Capital punishment is the most disputed penal practice (Marcus, 2007). According to Marcus (2007), capital punishment is the act of depriving a person from life itself by something he or she committed after a legal trial. Very few voices objected to it till humanity started the intellectual revolutions about people and their rights (Nadeau, 2010). In response to the recent social outcry demonstrated in many research papers regarding the abandonment of capital punishment, many countries moved to alternative punishments including life imprisonment (Hood, 2001). Egypt is one of 40 countries worldwide which still allows capital punishment because the Egyptian constitution considers the Islamic Sharia its main source of legislation (Death Penalty Worldwide 2015). The following paper aims to understand how Egyptians perceive the death penalty through conducting interviews.
Twenty Egyptians are interviewed and asked about their opinion regarding the death penalty in Egypt. The interview allows the researcher to gain in-depth answers and understand the rational behind each participants answer. Among the interviewees are college students, teachers, bankers, lawyers, doctors and human rights activists. Ages of the interviewees range from 17 to 65 years.
Question 1: What crimes deserve the death penalty?
According to most participants, crimes which deserve the death penalty included premeditated murder, rape, kidnapping, human trafficking, terrorist attacks, espionage and any individual who deliberately causes other people to contract lethal diseases (carcinogens). The participants were generally stricter in their punishments when innocent children were involved.
Question 2: What are the alternatives to the death penalty?
The alternatives to the death penalty ranged from life sentence to treatments. All participants agreed that people who are convicted of the death penalty are a potential threat to society. Therefore, the participants believed that these criminals deserve nothing more than to spend the rest of their life in prison. Some interviewees also suggested that there are rare cases –mentally ill people- where a treatment should be implemented.
Question 3: How does the death penalty deter crimes?
Some of the participants agreed that the death penalty would deter crimes. They are convinced that this will make people think twice before committing a crime. On the other hand, some were confident that the number of crimes is not related to the implementation of the death penalty. Yet, they believe that it would reduce the horrors associated with the crimes.
Question 4: Why are you for/against the death penalty? Elaborate.
The majority of interviewees supported the implementation of the death penalty in Egypt. They agreed that criminals who commit such inhumane acts deserve to be executed in order to become a warning to others and to make them think twice before committing vile acts. The reasons behind their judgments towards the death penalty varied from religious beliefs to cultural beliefs. Some stated that the taking of a life should be punished through taking the criminals life. It also comes down to cultural traditions. Most participants were raised in a society that accepts the death penalty which made them accept it.
According to the interviewees, there are several crimes that deserve the death penalty. Amongst them was the act of premeditated murder that is defined as intentionally killing another human being after having meticulously planned it (Nadeau, 2010). Other crimes ranged from rape, kidnapping, human trafficking, terrorist attacks, espionage to any individual who deliberately causes other people to contract lethal diseases (carcinogens). It is obvious that the aforementioned crimes are heinous crimes which cause the victims to extremely suffer or die.
Why do the interviewees justify the death penalty?
According to Sharia principles, the implementation of the death penalty is required based on the religious rule stating “whoever kills shall be killed” (Fouad, 2015). Since most of the interviewees are Muslims, it is hypothesized that the interviewees religious beliefs play a significant role in their decision. However, some of the interviewees were Christians which illustrates that religion is not the only aspect that contributes to their opinion regarding the ethics behind the death penalty. Besides religion, culture played a huge role in forming their decisions. Most participants were raised in a society that accepts the death penalty. They got used to these traditions and cultures and hence believe that they are necessary to maintain social justice.
In addition, the results could be interpreted that those who attempt to commit such inhumane acts have given up on their basic rights as human beings. They are a threat to society and must be removed. The participants, therefore, believe that these people deserve the death penalty. Furthermore, some participants pointed out that the death penalty was especially critical when concerning innocent children. One interpretation might be that such terrible exploits as rape for example are likely to cause immense psychological impacts on children which will haunt them all their life. Of course, this does not only apply to children, as no one deserves to go through such horrors. Nevertheless, the interviewees merely decided to emphasize on the issue concerning innocent children as it is of utmost importance to keep them in mind as well.
Alternatives To the death penalty
It is worth noting that some interviewees opted for an alternative of the death penalty. They suggested that life-sentencing and psychological treatments are a more ethical and effective way. Some even stated that life imprisonment might be worse than being sentenced to death. This can easily be elucidated from the presumption that even if capital punishment is a confrontation of every man’s greatest fear, namely death, it relieves the criminal from any guilt and desolation. Life sentence, however, is a penalty throughout which the subject shall effectively pay for his actions. Taking one’s life might only take a few seconds while taking away their freedom makes up for a much longer time of suffering.
Moreover, in special psychologically-related cases treatments alongside imprisonment were suggested. According to the participants, some criminals have a mental condition that could be cured through treatments. Nevertheless, most of the participants agree that the death penalty deters crime and promotes social welfare. One possible explanation is that it will make the criminal think more than once before committing such a crime. It sets a red line, which cannot be surpassed under any circumstances. Any attempt to pass the line will result in the execution of the death penalty. The participants also believe that once a red line is defined, some delinquents will fear for their life and will not commit their intended crime.
Limitations of the Present Study
One of the limitations of the present study was the small sample size due to the lack of willingness of people to participate in the current study. This means that caution is needed when generalizing the results. However, it might be a useful indication.
Recommendations for Future Research
To further test the conclusions of the present study, it is suggested that future research further divides the participants into exclusive categories. Researchers might divide the participants according to their gender in order to test if the answers differ between both groups. Another possibility could be dividing the interviewees according to their age to explore the influence of age on ones perception of the death penalty in Egypt. It is also recommended that future researchers investigate the ethics behind capital punishment in other Arab countries.
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