ISSN 2330-717X

California To Hold Referendum On Capital Punishment


By Igor Siletsky

A referendum on capital punishment will decide whether to abolish the death penalty in the American state of California. It will be held on the 6th of November, the presidential elections day. The supporters of the replacement of the capital punishment with a life sentence believe that the move will help the tax payers to save about 100 million dollars.

The U.S. is the only country on the American continent where capital punishment is still in force. It has been among the five leading countries together with Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran and China that impose the death penalty. This punishment is legalized at the federal level and is in the criminal legislation of 35 states. Offenders are sentenced to death for committing various offences on a list of 70 crimes, including murder and aggravated rape.

At a time when a growing number of countries are imposing moratoriums on the death sentence, the U.S. is not making any commitments in this issue, says expert at the Russia Law Academy Yaroslav Kozheurov.

From the standpoint of international law, the U.S. is not involved in any legally bound agreement that will impose an obligation on it to abolish capital punishment. Moreover, the imposition of the punishment is in the competence of states but beyond the authority of federal bodies. About half of the states have abolished the death penalty but it remains in force in others.

The death penalty is an expensive procedure. It’s much cheaper to impose a life sentence, say the supporters for the abolition of the capital punishment. At present almost 500,000 people support this move in California.

However, it’s inappropriate to measure pluses and minuses of the abolition of the death penalty in terms of money. The majority of countries take this step for humanitarian reasons, says expert in international law Paul Kalinichenko.

This punishment does not protect us from possible judicial mistakes. Moreover, human life is the highest value and this is written also in the Russian constitution. The government has no right of command over the life of a person.

According to the expert, statistics show that the crime rate is almost the same in the countries that apply death sentence and that abolished it. This punishment has been abolished in all European countries except Belarus.

However, statics across the world are not so promising. According to Amnesty International, in 2011, about 19,000 people were sentenced to death and about 700 out of them were executed. These figures do not include Chinese statistics because Beijing does not publish them. Chinese courts impose the death penalty for bribery, pimping and tax evasion. According to human rights activists, the number of executions may reach thousands. Nobody knows China’s real figures in this area.

In fact, Japan imposed a moratorium on executions last year although 120 cases are pending. In 2011, the U.S. executed 43 people. In short, it’s the only country in G8 where the capital punishment is in force.

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VOR, or the Voice of Russia, was the Russian government's international radio broadcasting service from 1993 until 2014, when it was reorganised as Radio Sputnik.

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