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  1. The Politics of the Death Penalty in Countries in Transition
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  4. The politics of the death penalty in countries in transition
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Death Penalty Moratorium in South Korea: The Death Penalty in Rwanda: An Opportunity for Reform or a Missed Opportunity? The Death Penalty and the Iraqi Transition: Observations on a Lost Opportunity, Michael A. Learn More about VitalSource Bookshelf. An eBook version of this title already exists in your shopping cart.

If you would like to replace it with a different purchasing option please remove the current eBook option from your cart. Add to Wish List. Description Contents Editors Subjects. The EU is heavily committed to death penalty abolition, which is a condition for membership.

The Death Penalty in China - China Uncensored

Regional political dynamism is interesting. Cambodia abolished the death penalty along its path towards liberal democracy, but is very sensitive to the political climate of the ASEAN, which consists of many retentionist countries. One of our contributors pointed out that this can be one of the reasons the country has not yet ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which aims at the abolition of the death penalty. And indeed, in cases like Iraq and post-genocide Rwanda, it is claimed that many people regarded the death penalty as necessary for justice and reconciliation.

But in other cases such as Cambodia, victims, more than 30 years after the actual crimes, do not actively support the death penalty and prefer forgiveness. These examples show that there are various factors, other than the human rights consideration, that underpin death penalty policy, and those factors become even more conspicuous under transition, but in different ways depending on specific characteristics as well as the stage of transition.

The Politics of the Death Penalty in Countries in Transition

What evidence is there to demonstrate or deny the validity of this assertion? It is a classical debate on what punishment is all about — why we need punishment. Some regard punishment as necessary for redressing the convicted criminal. Punishment is also regarded as necessary for keeping the social order. They are all connected to some extent, though.

Victims carry anger and frustration, which needs to be addressed in order for them to move forward and achieve reconciliation. Without appropriate punishment, some of them may go to the streets and take their own revenge on the perpetrator of the alleged crime, which will destabilize society.

But no one can say for sure whether the death penalty can heal victims of heinous crimes. Right after the genocide in , Rwanda claimed that it needed the death penalty to achieve national reconciliation.

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The death penalty issue even harmed the UN-Rwandan relationship over peacebuilding thereafter. There are potential dilemmas that the UN may face in pushing forward the abolitionist agenda when targeting countries that are grappling with transitional justice. If the local demands are for the death penalty as a tool for transitional justice procedure, how should the UN react?

Having said that, interestingly, Rwanda eventually found its way towards abolishing the death penalty.

We can see this as a positive impact of the ICTR and as a potential impact that transitional justice mechanisms have on death penalty policy. It issued the final report recommending that the government abolish the death penalty. Although the government refused to follow it, the report surely encourages the abolitionist movement. What does an informed society need to know about the death penalty? One area where the gap between the existing research and public perception exists is on deterrence. Many of those societies that support the death penalty seem to believe in the deterrent effect of the death penalty.

But existing research indicates that there is no scientific evidence that serious crimes decrease as a direct cause of the execution of the death penalty. In that sense, it is rather ironic that recently in Japan, we had someone who had gone on a killing spree who confessed that one of their motivations was that they wanted to be sentenced to death.

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In the end, they have been sentenced to death and executed in a relatively short period of time. Something is not quite right about this…. At the same time, those who work for the abolition of the death penalty also need to be aware that the death penalty is not only a human rights issue but also encompasses many other issues related to security, social order and justice that need to be thought through when thinking about death penalty policy, especially in times of social and political transition.

The case of Bosnia also reminds us that focusing only on abolition itself is insufficient.

The politics of the death penalty in countries in transition

Confusion over alternative punishments was a serious issue as the country was dealing with a number of war crimes trials. Caring less about improving the condition of prisons and imprisonment procedures is another emerging post-abolition problem, which seems to be often ignored.


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Is there any country case that stuck with you in particular? I learned a lot from each country case, as each offered a unique and much more nuanced story than I originally assumed. As I mentioned, the case of Bosnia tells us that abolition should not be regarded as the goal itself.

The case of Argentina shows that abolition can be a long, two-step process, where abolition for ordinary crime occurs in the middle of democratization, but abolition for all crimes was the process of strengthening civilian control and the fight with the legacy of the military justice system thereafter, which took decades.

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The case also made me think of the meaning and time span of the transition and democratization. Several contributors pointed out the fact that governments do abolish the death penalty, despite public support for it. The Republic of Korea is an interesting case where the government seeks the way towards abolition, while there is strong public support for the death penalty. Cases in Argentina and Bosnia show that even after abolition, whenever societies face an increase in crime rate or heinous crimes, there emerges a movement to reinstate the death penalty.

Japan is one of the few democratic countries with a positive record of human rights and peace promotion that retains the death penalty. Can you briefly explain how this has come to be, and what are your thoughts? Japan and the US are examples showing human rights and democracy may not be the only factors for abolition.