation Firing squad/shooting Hanging Lethal injection Stoning Electric chair At least 714 people were put to death using these methods At least 2001 people were condemned to death in 56 countries (Plus China, where data is kept secret)

4 AI 2009 report "The death penalty is cruel and degrading, and an affront to human dignity" said Claudio Cordone, Amnesty International's Interim Secretary General. "The Chinese authorities claim that fewer executions are taking place. If this is true, why won't they tell the world how many people the state put to death?"

5 Why capital punishment? In 2009 capital punishment was applied extensively to send political messages –to silence opponents –to promote political agendas in China, Iran and Sudan

6 AI report 2009: discrimination The report addresses the discriminatory way the death penalty was applied in 2009: after grossly unfair trials The death penalty was used disproportionately against: –the poor –minorities –members of racial, ethnic and religious communities

7 AI statistics 2010 No stonings were reported in 2010 (but stoning sentences were reported in Nigeria, Pakistan, Iran) In addition to China, the worst offending nations were: –Iran: 252 executions –North Korea: 60 –Yemen: 53 –USA: 46 At least 527 executions, down on 2009 (714)

8 AI statistics 2011: 676 known executions In addition to China (NO statistics available) the worst offending nations were: – Iran: at least 360 executions –Iraq: 68 –Saudi Arabia: 82 –USA: 43 g/research/reports/death- sentences-and- executions-2011http://www.amnestyusa.or g/research/reports/death- sentences-and- executions-2011 See the world map

9 “Death Sentences and Executions 2011” Amnesty International (AI) annual survey on the use of capital punishment worldwide: ‘the use of the death penalty has continued to decline around the world’ 140 countries are considered abolitionist in law or practice only 20 countries were known to have put prisoners to death in 2011.

10 AI report 2011 (cont.) The United States was the only country in the Western hemisphere or among the G8 nations to carry out executions The USA was the 5 th country in terms of known executions carried out in the world, behind China, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Iraq. But: abolition of the death penalty in Illinois, a moratorium on executions in Oregon, a significant decline nationally in death sentences, and a smaller decline in executions in 2011.

11 Some facts and figures Death Penalty Information Centre FactSheet.pdfDeath Penalty Information Centre FactSheet.pdf Amnesty video: we’re getting closer to a death penalty-free world /death-sentences-and-executions-2011

12 The death sentence: an irreversible penalty ENGLAND Derek Bentley – a teenager of 19 Crime: murder (1953) Facts: his friend (16) shot a policeman dead. They were committing a crime together. Capital punishment: hanging after 45 years Court of Appeal: conviction “unsafe” Derek Bentley was NOT GUILTY of murder

13 R v. DEREK WILLIAM BENTLEY (Deceased) COURT OF APPEAL (CRIMINAL DIVISION) Royal Courts of Justice The Strand, London WC2A 2LL Thursday 30th July 1998 B E F O R E: THE LORD CHIEF JUSTICE OF ENGLAND (Lord Bingham of Cornhill) The judge misdirected the jury. New evidence was assessed including medical and school reports. Held: the conviction was unsafe and quashed.

14 Not presented at trial Clear evidence of: – serious educational and behavioural problems –impairment of intellectual and cognitive function that would affect the appellant's understanding, his judgment and his memory Consider: MENS REA / culpability

15 U.S. Constitution The VIIIth Amendment prohibits: ‘cruel and unusual punishment The death penalty is not per se ‘cruel and unusual punishment’. But States must follow strict safeguards » Case of Gregg v Georgia ‘The electric chair’ ‘frying in a chair’?

16 The right to life Article 2 ECHR – Right to life (1950) 1.Everyone's right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law. Paragraph 1: the death penalty is an exception to the right to life Paragraph 2: other exceptions are envisaged: self- defence, lethal force in case of arrest, escape, riot.

17 Right to life Prohibition of torture Articolo 3 ECHR Prohibition of torture « No one shall be subjected to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. » European Court of Human Rights, Strasbourg: « The Court must also recall that the Convention is a living instrument, which … must be interpreted in the light of present-day conditions. … the Court [is] influenced by the developments and commonly accepted standards in the penal policy of the member States of the Council of Europe … » Tyrer case, 25 April 1978

18 The death penalty in the UK No ‘Bill of Rights’ Regulated by legislation In the past: many capital crimes 20th century – most serious crimes: –Murder, treason, piracy

19 Abolition of the death penalty UK Murder (Abolition of Death Penalty) Act 1965 –Abolished death penalty for murder –Imposed a mandatory sentence of life imprisonment Crime and Disorder Act 1998: –Abolished the death penalty for: treason, piracy with violence –Last crimes punishable with the death penalty in the UK Human Rights Act 1998 (as amended)

20 Public opinion and opinion polls Could the death penalty be reintroduced in Britain? –Parliamentary sovereignty –No ‘fundamental’ laws –And international obligations? And in Italy? Why could it be reintroduced? Public opinion: emotional reactions? Fear and anxiety about public safety Political manipulation (instead of dealing with the causes of criminality)

21 Abolition in Europe: ECHR 1)PROTOCOL No. 6 ECHR CONCERNING THE ABOLITION OF THE DEATH PENALTY Strasbourg, 28.IV.1983  Abolishes the death penalty in peacetime  Ratified by 46 Council of Europe member States  Russian Federation signed (but did not ratify) 2) Protocol No. 13 (ECHR/CEDU) concerning the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances Vilnius, 3.V.2002  Abolishes the death penalty in all circumstances, including war or imminent threat of war:  Ratified by 43 Council of Europe member States  Armenia, Poland sign but do not ratify, Russian Federation does not sign. Latvia ratified in 2012.

22 Protocol No. 13 (ECHR/CEDU) concerning the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances Vilnius, 3.V.2002 The member States of the Council of Europe signatory hereto, Convinced that everyone’s right to life is a basic value in a democratic society and that the abolition of the death penalty is essential for the protection of this right and for the full recognition of the inherent dignity of all human beings … Have agreed as follows: Article 1 – Abolition of the death penalty The death penalty shall be abolished. No one shall be condemned to such penalty or executed. Les Etats membres du Conseil de l’Europe, signataires du présent Protocole, Convaincus que le droit de toute personne à la vie est une valeur fondamentale dans une société démocratique, et que l’abolition de la peine de mort est essentielle à la protection de ce droit et à la pleine reconnaissance de la dignité inhérente à tous les êtres humains …. Sont convenus de ce qui suit: Article 1 – Abolition de la peine de mort La peine de mort est abolie. Nul ne peut être condamné à une telle peine ni exécuté.

23 The case of Soering v UK 7 July 1989 ECtHR Facts: –brutal murder of Mr and Mrs Haysom in Virginia, USA (parents of Elizabeth) –Killer: Jens Soering (German), girlfriend Elizabeth present and implicated in the homicide. Events: –Soering and Elizabeth flee –Arrested for fraud in England –Elizabeth sentenced to 90 years’ imprisonment –USA requests extradition of Soering to Virginia –Soering challenges extradition –In Virginia he would risk the death penalty

24 ECtHR: Soering v UK ‘Death row’ phenomenon violates article 3 ECHR ‘Death row’ phenomenon in breach of Art. 3 ECHR –Average: from 6 to 8 years on death row –Extreme conditions –Growing anguish as the prisoner awaits execution The Court considers: –Soering was only 18 when he committed murder –Possible psychiatric condition –Possible alternative: extradition to Germany  Extradition of Soering to the USA would constitute a violation of Article 3 by the UK (the extraditing State)

25 ECtHR Strasbourg evolution in the case law 2 March 2010 Case of Al-Saadoon and Mufdhi v UK Basra, Iraq: murder of 2 British soldiers Detained by British authorities Can they be handed over to Iraqi authorities for trial? They risk the death penalty

26 2010 Court’s conclusions The death penalty, involving the deliberate and premeditated destruction of a human being by State authorities, causing physical pain and intense psychological suffering as a result of the foreknowledge of death, constitutes inhuman treatment  violation of Article 3 Protocols + State practice  “are strongly indicative that Article 2 has been amended so as to prohibit the death penalty in all circumstances.” (para. 120)

27 Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union Nice, 7.XII.2000 CAPO I DIGNITÀ Articolo 1 Dignità umana La dignità umana è inviolabile. Essa deve essere rispettata e tutelata. KAPITEL I WÜRDE DES MENSCHEN Artikel 1 Würde des Menschen Die Würde des Menschen ist unantastbar. Sie ist zu achten und zu schützen. CHAPITRE I DIGNITÉ Article premier Dignité humaine La dignité humaine est inviolable. Elle doit être respectée et protégée. CHAPTER 1 DIGNITY Article 1 Human dignity Human dignity is inviolable. It must be respected and protected.

28 Right to life Nice Charter Articolo 2 Diritto alla vita 1. Ogni individuo ha diritto alla vita. 2. Nessuno può essere condannato alla pena di morte, né giustiziato. Artikel 2 Recht auf Leben (1) Jede Person hat das Recht auf Leben. (2) Niemand darf zur Todesstrafe verurteilt oder hingerichtet werden. Article 2 Droit à la vie 1. Toute personne a droit à la vie. 2. Nul ne peut être condamné à la peine de mort, ni exécuté. Article 2 Right to life 1. Everyone has the right to life. 2. No one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed.

29 Death Penalty in 2010: Executing countries left isolated after decade of progress 28 March 2011 Countries which continue to use the death penalty are being left increasingly isolated following a decade of progress towards abolition, Amnesty International has said today in its new report “Death Sentences and Executions in 2010”

30 AI Report 2010 A total of 31 countries abolished the death penalty in law or in practice during the last 10 years but China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the USA and Yemen remain amongst the most frequent executioners, some in direct contradiction of international human rights law.

31 Suggested websites Council of Europewww.coe.int - European Unionhttp://europa.eu - UK Parliamentwww.parliament.uk - UK legislationwww.opsi.gov.uk international-treaties Amnesty International (human rights: death penalty – international treaties)http://www.amnesty.org/en/death-penalty/ratification-of- international-treaties


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