Is capital punishment ethical?

The October installment of the Ethics Center’s “Ethical Inquiry” series explores the dimensions of a question that is far from settled around the globe: “Is capital punishment ethical?”

“Is capital punishment ethical?”

The October installment of the Ethics Center’s “Ethical Inquiry” series – researched by Katherine Alexander ’12 – explores the ethical dimensions of this question, which is far from settled around the globe.

(“Ethical Inquiry” is a monthly website feature in which the International Center for Ethics, Justice, and Public Life – “The Ethics Center” – calls attention to the ethical dimensions of a wide range of issues with implications that may be personal, political, or even global.)

What do you think? What is the way forward in the U.S. and around the world? You can comment on the topic on our Facebook page and, of course, right here on Innermost Parts.

You can also join us for a related conversation Monday, October 25th: International Law in Russian Constitutional Justice: A Case Study of Capital Punishment. Bakhtiyar Tuzmukhamedov, a Counsellor to the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation, currently serving as Trial Judge of the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, will be our guest.

Where do things stand around the world? Some examples:

139 nations have abolished the death penalty in law or practice, while 58 retain it.…In the U.S., some states have abolished or placed a moratorium on the death penalty, while others continue to use it on a regular basis….Protocol 6 of the European Convention requires parties to restrict the application of the death penalty to times of war or “imminent threat of war.” (Every Council of Europe member state has signed and ratified Protocol 6, except Russia, which has signed but not yet ratified.)….Cambodia has abolished the death penalty.….There has been a movement to abolish the death penalty in all of Africa. Afrik-News reports that “Of the African Union (AU)’s 53 states, 49 did not carry out any executions during 2008 and 2009 including many that still have capital punishment on their statute books.”

The question hits close to home…

In Massachusetts, which does not have the death penalty, the gubernatorial candidates are split as to whether it should be reinstated.

And right here at Brandeis, the Justice Brandeis Innocence Project at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism “was established to make a contribution to resolving the untenable ethical, civil and human rights issues created by wrongful convictions,” and is a leader on this issue.

By the way, if you have a burning ethical question in mind and would like to propose a topic for a new “Ethical Inquiry” email me:! (We pay the student researchers…ahem!)