Why Is Capital Punishment Meted Out?

By Min Khant Kyaw (Law)


CAPITAL punishment means the execution of the convict upon whom the death sentence is imposed according to the law for his commitment to a crime. The word capital has its Latin root, ‘capitalis’, suggesting the head. In those days, those who had a death sentence imposed were beheaded or decapitated in other words.


Under the Babylonian Code of Hammurabi, there is a provision, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth”. This provision is enshrined in this code based on the tit-for-tat policy.


Matter-of-factly, the passage of the death sentence has its beginning since time immemorial. The historical records reveal that the ancient tribes and clans have had capital punishment enshrined in their legal systems throughout the different ages in history. This legal practice is still being adopted in 58 nations around the world. Nonetheless, a total of 97 nations have already abolished the passage of the death sentence. Although more nations have abolished capital punishment, 60 per cent of the world’s people are residing in the nations where the death sentence is still being given. The People’s Republic of China, the United States of America, India and Indonesia where sixty per cent of the people of the world are living are still imposing capital punishment.


The judicial authorities are used to giving the death sentence for the commitment of such felonies as murder, espionage, high treason and military crimes. There are also certain countries which give capital punishment for such crimes as rape, adultery and unnatural sexual intercourse. Additionally, there are also certain nations which mete out the death sentence for cases of drug trafficking. China would mete out the death sentence for cases of trafficking in person and of serious corruption committed by the politicians. The military tribunals around the world also mete out the death sentence for such cases as cowardice, absconding from the military, disobedience of the commands and mutiny.


In this regard, it is worth recalling that Plato once said that capital punishment should be meted out only for irreparable cases. If that is so, I would like to ask a question as to whether intentional man slaughter is reparable or not. It is needed to consider the losses of the bereaved family. The legal imposition of the death sentence is one thing and the lawless, unjust killing of people is another thing. Those who are in favour of giving the death sentence believe that there should be atonement for one’s sins—i.e., if one kills another, the killer should also be killed for the sake of justification. In fact, the imposition of capital punishment is meant not only to please the bereaved family but also to make the law-abiding citizens convinced that those who commit the crimes have due punishment meted out. Those who are in support of the imposition of the death sentence are saying that mere imprisonment is not enough to deter terrorists.


Singapore is a strong case study, too. Singaporeans are of the opinion that imposition of the capital punishment is more effective than the passage of life imprisonment to prevent felonies from being committed. As for the commitment to drug trafficking, the Singaporean government metes out capital punishment. There are movements calling on the governments to abolish the rule requiring the passage of the death sentence. Yet many nations are continuing to mete out the death sentence. Additionally, some are even extending capital punishment to other serious crimes. There are now 30 nations which mete out capital punishments for the commitment to drug trafficking. Iran, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines are practising the mandatory death sentence for having even a small amount of narcotic drugs in possession. In Singapore, 75 per cent of drug-related cases have a death sentence imposed. In the 30 nations that continue to impose capital punishment, the convicts are executed. Sixty per cent of the states in the United States and the Federal Government are continuing to impose capital punishment. Commencing in from1976, Texas, Virginia, Florida, Missouri, Louisiana and Oklahoma States have been executing two-thirds of the convicts upon whom the death sentence has been imposed.


Although the number of cases of execution is changing year by year, Belarus, Congo, Iran, Jordan, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Viet Nam and Yemen and some others are continuing to execute the convicts while Japan and India are also doing the executions from time to time. In the interviews with the Russian News Agencies during his visit to Russia, State Administration Council Chairman Senior General Min Aung Hlaing said no one is above the law when asked why his government has imposed capital punishment. He explained that the four convicts who were executed can be divided into two groups depending on the nature of their crimes, that one group included two NLD hard cores, that they were involved in the terrorist activities and that they went so far as to use the mines to kill the people. What is worse is that they killed people not out of uncontrollable wrath arising abruptly but they did so intentionally. The killings were well planned with some pre-meditations. They not only abetted the terrorists to kill the people but also ordered them to do so. Because of the convicts’ encouragement and support, many people were killed, and the victims included civil service personnel, innocent people, school teachers and health personnel. Even the Buddhist monks and nuns were not spared. Such miserable events have occurred merely because of their plans and provisions and arrangements. This being so, those who commit the crimes will have legal action taken. Another group is not concerned with the political party. They were merciless killers. I will tell you one thing. When one kills another, one may use a gun. And if he fires only one shot, the victim may die or not. But if he fires more than one shot, say he fires two, three, four or even five, it is quite clear that he has the intention to kill the victim. The two guys who were executed were well-intentioned to slaughter the victims ruthlessly. They not only used guns but also used knives to kill their targets. Such guys deserve the execution. How can you forgive such merciless murderers? You can imagine how their bereaved families would feel. I have to give justice to the bereaved families. This being so, we have meted out capital punishment unavoidably. Previously, we have the death sentence imposed on the convicts but never granted the execution order. I have no heart to grant the execution order but they have killed the victims so ruthlessly that I was forced to give the execution order.


International Law has no provision that prohibits the passage of the death sentence in a fair manner and under national laws. Every sovereign nation is vested with the right to impose capital punishment under its criminal law. According to the Penal Code, intentional killing deserves the death sentence. If the government pardons the murderers who have killed people mercilessly, who have arranged the killing of people en masse and who have pulled the string from behind the massacre, the most serious felonies, how can the bereaved families of the victims find justice for the late relatives. Execution has been done as a deterrent punishment. I would like to urge the readers to have an objective view in this regard. Translated.