Thursday, 22 September 2011

Capital Punishment

The Twitterverse came alive last night in protest about Troy Davis, convicted of murder and executed by lethal injection. The US was roundly condemned as barbaric for permitting the execution, with Davis's conviction largely based on eyewitness accounts, many of which have since been recanted. However, the decision was upheld unanimously by the 9 Justices of the US Supreme Court.

Now, I'm not going to weigh in on the merits of Davis's case, or indeed on the merits of the death penalty. My opinion on the death penalty is that I personally disagree with it. In the case of a miscarriage of justice, a fined man can be recompensed; a jailed man can be freed. A dead man cannot be resurrected. However, I am a democrat, and if a country has a democratic will that a death penalty is an appropriate form of punishment, then I will accept that.

However, I do find it vaguely ridiculous that the US has been singled out as particularly barbaric in this case. At the risk of coming across as a bit of a statist, the following table shows the 23 countries which Amnesty International have obtained information on executions from, the number of executions undertaken, the populations of the respective countries and the rate of execution. The table has been ordered according to this rate.

Country No. of Executions Population Rate of Execution
Equatorial Guinea 4 676,273 0.0005914771%
Iran 252 72,903,921 0.0003456604%
Libya 18 6,419,925 0.0002803771%
North Korea 60 23,906,070 0.0002509823%
Yemen 53 23,580,220 0.0002247647%
China 2000 1,331,460,000 0.0001502110%
Bahrain 1 791,473 0.0001263467%
Palestinian Authority 5 4,403,218 0.0001135533%
Saudi Arabia 27 25,391,100 0.0001063365%
Somalia 8 9,133,124 0.0000875932%
Syria 17 21,092,262 0.0000805983%
Botswana 1 1,949,780 0.0000512878%
Belarus 2 9,663,000 0.0000206975%
Singapore 1 4,987,600 0.0000200497%
Taiwan 4 23,071,779 0.0000173372%
US 46 307,006,550 0.0000149834%
Sudan 6 42,272,435 0.0000141936%
Bangladesh 9 162,220,760 0.0000055480%
Egypt 4 82,999,393 0.0000048193%
Malaysia 1 27,467,837 0.0000036406%
Iraq 1 31,494,287 0.0000031752%
Japan 2 127,560,000 0.0000015679%
Vietnam 1 87,279,754 0.0000011457%

As it can clearly be seen, the US is well down the list. You are far less likely to receive a death sentence in the US than in Iran, Libya (although given that those executions were sanctioned under the rule of the deposed Gaddafi regime, it could be argued that they should be given the benefit of the doubt), North Korea etc. But I don't hear the Twitterverse endlessly protesting the brutality of other countries. The facts show that, compared to other countries with the death penalty, America is not particularly barbaric. China has an execution rate ten times higher than the US, as does the poster-boy of new statehood, the Palestinian Authority. I also find it quite interesting that some of the people who were protesting about Troy Davis were the same people who are campaigning for Palestinian independence.

I don't support the death penalty, and I wish that Troy Davis had been spared. But I also don't support rank hypocrisy levelled at anyone that doesn't deserve it. If you're going to criticise the US for being barbaric, don't single them out - speak out against the other regimes throughout the world which are considerably worse than they are.