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The chapter traces the origins of human dignity, showing how it was originally used to denote titles of honor but is now seen as a universal human right or as undergirding universal human rights. In the context of discussing dignity rights, the chapter highlights international human rights treaties and national constitutions making refeerence to the concept of human dignity, which, in modern usage, has to do with the inherent worth of a life. The chapter discusses how human dignity is the foundation for many human rights, including the right to life, the right to be free from torture and other forms of cruelty, and the right to be free of discrimination. The chapter describes existing jus cogens norms prohibiting various acts that violate fundamental human rights, concluding that the death penalty must be abolished because it makes use of credible death threats, inflicts psychological torture, and violates an array of basic human rights. The chapter details how non-lethal corporal punmishments have already been abandoned and how the death penalty has been abolished or curtailed in many countries, with international criminal law tribunals precluding the death penalty's use.
This chapter describes the immutable characteristics of capital punishment, which kills people and uses death threats by state actors. Death threats are ordinarily treated as unlawful acts, with threats of impending death treated as psychological torture where a person is helpless to prevent death. The chapter discusses how mock executions and various corporal punishments are already treated as torturous acts, including by laws and legal commentators. After discussing the duty of government officials to protect people, including inmates, from harm, as well as how jurists in multiple jurisdictions have recognized the death row phenomenon (i.e., the suffering associated with prolonged stays on death row), the chapter describes how countries have refused to extradite individuals without assurances that the death penalty will not be sought. The U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment contains a "lawful sanctions" carve-out to the definition of torture, but case law makes clear that lawful sanctions cannot themselves amount to torture. The chapter argues death sentences inflict severe pain and suffering amounting to torture.
The Conclusion summarizes the book's major themes and arguments, concluding that the death penalty has the immutable characteristics and indicia of torture. The Conclusion asserts that capital punishment violates fundamental human rights, including the right to be free from torture. Non-lethal corporal punishments and mock executions have already been prohibited by law, and the Conclusion asserts that capital punishment should be barred by an existing jus cogens norm--the peremptory norm of international law absolutely prohibiting torture--to stigmatize the practice of capital punishment as a torturous one that has no place in the twenty-first century or in law.
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