Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Human Rights Letter

Dear Senator Luger,
Many Americans are, indeed, deeply concerned with the violations of human rights in countries throughout the world. Nations like Iran, Sudan, Burundi, and a myriad of others receive a great deal of attention from activists and lobbyists, who seek to end the suffering of so many innocent men, women, and children, brutally oppressed by paramilitary groups, insurgencies, religious extremists, or, in many cases, their own totalitarian governments. Receiving less attention, however, are the human rights violations occurring in our own country. In the United States of America, supposedly one of the most free and civilized nations in the world, the death penalty is a punishment commonly employed by our criminal justice system, and, despite the fact that 135 nations have effectively abolished the death penalty, the United States continues to sentence criminal offenders to death.
Some may argue, that sentencing a human being to death is justified because, if they have been sentenced to death, then they have committed a crime so heinous that they deserve the most severe punishment that can be meted out by the criminal justice system. This logic is flawed, however, because it presupposes that the criminal justice system is infallible. In reality, innocent people are, on occasion, convicted of crimes they never committed, and are imprisoned unjustly. Using this logic, one can, rather safely, posit that if some innocent people are convicted of a crime, then innocent people are, also, unjustly sentenced to death. Surely, no one could argue that such a flagrant violation of human rights would be appropriate, justified, or acceptable in a civilized society.
Furthermore, even if the criminal justice system operated flawlessly, the implementation of the death penalty in any case would, nevertheless, still constitute a blatant violation of human rights. According to Amnesty International, “The death penalty violates the right to life. It is the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. It has no place in a modern criminal justice system.” They continue, “An execution, just like torture, involves a deliberate assault on a prisoner. Even so-called 'humane' methods such as lethal injection can entail excruciating suffering.” Because of the cruel and inhuman nature of the death penalty, 135 nations throughout the world have effectively abolished the death penalty for all crimes. Currently, the United States is one of only 62 countries who still sentence criminal offenders to death. In fact, according to Amnesty International, “91 per cent of all known executions in 2006 took place in China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, Sudan and the USA.” What is perhaps most disturbing, however, is that the United States is one of the few nations that sentence juvenile offenders to death. It should be noted that sentencing a person, under the age of 18, to death is not only a clear violation of fundamental human rights, but also a breach of international law. Infringing upon fundamental human rights and defying international law, the United States joins the ranks of only nine other countries (China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Afghanistan, and Yemen) in its decision to sentence juveniles to death. On this subject, Amnesty International writes, “The USA and Iran have each executed more child offenders than the other eight countries combined….” Clearly, the United States stands in overt violation of human rights.
Awareness of this issue must be raised among American citizens, in order to bring about necessary social change, and end the use of the penalty in America. To combat this blatant human rights violation, steps should be taken immediately, in congress, to abolish the death penalty in the United States.

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