The United Nations and the Right to Stay Alive
"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."--Article 6 of Draft Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
SOONER OR LATER CAPITAL PUNISHMENT WAS BOUND TO BECOME a major issue at the United Nations. And this for three main reasons: firstly, the U.N. is increasingly involved in the definition and protection of human rights; secondly, the prevention and treatment of crime, as such, have been a definite part of the U.N.'s social program from the start, and its Social Defense Section has already been responsible for promoting and co-ordinating some valuable penological reform measures; thirdly, the basic principles of the U.N. Charter are so obviously aimed at stopping men from killing other men that judicial murder, carried out by states against their own citizens, could not long be ignored in working out the legal implications of the U.N.'s basic philosophy. Running through the heated discussions on New York's East River-whatever may be the subject under debate--is the constant refrain: How can we replace the lex talionis, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, by a higher law, so that the human race can survive at all?
The purpose of this chapter, therefore, will be to trace the steps by which Capital Punishment gradually forced its way to the surface of the world's chief forum and, in 1960, became a vital landmark in the growth of world law by being included for the first time in the