Thursday, March 7, 2013

Death Penalty in the Middle East

I read two articles, both regarding the death penalty for minors in the Middle East. Yemen and Saudi Arabia have recently executed, and sentenced to execution, young men and women for crimes ranging from robbery to murder, despite an international law, which “prohibits the death penalty or life sentences without parole for offenses committed under age 18.” Saudi Arabia ratified this law in 1996, and Yemen has a similar penal code provision.  Still, many of those sentenced recently were minors when their alleged crimes were committed. In addition, most of these young people reported being tortured by police and authorities, which led them to confess to crimes that they did not actually commit. Now, they have been sentenced to death by a firing squad for those crimes.
            Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all circumstances, and I agree. Sentencing to death a human being, even a criminal, is inhumane and can’t be undone. Murderers should be sentenced to life in prison instead. There have been cases where criminals have been discovered innocent after their executions. An innocent man can be released from prison, but not resurrected. This is not the Babylonian Empire, and we are not governed by ancient codes, such as “an eye for an eye.” The penalty for a murder should not be another murder and the penalty for robbery certainly shouldn’t be a death sentence, especially if the criminal is still a child, or their testimony is questionable.
            Unfortunately, this is not the case in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Iran, and Sudan. In Yemen, courts have trouble establishing criminals’ ages due to low birth registration rates. However, even when age can be proven, judges have chosen to ignore it. In Saudi Arabia, a lack of criminal codes allows judges to impose significantly disparate sentences for the same crimes. At a minimum, countries such as Saudi Arabia and Yemen should standardize their criminal laws and eliminate executions of minors in order to be in compliance with human rights regulations. Hopefully, the death penalty will eventually be eliminated for all people, regardless of age, in every country.

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