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OP-ED: It’s time to scrap the death penalty

  • Published at 10:05 pm June 23rd, 2021
Death Penalty

Being confined to a cell for the rest of their lives may be better punishment than a quick death

Recently, the Department of Law of the University of Dhaka conducted a study that focused on the profiles, experiences, and perspectives of death row prisoners in Bangladesh. In the end, prominent distinct members of the Bangladeshi legal community, law practitioners, and human rights activists came to a conclusion suggesting the death penalty should be abolished.

Apart from this recent study of the University of Dhaka, all around the globe, we see human rights organizations and individual activists rally against the death penalty regularly. They present their case against capital punishment with proper reasoning. Many countries and different states in bigger countries have already abolished it. Regarding the abolition of the death penalty, I am exactly on the same page with the activists, just my position is a bit different if not diametrically opposite when it comes to the replacement of the death penalty. 

Firstly, we need to look at the reasons which are generally placed against the death penalty. Death penalty does not help in deterring crime, it is a lengthy procedure, it causes a waste of resources, it is cruel, it is irrevocable, etc. These are some of the key reasons against capital punishment which are put forward. I fully agree with them, as they really make sense. 

However, the question arises: If the death penalty is abolished, what shall we replace it with? In my conviction, something over which I have thought a lot, I find absolute solitary confinement to be the highest possible punishment. 

The current method of executing criminals in Bangladesh hardly takes 15 to 20 minutes. To be honest, killing an individual who committed horrific deeds like war crimes or gang rape does not ensure enough punishment. It is entirely unfair to those innocent people on whom these criminals inflicted unbearable trauma, with which they will have to live forever. 

Rather, keeping them alive for life, without granting any access to the outside world, the sky, the trees, nature, serves the cause of punishment in a more just manner, in the real sense of punishment. Living life in 7 x 12 cell is much more painful than death.      

Now, as I mentioned earlier, my position is a bit different from some human rights organizations such as Amnesty International, which I should explain. I have read in detail about their concern about the living conditions of criminals in solitary confinement, their mental health, etc. 

Except for the ones that have a previous history of mental illness, why should one even need to bother about the living conditions of others? In a world where we can’t even ensure proper living conditions for a huge population in different continents, doesn’t it sound farcical to be concerned about the living condition of criminals? Often, when these criminals have no remorse whatsoever? Our very own war criminals did not show any sign of repentance till the very end. I hardly find any rational reason behind wasting humane feelings for such inhumane individuals.  

Professor Robert Blecker of New York Law School, although in favour of the death penalty, described his experience of interviewing vicious criminals. 

He divided them into two extremes. One group is callous, cold, and has no feeling of guilt whatsoever. Another group, when describing their crimes themselves, appeared to be thrilled and exhilarated, which is appalling in itself. 

Obviously, I do differ from Professor Robert Blecker. My stance is clear: Do not kill them. Killing is not enough, let them live an excruciating life in a small dark cell which will eventually result in death, but a slow and agonizing one. 

Finally, in my judgment, people who are concerned about the human rights of monstrous criminals are not just being shockingly insensitive to the victims and their eternal wound, they are also disregarding the entire expression of human rights. 

Ratnadeep Toorja is a freelance contributor.

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