01 March 2012

The day the right to life was recognised!

On this day in 1847, the State of Michigan in the United States became the first English-speaking region in the world to abolish capital punishment. The death penalty is a violation of human rights according to the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

In South Africa, this practice was officially abolished on the 6th of June, 1996 following the enactment of the SA constitution. Prior to this, the death penalty had been suspended since February 1990, before the said date the country was reported to have one of the highest rates of judicial executions in the world, the majority of which were political prisoners.

The newly formed Constitutional Court ruled that with immediate effect "all state and all its organs are forbidden to execute any person already sentenced to death under any provisions thus declared invalid". The court further asserted that the ruling would apply to then 453 prisoners who were on death row whose sentences were to be individually reviewed.

The death penalty debate constantly resurfaces due to the relatively high level of crime in South Africa.