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Death Penalty in Namibia

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Namibia is deemed is deemed to be a country of a low crime rate, especially to the likes of the USA, Mexico or even our neighbours South Africa. However, it is evident that there is a gradual increase in crime; homicides and rapes are widely reported accross the country and the Namibian nation is concerned. Some have even called for the reinstatent of the death penalty in Namibia. It is important to establish the meaning of death penalty and what it entails. According to the Oxford Dictionary, death penalty is the legally authorized killing of someone as punishment for a crime. So it is a sentence made by the court which allows the State to execute a guilty party. However, only certain crimes would amount to the guilty party being executed. These crimes may be first degree murder, terrorism or even treason. Application of the death penalty to crimes such as fraud and theft would obviously be too extreme.

A famouse example of a death penalty sentence is that of former Iraqi President Sadam Hussein. Sadam Hussein was sentenced to death by hanging, after being found guilty and convicted of crimes against humanity in December 2006. The death penalty is a subjectively sensitive issue. Whether or not to reintroduce the death penalty in Namibia remains a huge debate among its citizens. This essay will discuss the death penalty on its history in Namibia; its introduction and abolition. The advantages and disadvantages of the death penalty will also be laid down, and a final conclusion will be reached on whether the death penalty can be applied to deter crime in Namibia.

The History of Capital Punishment in Namibia
In Namibia, the death penalty was originally introduced in 1858, by Jonker Afrikaner and 19 other chiefs at a peace conference. This conference resulted in the Treaty of Hoachanas that prescribed the procedures applicable to a murder trial and the execution of the death sentence. The death sentence as a form of punishment in Namibia was maintained by successive colonial powers until it was officially abolished in 1990, the year before Namibia’s independence. The last execution to take place in Namibia was in May 1988, when Sagarias Ariseb was hanged for the murder of the estate where he was working.

Namibian Law versus the Death Penalty
The right to life is provided for by the Namibian Constitution in Chapter 3: Fundamental Human Rights and Freedoms. Article 6: The right to life shall be respected and protected. No law may prescribe death as a competent sentence. No Court or Tribunal shall have the power to impose a sentence of death upon any person. No executions shall take place in Namibia. Article 131 stipulates that Article 6 is entranched in the Constitution and therefore cannot be repealed or ammended. Namibia has also signed international and continental treaties which protect human life. An example is the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Article 4.

Advantages of the Death Penalty
“If we execute murderers and there is in fact no deterrent effect, we have killed a bunch of murderers. If we fail to execute murderers, and doing so would in fact have deterred other murders, we have allowed the killing of a bunch of innocent victims. I would much rather risk the former. This, to me, is not a tough call.” John McAdams – Marquette University/Department of Political Science, on deterrence. To aid with ascertaining that the death penalty is a good crime deterrence system, the following advantages are laid down; The Death Penalty is cost-effective: The cost of imprisoning a criminal, serving a life term or otherwise long term, is very expensive when compared with the costs involved in execution of the same person. Capital punishment is, therefore, considered to be cost-effective. Peace for victim’s family: The death penalty gives closure to the victim’s families who have suffered so much.Some family members of crime victims may take years or decades to recover from the shock and loss of a loved one. Some may never recover.

One of the things that helps hasten this recovery is to achieve some kind of closure. Life in prison just means the criminal is still around to haunt the victim. A death sentence brings finality to a horrible chapter in the lives of these family members. Death penalty acting as a detterent: It is argued that the execition of someone can be seen as an example to the potential criminals. The knowledge that the law will not protect their lives after commiting a crime deters them commiting crimes and therefore crime is reduced. No over-crowded prisons: It is a common problem especially in Namibia; overcrowded cells. Execution of some criminals will however prevent this problem. Criminal no longer a threat: Imprisonment keeps the possibility of a hardened criminal coming out on parole and becoming a threat to civil society, a possibility which is put to rest by execution. There have been many instances of prisoners, out on parole, indulging in criminal behavior taking advantage of their conditional release. A great exmple is that of Dawud Majid Mu’Min. Dawud M. Mu’min was serving a 48 year prison sentence for a 1973 murder conviction of a taxi driver in Grayson County, Virginia. He was assigned to a daily work crew and he escaped only to kill a store owner. Mu’Min was arrested and convicted of capital murder. He was then executed, making sure he could no longer commit crime.

Disadvantages of Death Penalty
“I am not convinced that capital punishment, in and of itself, is a deterrent to crime because most people do not think about the death penalty before they commit a violent or capital crime.” -Willie L.Williams, Police Chief, Los Angeles, CA

Everything has is its own downsides, including the death penalty. A discusion of the disadvantages of the death penalty will illuminate on why a lot of countries in the world, including Namibia, have fallen out of favour with the death penalty. Falsely accused and mentally ill people might be put to death: Wronful convictions are inevitable. They do happen. People may also get arrested due to the public pressure exertedonto the police. This was evident in the Magdalena Stoffels case in which Junias Fillipus was wrongfully of raping and killing Magdalena. So wrongfully convicted innocent persons are at risk of being executed too. Mentally ill patients may be put to death.Many people are simply born with defects to their brain that cause them to act a certain way.

No amount of drugs, schooling, rehabilitation, or positive reinforcement will change them. Is it fair that someone should be murdered just because they were unlucky enough to be born with a brain defect. Although it is technically unconstitutional to put a mentally ill patient to death, the rules can be vague, and you still need to be able to convince a judge and jury that the defendant is in fact, mentally ill. Morality: The application of the death penalty raises the question of morality. Is right to act on the notion of “An eye for an eye”? The application of the death penalty is seen to be immoral because it only promotes revenge in society.

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