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abolish the death penalty

There are occasions when a swift response by letter can save a prisoner from death.

As Christians we believe it is important to educate and inform the general public and in particular the Churches of the evil of the death penalty as the ultimate in cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment. We campaign for the universal abolition of the death penalty and seek the reprieve of named prisoners under sentence of death.

At the heart of our faith is Jesus, executed as a criminal but raised from the dead.

The World Council of Churches opposes unconditionally the death penalty and calls on all states to ban it: “by taking a life the state is usurping the will of God” (1990). The calculated killing of a human being by the state involves, by its very nature, a denial of the executed person’s humanity.

Those condemned to death are the poor, the powerless, those at the margins of society, minorities or individuals seen as enemies by repressive governments. The innocent are executed along with the guilty. The legal system is arbitrary.


Capital punishment is not a fair, just or measured response to serious crime. The decision of the prosecution to seek the death penalty can depend on:


• The cost of the trial.

• The amount and credibility of evidence.

• The standard and quality of legal representation for the defendant.

• The perceived views of the judge.

• Media coverage and political pressure.

• Above all there is no empirical evidence that the death penalty is an effective deterrent.


Execution does not bring peace to the victim’s family. Peace can only be found by being reconciled to what has happened, by letting go, by overcoming hatred and bitterness.



More than two thirds of all countries have abolished the death penalty in law or in practice, or have not carried out any executions for 10 years or longer.


• About 56 countries currently impose the death penalty although only a small number carry out executions.

• About 90% of executions take place in just 7 countries: China, Iran, Iraq, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, the USA, and Yemen. Statistics are not published by some countries and are sometimes a state secret (e.g. China).

• Sentences of death can be imposed for murder and a large number of other crimes including: robbery with violence, kidnapping, rape, economic crimes (embezzlement, tax fraud, corruption), drug offences, blasphemy, apostasy, political opposition, plotting coups or belonging to terrorist groups, spying, treason.


Execution can follow years on death row (USA) or within an hour of sentence. It involves rituals, often elaborate. Many methods are used: hanging, shooting, stoning, garrotting, lethal injection, beheading, and electrocution.



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