Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Asia death penalty in decline: Researcher

An expert in the use of the death penalty across Asia has said that "in the long run" it will probably disappear in the region, in line with trends in the rest of the world.

Professor David Johnson from the University of Hawai'i told the Associated Press there had been dramatic declines in the number of executions in Asia, and he expected a trend towards abolition as the death penalty became increasingly seen as a human rights issue.

"I think in the long run, probably the death penalty is going to disappear in Asia as it seems to be doing in many parts of the rest of the world," he said.

He pointed to reductions in the number of executions in China and Singapore, two leading executing states, and Pakistan's proposal to commute the death sentences of about 6,000 prisoners.

The death penalty was being viewed more as a human rights issue, rather than an issue of criminal justice, which tended to undermine public confidence in it as a form of punishment.

Professor Johnson said "the frame that regards the death penalty as a human rights issue has become more conspicuous and salient in Asia than it was in the past".

"And when you frame the death penalty as a human rights issue instead of a crime issue, you invite anxiety and concern and resistance to the death penalty because, after all, it's a state killing," he said.

While the death penalty was strongest in authoritarian states, even there its use was in decline.

"The most dramatic execution decreases occurred in the rapidly developing democracies of South Korea and Taiwan, but declines have also occurred in nations such as India and Malaysia," he said.

"When development and plural democracy take root in Asia, the decline of the death penalty usually comes sooner rather than later."

A book on the death penalty in Asia, co-written by Professor Johnson, will be published later this year.

He was visiting Australia this month to speak on the death penalty at Griffith University and the Australian National University.

No comments: