Myths and facts on the death penalty

Death penalty opponent Jessica Lee stands in front of San Quentin Prison.

Death penalty opponent Jessica Lee stands in front of San Quentin Prison.

© AP/PA Photo/Paul Sakuma


The right to life and the right not to be subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment or punishment are recognized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, other international human rights instruments and many national constitutions.

Amnesty International believes that the death penalty in all circumstances violates these rights.

The adoption of Resolution 62/149 calling for a moratorium on executions at the 62nd session of the United Nations General Assembly means that a large majority of UN member states from all regions of the world are in favour of a moratorium on the use of the death penalty.

Too many governments still believe that they can solve urgent social or political problems by executing a few or even hundreds of their prisoners. Many people all over the world are still unaware that the death penalty offers society not further protection but further brutalization.
Abolition is gaining ground, but not fast enough.

The death penalty, carried out in the name of the nation’s entire population, affects everyone. Everyone should be aware of what the death penalty is, how it is used, how it affects them, how it violates fundamental rights.

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Questions and answers on the DP
Amnesty International answers to questions such as “Why does Amnesty International oppose the death penalty?” and “Isn't the death penalty needed to stop acts of terrorism and political violence?” Other questions relate to lethal injection, families of victims, international law and major religions.

Myths on the death penalty
Do executions really provide justice to victims of violent crime and their families? Does the death penalty deter crime?

Facts on the death penalty
Capital punishment is irrevocable. All judicial systems make mistakes, and as long as the death penalty persists, innocent people will be executed.
It is also discriminatory and is often used disproportionately against the poor, the powerless and the marginalized, as well as against people whom repressive governments want to eliminate.