The death sentence is a contentious issue all over the world. It is a severe form of punishment, meted out by the criminal justice system after a fair trial and enforced by governments to persons deemed to have committed heinous criminal acts that may include murder, rape, treason, and other criminal activities that are considered to be capital offenses. However, the application of the death sentence is a matter that elicits different opinions from the world citizenry, and countries have different applications of the death sentence. There are those countries that propagate its application and others that vehemently oppose it. On this issue, I will cover the comparison and contrast of the application of the death penalty in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) under Sharia Law and in France under Civil Law.
Both the UAE and France are signatories to International Treaties that seek to ratify the abolishment of the death penalty. The two States are also signatories to Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that everyone has a right to life, liberty, and security. Another notable treaty that both States ratified is Article 6/1 of the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights states that “every human being has an inherent right to life. This shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life. Another interesting comparison is the existence of a middle ground where in France, same-sex marriages are lawfully recognized but punishable by death; in the UAE, the sentence is never enforced. The UAE began replacing its’ legal system in the early 1960s from the traditional system of law and justice (Sharia Laws) to laws and institutions of western inspiration.
There are many differences in how the issue of the death sentence is viewed in these two jurisdictions. In France (a pro-abolish State), once infamous for ‘the French guillotine,’ several attempts to abolish the death sentence began as far back as 1791 and later in 1906. However, it was not until October 9th, 1981 that France was able to abolish the death sentence after a wide public debate (Hammel 118). The French society seeks to distinguish itself as a cultural signifier of the sanctity of the right to life. The last recorded execution on French soil was back in 1969 (Mitterrand, 1028). However, today as many as 50 per cent of the French population are in favor of the reinstatement of the death penalty for heinous crimes like murder and terrorism.
The UAE constitution provides for the application of Sharia Law to adjudicate criminal and family law where the death penalty is applicable to offenders, whereas the law in France does allow the use of the death penalty for any offences. The death sentence in the UAE is carried out in ways that the French society deems to be barbaric and undignified that include hanging by rope to stoning to death of the condemned. The death sentence in the UAE was meted out as recently as in 2017 when one person was hanged for killing (Abdulla, 157). It is also good to note that the death sentence under the Sharia Law in the UAE is surrounded in a lot of controversy where victims of rape stand condemned to death in disregard to their innocence. According to the French society and the western European countries at large the UAE Sharia Laws on the death penalty leave a lot to be desired and create a lot of diplomatic spats between the two when their citizens are condemned to death for issues like same-sex liaisons (especially lesbians) or extra-marital affairs that are deemed acceptable in the West but abhorred in the (Al-Muhairi, Butt Ali ,305). According to the French society, the application of the death sentence in the UAE is selective justice that mainly targeting women in a rather male-dominated world where the rights of women remain only on paper (Hoyle, 211).
The issue of the death sentence is a very emotive one that will not fizzle out any time soon. Society as a whole has a right to protect itself from criminals that unleash horrendous acts that include terrorism, mass murders, rapists of women and children. For these group of criminals, the society has a right to gauge the appropriate form of punishment, including the death cases for those deemed to be unhabitable.
Abdulla, Saleh Abdulla Murad. The use of the death penalty under the law of the United Arab Emirates. Diss. Aberystwyth University, 2013.
Al-Muhairi, Butti Sultan Butti Ali. “Islamisation and Modernisation within the UAE Penal Law: Shari’a in the Pre-modern Period.” Arab Law Quarterly 10.4 (1995): 287-309.
Hammel, Andrew. “Case Study Three—France.” Ending the Death Penalty. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2010. 116-145.).
Hoyle, Carolyn. “Capital punishment at the intersections of discrimination and disadvantage: the plight of foreign nationals.” Comparative capital punishment. Edward Elgar Publishing, 2019.
Kunyk, A. M. LEGALIZATION OF SAME-SEX MARRIAGES. Diss. 2018.
Mitterrand, Danielle. “Symposium: Death Penalty from an International and Human Rights Law Perspective.” Santa Clara L. Rev. 42 (2001): 1031.Mitterrand, Danielle. “Symposium: Death Penalty from an International and Human Rights Law Perspective.” Santa Clara L. Rev. 42 (2001): 1031.