As 2005 comes to a close, governments around the world are about evenly split on whether or not their countries should have capital punishment (See Tables 1-2 and Figure 1). According to Amnesty International, 86 countries have abolished the death penalty completely, 85 still have the death penalty and 25 have the death penalty but have not used it for several years.1 The current situation can be viewed clearly on a map (See Figure 1). The arguments driving the debate at the international level on whether a country should have capital punishment fall into three broad categories, the morality of the death penalty, the inhuman nature of the death penalty, and the issue of the fairness of the judicial process. Many view the debate, which has left the world evenly divided on the issue, as a waste of effort unlikely to change strongly held views. However, with a closer examination of the opinions of elites in various countries and their influence on policy, one can't help but conclude that the weight of the arguments against capital punishment are dramatically shifting the momentum towards having governments around the world abolish or severely limit the use of the death penalty.
The Issue Of Morality
One of the main reasons for the recent tilt of nations towards abolishing the death penalty is the issue of morality. The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (2005 Edition) notes that " the term "morality" can be used descriptively to refer to a code of conduct put forward by a society or, a. some other group, such as a religion, or b. accepted by an individual for her own behavior or normatively to refer to a code of conduct that, given specified conditions, would be put forward by all rational persons.2" If one were to take a...