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Introduction

 The death penalty is one of the most outstanding issues that have the attention of human rights defenders and international legal and human rights organizations. It violates one of the fundamental human rights, which is the cornerstone of other rights, that is the right to life, and constitutes the most severe degree of torture and cruel and inhuman treatment. Consequently, article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights[1]prohibits the use of the death penalty and emphasizes that “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” This right, as prescribed by article 5 of the Declaration, includes that “no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment,” including the death penalty.

 Many international and regional conventions[2] and instruments were produced, emphasizing provisions in the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights with relation to the right to life. They called overtly for the non-application of the death penalty, excluding in exceptional cases and under specific conditions and norms. In this context, article 6-1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights[3] prescribes that “every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.” Paragraph 2 of the same article determines the conditions and norms of the application of the death penalty, stating that “in countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the provisions of the present Covenant and to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This penalty can only be carried out pursuant to a final judgment rendered by a competent court.” Even though this paragraph allows the application of the death penalty under certain limits, paragraph 5 of the same article prohibits the imposition of death sentences “for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant women.” The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment was introduced in December 1984. It ensures individuals’ right to enjoy humane treatment and prohibits all forms of torture and cruel and degrading treatment. Death penalty constitutes the most severe degree of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

Continued international efforts aimed at abolishing the death penalty resulted in the declaration of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty,[4]
which seeks to abolish the death penalty. This Protocol was opened for signature in December 1989 and entered into force on 11 July 1991. It consists of 10 Articles which address the death penalty. Article 1 (1) of this Protocol provides
that “No one within the jurisdiction of a State Party to the present Protocol shall be executed. Article 1 (2) requires States Parties to the Protocol to take “all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction.”

 
 

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[1] Adopted
and proclaimed by General Assembly resolution 217 A (III) of 10 December
1948.

[2]
These conventions and instruments include the European Convention on Human
Rights and the American Convention on Human Rights.

[3] Adopted and opened for signature,
ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 2200A of 16 December
1966. 

[4] Adopted and opened for signature,
ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 128/44 of 15 December
1989.