10 February 2014


The worldwide movement towards phasing out capital punishment is “a courageous reaffirmation of the conviction that humanity can successfully confront criminality without resorting to the suppression of life … today, more than ever, it is urgent that we remember and reaffirm the need for universal recognition and respect for the inalienable dignity of human life, in its immeasurable value” according to Pope Francis.

The movement to abolish capital punishment has lasted decades and there is still a substantial amount of advocacy work ahead before the death penalty is a thing of the past. 

Since 1956, ninety-two countries have abolished capital punishment and many others have placed a moratorium on this ‘cruel and unusual punishment’. Whilst there are forty-seven countries worldwide that still endorse and practice the death penalty, the overwhelming majority of executions are carried out by just five countries:- China, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and the United States.

In the US, Maryland in 2013 became the 18th state to abolish the death penalty. There is a growing realisation that the death penalty does not act as a deterrent , is more expensive than alternatives and carries the risk of an unsafe conviction. Since 1973, over 130 people have been released from death rows throughout the US due to evidence of their wrongful convictions.

The issue of capital punishment is a reminder that by its nature, advocacy and lobbying work such as that conducted by Edmund Rice International is a long, slow process and that often there can be little result to see for one's efforts. We persevere with hope and trust  that in some distant day our world will be a place where the rights of all are respected, and all can live in peace with dignity.

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