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lundi 26 novembre 2012

Right to Life

In the context of the contemporary discussion of human rights, the right to life refers to the right not to be arbitrarily deprived of life. In this context, one should note that most discussions of the right to life are not primarily concerned with the anti-abortion movement, which has adopted the “right to life movement” as a self-designation. The issue of capital punishment is also involved with the right to life, but is only one of many associated issues. Other issues discussed under the category of the right to life are deaths that occur during routine police actions and during actions taken by authorities to suppress riots, as well as the duty of the state to prevent acts of murder by private citizens and others. The right to life is obviously a precondition for enjoying the exercise of other human rights. Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states: “Everyone has the right to life, liberty, and security of person.” Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights deals with the right to life in greater detail:
1. Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.
2. In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the provisions of the present Covenant and to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This penalty can only be carried out pursuant to a final judgment rendered by a competent court.
3. When deprivation of life constitutes the crime of genocide, it is understood that nothing in this article shall authorize any State Party to the present Covenant to derogate in any way from any obligation assumed under the provisions of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
4. Anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence. Amnesty, pardon or commutation of the sentence of death may be granted in all cases.
5. Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant women.
6. Nothing in this article shall be invoked to delay or to prevent the abolition of capital punishment by any State Party to the present Covenant.
Finally, Article 1 of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights adopts the position that eliminating capital punishment will enhance human dignity and develop human rights:
1. No one within the jurisdiction of a State Party to the present Optional Protocol shall be executed.
2. Each state shall take all necessary measures to abolish the death penalty within its jurisdiction.
This position reflects the changing sensitivity to capital punishment, which has emerged as a major issue in recent decades. At first glance, it may appear paradoxical that many anti-abortion activists support the death penalty while opponents of capital punishment often adhere to a prochoice position. These superficially contradictory views can, however, be supported by, in the former case, making a sharp contrast between the innocence of the unborn and the guilt of candidates for capital punishment; and, in the latter case, by drawing a sharp distinction between the personhood of individuals on death row and the non-personhood of the unborn. The debate over the personhood of the fetus is reflected in the contrast between Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and Article 4 of the American Convention on Human Rights (adopted in San José, Costa Rica, on November 11, 1969). The American Convention asserts that the right to life begins “from the moment of conception.” Efforts to include similar wording into the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights were defeated, although, by stipulating that pregnant women should not be executed, Article 6(5) cited above seems to impute personhood to the human fetus. Minus this sort of stipulation, the implication is that an unborn fetus is a non-person without rights, which can therefore be aborted without violating the right to life principle.

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