Death has no appeal
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But perhaps the most powerful argument against the death penalty is that any miscarriage of justice — which is inevitable in any legal system, including our own ones — is irreversible. The great 18th-century French thinker Voltaire put it very simply: "It is better to risk saving a guilty person than to condemn an innocent one." Make no mistake: the application of the death penalty by the judicial system is a guarantee that sooner or later an innocent man will be killed. And here I do not even touch upon one of the aspects that has gained prominence in the Indian debate: the discussion about exactly which legal conditions should be fulfilled for the death penalty to be passed.
The arguments proffered in favour of the death penalty do not in our view stand scrutiny. The deterrent fallacy has already been mentioned. The notion that the state should not pay for the upkeep (in prison) of a criminal can surely not be taken seriously (may a human being be exterminated on such petty material grounds?). But perhaps the most common impulse sustaining the death penalty is simply the desire for revenge. Human impulses may be what they are but does it not behove a state to rise above the immediate emotions of humans shocked by the circumstances of a particularly horrendous crime? We believe that it does, and especially so in the absence of other arguments.
The abolition of the death penalty is a pre-requisite for all countries seeking EU membership. In this manner the EU has created a de-facto death penalty-free zone stretching far beyond its own borders, from Iceland in the West to Vladivostok in the East and from Norway in the North to the Southeast of Turkey. This is certainly one of Europe's greatest achievements. The EU is also the first regional body in the world to have adopted rules prohibiting the trade in goods used for capital punishment, as well as the supply of technical assistance related to such goods. Already certain states in the US have had difficulties in applying the death penalty because of our principled stand.
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