Books: International Issues

The Death Penalty and U.S. Diplomacy by Wesley Kendall and Joseph Siracusa examines how international forces have influenced U.S. death penalty policy. Growing international opposition to the death penalty has affected consular intervention in U.S. capital cases, extradition negotiations, and international litigation. The authors use a case-study approach to argue, as they say in the introduction, that international pressures "have done much to constrain the United States to abandon its policies of executing foreigners as well as its own citizens." Wesley Kendall is a former trial lawyer and current law professor at the University of West Virginia. Joseph Siracusa is a professor of human security and international diplomacy at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University, Australia.

(W. Kendall and J. Siracusa, "The Death Penalty and U.S. Diplomacy: How Foreign Nationals and International Organizations Influence U.S. Policy," Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2013.)

A new book on international developments in capital punishment, The Next Frontier: National Development, Political Change, and the Death Penalty in Asia, is now available from Oxford University Press.  Authors David Johnson, an expert on law and society in Asia, and Franklin Zimring, a senior authority on capital punishment, utilize their research to identify the critical factors affecting the future of the death penalty in Asia. They found that when an authoritarian state experienced democratic reform, such as in Taiwan and South Korea, the rate of executions dropped sharply.  Johnson and Zimring also found that politics, instead of culture or tradition, is the major obstacle to the end of capital punishment in Asia.

(D. Johnson, F. Zimring, “The Next Frontier: National Development, Political Change, and the Death Penalty in Asia,” Oxford University Press, 2009). The book may be purchased here.

Reviews of this new work include:

“With cool scholarship and passionate moral commitment, this book convincingly signposts the steady world-wide progress towards abolition and the elimination of the need perceived by states to show their authority by killing their citizen’s.”– Justice Albie Sachs, Constitutional Court of South Africa.

“The appearance of this book is something of a landmark in the evolution of the movement it documents. The scope of this collection reflects the extraordinary degree to which the abolition of the death penalty has become a human rights movement of global proportions… All who contribute to this book live on a planet that is already much too small to tolerate state killings in any of its provinces.” – Franklin E. Zimring, University of California, Berkeley, USA.

The book can be purchased here.

(J. Yorke, Ed., “Against the Death Penalty: International Initiatives and Implications,” Ashgate Publishers, 2008). See Books and International.

A compelling narrative of the legal and political fight to end the death penalty in France has just been released in an English translation. Abolition: One Man’s Battle Against the Death Penalty is authored by Robert Badinter, probably the single person most responsible for abolishing the death penalty in France. He begins his story in 1972 when one of his clients was guillotined in a case he felt was unjust. Upon dedicating his career to abolishing the death penalty, he agreed to represent any convict facing capital punishment, and he succeeded in having six death sentences overturned. Readers follow Badinter’s journey from writing the legislation to ban the death penalty to the push through the National Assembly and Senate. His narrative moves from courtroom experiences to the political front throughout this memoir. Badinter currently sits in the French Senate and is one of the founders of the World Congress Against the Death Penalty.

The new edition can be purchased at (R. Badinter, Abolition: One man’s battle against the death penalty, Northeastern University Press, 2008; translated by Jeremy Mercer). See Books.


The Death Penalty: A Worldwide Perspective by Roger Hood and Carolyn Hoyle is the Fourth Edition of a text that highlights the latest developments in the death penalty around the world. Roger Hood utilizes his experience as a consultant to the United Nations' annual survey of capital punishment in compiling a wide range of information from non-governmental organizations and academic literature. The book explores both the advances in legal challenges to the death penalty and the reduction in executions, while noting the continued existence of human rights abuses. Problems include unfair trails, police abuse, painful forms of execution, and excessive periods of time spent in inhumane conditions on death row. The authors explore the latest issues related to capital punishment such as deterrence, arbitrariness, and what influence victims' families should have in sentencing.

A sample of reviews of earlier editions of this book:

"brings an international human rights perspective to the discussion ... its wordwide perspective brings another dimension and greater depth to the arguments surrounding the return of executions to America.'' -Leigh B. Bienen, The Journal of Criminal Law and Criminology.

"excellent study ... is likely to remain for some time the scholarly authority that complements the regular and continuing publications of Amnesty International and other campaigning organizations." -Andrew Rutherford, University of Southampton, British Journal of Criminology.

"offers the reader comprehensive insight into the current use of the death penalty throughout the world...This book is both comprehensive and extremely informative and will appeal to students, researchers, and anyone else seeking knowledge on the current state of the death penalty around the world.'' Criminal Justice.

"the most authoritative account of the status of death penalty - its abolition and retention - in the contemporary world." Journal of the Commonwealth Lawyers.

The Death Penalty: A Worldwide Perspective (Oxford University Press 2008) can be purchased here. See also Books and International.
The Inter Press Service, with the assistance of the European Commission, has recently published "Crime and Justice: Abolishing the Death Penalty," collecting more than 100 reports from dozens of countries and every continent. IPS used the voices of those who work directly with the death penalty issue to present a world-wide picture of the status of capital punishment. The stories told in the report are from activists, academics, lawyers and death row inmates. They range from dispatches from Central Asia to one about a botched lethal injection execution in Florida that dragged on for 34 minutes. As a follow-up to this execution, an IPS correspondent reports on the U.S. Supreme Court's review of the lethal injection issue, which has resulted in a country-wide moratorium on executions. Additionally, the section on the United States includes stories about clemency, Ohio's abolition movement, and many other death penalty issues. To download the 208-page book in pdf format, click on the image to the left.
("Crime and Justice: Abolishing the Death Penalty," Petar Hadji-Ristic, editor, Inter Press Service Dec. 2007). Posted Jan. 25, 2008. See Books and International.
Alan Clarke and Laurelyn Whitt examine two factors that are gaining importance in the debate over capital punishment. The Bitter Fruit of American Justice (Northeastern 2007) contends that increasing opposition to the death penalty throughout the world could affect how other countries relate politically to the United States. The second influence is the repeated discovery of innocent people on America’s death rows. The authors suggest that these two factors could lead to the end of the death penalty in the United States.

Read more about the book here. See also International and Innocence.
"Towards the Abolition of the Death Penalty in Africa: A Human Rights Perspective" is a new book by Lilian Chenwi that examines the history of capital punishment in Africa and the continent's emerging trend away from the death penalty. In her book, Chenwi details the impact that both international human rights organizations and international treaties have had on shifting African views about capital punishment. This resource includes chapters on the history and current state of capital punishment in Africa, the right to life in the continent, and a review of the prohibition of cruel and inhumane punishment in Africa. Chenwi is a human rights attorney and senior researcher in the Socio-Economic Rights Project of the Community Law Centre, University of the Western Cape. (Book description, May 15, 2007; pub. by Pretoria University Law Press, 2007).
The Cultural Lives of Capital Punishment, a new book edited by professor Austin Sarat of Amherst College and lecturer Christian Boulanger of the Free University in Berlin, examines the complicated dynamics of the death penalty in eleven nations to determine what role capital punishment plays in defining a country's political and cultural identity. The editors note that a nation's values and cultural history influence its relationship with capital punishment. The book includes examinations of the death penalty in Mexico, the United States, Poland, Kyrgyzstan, India, Israel, Palestine, Japan, China, Singapore, and South Korea. The editors conclude: "What is clear is that the death penalty lives many different lives and dies many different deaths. Like globalization in general, the globalization of the discourses on state killing should not blind us to the very local nature of punishment. There might be universal reasons against capital punishment. . .but the struggle against the penalty of death must be fought again and again in each different culture in ways that acknowledge and respect capital punishment's distinctive cultural lives." (Stanford University Press, 2005) See International Death Penalty and Books.
"Death Penalty - Beyond Abolition" details the path to abolition of the death penalty in Europe, the only region in the world where capital punishment has been almost completely eradicated. The book also examines how this development has impacted other nations around the world. With articles focusing on issues such as working with murder victims' families and finding appropriate alternatives to the death penalty, the book examines the pioneering role that the Council of Europe has played in eliminating the death penalty through a series of enacted protocols for all member nations. These same protocols have impacted countries with Council observer status, such as the United States and Japan. Robert Badinter, Hugo Bedau, Peter Hodgkinson, Roger Hood, Anne Ferrazzini, Michel Forst, Eric Prokosch, H.C. Kruger, Anatoli Pristavkine, C. Ravaud, Sir Nigel Rodley, Renate Wohlwend, and Yoshihiro Yasuda are among the capital punishment experts whose writings are featured in the book. (Council of Europe Publishing, 2004)
Hood, Roger: "The Death Penalty: A World-Wide Perspective"; Revised and Updated Edition, Oxford University Press, 2002. Originally published by Clarendon Press, Oxford, in 1996
Published by the International Commission of Jurists, "The Death Penalty: Condemned" (September, 2000) contains a collection of papers presented at the International Commission of Jurists's April 12, 1999 roundtable, "The Death Penalty: Some Key Questions." Papers address such issues as the needs of victims, and the use of the death penalty in the United States, the Russian Federation, and Trinidad and Tobago
Schabas, William A.: "The abolition of the death penalty in international law" Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1997