For many years, the death penalty issue has created controversial debates and even to date the debates still remain unabated. This is because justice has become a relative term and people term incidences that are contrary to their self-will and desires as injustice. Therefore, with that, the thirst for vengeance is so evident that states find it difficult to ignore; particularly because of the eye for an eye concept that has been upheld for so many centuries.
However, what people seem to forget is that two wrongs don’t make it right. Yes, the offender needs to be punished, but do we necessarily have to punish the offender by taking his/her own life? What about the rights of the accused, isn’t the law made to give others a second chance to reform and do what is right for their communities? Most of these questions may seem irrelevant to most people because they are so centred on vengeance, that they forget that everyone’s rights matters. This concept has relatively been one of the top reasons why most countries still remain to retain the death penalty, slowly ignoring the corrosive effect it causes both to the offender and the community.
We have become so blinded by revenge, that we have forgotten our obligations as individuals, government entities, as well as members of a civil society; moreover forgetting the obligations entrusted upon us by International treaties, covenants such as the Universal Declaration of Human rights. These international laws were adopted in order to guide states in respecting individual rights and states signatory to such treaties are obligated to adopt these laws within their national Constitutions.
Retaining the death penalty goes far beyond than reducing crime. It causes trauma on the side of the accused, also creates tension between states particularly in situations where another state has abolished the death penalty; and above all, it infringes the most important fundamental rights, which are the rights to life and to liberty.
Therefore, it is important that normative edifices that guard against human rights violations adequately ensure that everyone’s fundamental rights are protected and respected because respecting individual rights and freedoms is the only way to inclusive development.
According to the World Economic Forum of 2015, development is very much possible, when individual rights and freedoms are respected; this also includes the rights of the offenders or the accused. Therefore, this should be a wakeup call to retentionist countries to outlaw death penalty and respect the rights of individuals. The death penalty should be replaced with alternatives such as life imprisonment so as to reduce the cruelty imposed upon offenders.
To deny them human rights, is to challenge their humanity. With that, I believe that the rights of each individual should be maintained regardless of their status or regardless of the situation they have imposed upon their fellow community members; rights do matter.
 K.N Bojosi, ‘Commentary on recent constitutional challenges to the death penalty in Botswana http://www.biicl.org/files/2292_bojosi_ recent_constitutional_challenges.pdf (2015 September 20)
 Nelson Mandela quotes
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Lesego Gaetwesepe is a law graduate and she is intrinsically passionate about human rights, community building and empowering young people. She is a participant at the YALI Regional Leadership Center in Southern Africa and was also part of the #ageofconsent project. She was also part of a project facilitated by NACA (NATIONAL AIDS COORDINATING AGENCY). Ms Lesego is currently a volunteer at Gogontlejang Phaladi Pillar of Hope Project and also represents the organisation at the UNESCO Pan African Youth Network for building a Culture of Peace, and she is also taking up training as an ASFL (African Students for Liberty) Local Coordinator.