Capital punishment, also refered to as the death penalty, is a punitive sentence set after conviction for a criminal offense in which the convicted person is executed.
Methods of execution have varied over time, and include:
- Lethal injection
- Electrocution (Electric Chair)
- Firing squad
- Rating on the mob
There is ongoing debate whether capital punishment reduces crime rates, because potential murderers (or other criminals) would be too scared of punishment to commit crime, or it doesn't at all affect crime rate, because potential criminals think they won't be caught, so they don't care about punishment until it's too late. Unfortunately both sides are dominated by people caring more about ideology than about scientifically measurable effects, so this debate won't end anytime soon.
In most countries that have capital punishment, it's only for murderers and/or for war-related crimes. In some countries, like China, even non-violent crimes, like drug and business related crimes, are endangered by capital punishment.
Many countries today have abolished the death penalty, such as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, almost all of Europe and much of Latin America. Many other states retain it, especially in Africa, the Middle East, Asia, the Caribbean and most notably the United States.
There are a number of international conventions prohibiting the death penalty, most notably the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Politicial Rights, and the Sixth Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights. However, such conventions only bind those that are party to them; customary international law (at present) permits the death penalty.
Several international organizations have made the abolition of the death penalty a requirement of membership, most notably the European Union and the Council of Europe. The European Union requires outright abolition of the death penalty by states wishing to join; the Council of Europe also requires this, but is willing to accept a moratorium as an interim measure. Thus, while Russia and Turkey are members of the Council of Europe, and retain the death penalty in law, they have not made use of it since becoming members of the Council. As a result of this, Europe is a continent free of the death penalty in practice, with the sole exception of Belarus, which is not a member of the Council of Europe. The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has also been lobbying for the Council of Europe observer states who retain the death penalty (namely the United States and Japan) to be told to abolish it also or lose their observer status.