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October 10 is World Day Against the Death Penalty

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End the Death Penalty
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End the Death Penalty by League of Women Voters of California

Thursday, October 10, 2013, is the 11th annual World Day Against the Death Penalty. This day was established by the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty to raise awareness on the issues related to the death penalty and to ultimately abolish the practice worldwide.

Fortunately, there has been a steady trend towards abolition in some parts of the world. The death penalty has already been abolished in all European countries except for Belarus. In fact, today over two-thirds of the world's nations - 141 - have ended capital punishment in law or practice. This reflects the growing awareness that there are alternative punishments that are effective and which do not involve state-sponsored killing.

Amnesty International (AI) has called the death penalty "the ultimate, irreversible denial of human rights." Indeed, its finality is a huge problem, given so many cases of death row inmates here in the U.S. and around the world who have been exonerated after conviction, based on DNA or other evidence. How many other innocent persons were not lucky enough to be proven innocent prior to their executions? We know of at least a few.

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Some proponents of the death penalty believe that it serves as a deterrent. That theory is demonstrably untrue. According to AI, the murder rate in non-death-penalty states has remained consistently lower than the rate in states with the death penalty.

Others argue that the death penalty is the only way to bring closure to a murder victim's family. But not all such families agree. In fact, so many families oppose the death penalty that some have formed organizations such as Murder Victims' Families for Reconciliation and Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights, through which they actively work to abolish the death penalty. As noted on the latter organization's website, "MVFHR members have come in different ways and times to the understanding that the death penalty does not help us heal and is not the way to pursue justice for victims." They should know.

The death penalty does not represent justice. It represents revenge - sometimes misdirected revenge.

We as a society need to evolve beyond this kind of thing.

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What you can do:

>> Read more about the death penalty - and take action - on the AIUSA site here.

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Mary Shaw is a Philadelphia-based writer and activist, with a focus on politics, human rights, and social justice. She is a former Philadelphia Area Coordinator for the Nobel-Prize-winning human rights group Amnesty International, and her views (more...)

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