The Death Penalty Worldwide website was created by Professor Sandra Babcock of the Center for International Human Rights at Northwestern Law School's Bluhm Legal Clinic, in partnership with the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty. The website and database are intended to fill a void in current information about the laws and practices relating to the application of the death penalty around the world. There is a great deal of conflicting information about the death penalty, and at times it is difficult to gauge the accuracy of reports one is able to find by searching the web. Although there are many excellent online sources of information relating to death penalty practices around the world—most notably, reports generated by Amnesty International and the database maintained by Hands Off Cain—none of these are devoted to academic and legal analysis of developments in this field. This resource is not intended to supplant those resources, but to supplement them.
The database is the centerpiece of the Death Penalty Worldwide project. It is intended to provide detailed and transparent information regarding the application of the death penalty in law and in practice in every country that retains it. To ensure that database users can judge the reliability and accuracy of our information for themselves, we have provided sources for each fact cited in the database. We hope this will encourage you to notify us when our sources are outdated or inaccurate, and will reassure those who would otherwise be reticent to rely on information that may contradict data gathered by other NGOs, scholars, and institutions. Where appropriate, our researchers have included a brief analysis of legislation and jurisprudence in the country at issue. This is particularly useful in determining which crimes are death-eligible and whether the country has a mandatory death penalty. Answers to these questions are rarely straightforward, particularly in countries that fail to publish judicial decisions and in those that treat information regarding the death penalty as a state secret.
Once we started the project, we realized why no one had ever done it before: gathering reliable data on the laws and practices of 91 countries and two territories is no small challenge. Our methodology is described in greater detail below. To complete the research needed to launch the database, we relied on a talented and well-trained team who collectively devoted thousands of hours to this project, most on a volunteer basis. All of them deserve enormous credit for the labor-intensive and meticulous research they conducted. Nevertheless, a few of these individuals merit special mention.
Without Ronit Arie and Brook Miscoski, this project would never have come to fruition. As a teaching fellow in the Center for International Human Rights, Ronit Arie took charge of standardizing and documenting the research methodology, training the researchers, coordinating the many facets of the project, and ensuring that the technical side of the database functioned in accordance with our vision. As the lead researcher, Brook Miscoski was the driving force behind and was primarily responsible for the extraordinarily high quality of the factual data and legal analysis for each country. He simultaneously led the team's research efforts while producing volumes of exemplary research himself, working tirelessly to check facts and research arcane questions of comparative law, often late into the night. His contribution to the content of the database cannot be overstated.
Sophie Colmant is the third member of the team whose expertise was critical to the success of this project. A lawyer from Belgium with several years' experience in the field of criminal defense, Sophie was in charge of researching the francophone countries. Her knowledge of civil law procedure and practice was invaluable. Delphine Lourtau rounded out our incredibly talented francophone team, volunteering many hours to ensure that we met our April launch deadline. Delia Flores employed her skills as an investigative journalist to track down obscure facts and check the accuracy of our data. And Eric Prokosch and Mark Warren were of great assistance in honing our research questions and methodology. Mark's excellent website regarding foreign nationals, consular rights and the death penalty was invaluable as we sought to verify the numbers and countries of origin of foreign nationals on death rows around the world.
We also would like to recognize and thank the following individuals for their extraordinary commitment to this project: Mahmoud Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam, Dr. Nizam Assaf, Jeanne Bishop, Muneeb Bokhari, John Cacharani, Emile Carreau, Guillaume Colin, Maria Donatelli, Jessica Dwinell, Jeff Engstrom, Penelope Faulkner, Fatima Ferrer, Delia Flores, Richard Fielding, Abigail Flynn, Maribeth Gainard, Danielle Goldman, Shin Hahn, Saleem Halteh, Juliet Han, Melissa Hindman, Tomas Hubert, Apoorvaa C. Joshi, Rachel Katzman, Catrina Kim, Akhila Kolisetty, Joan Kyomugisha, Nikki (Soeun) Lee, Hsin-Yi Lin, Celia Llopis-Jepsen, Tianyin (Nunu) Luo, Jade Martin, Liliana Martin, Maria Martinez, Nicolas Martinez, DeLaine Mayer, Lisa Mazzone, Kristin McCaffrey, Sathyanandh Mohan, Shimelis Mulugeta, Sultana Noon, Henri Ariston Nzedom, Alexis Ortiz, Katie Pelech, Nicolas Perron, Gokila Pillai, Aurelie Placais, Virginia Richardson, Ricardo Sanchez, Heather Scheiwe, Alison Shah, Kai Sheffield, Sophie Abu Soboh, Maiko Tagusari, Julie Vautard, and Vamika Venkatesan.
This project would not have been possible without the financial backing of the European Union and the Proteus Action League. We are very grateful for their support.
We launched the website and database in April 2011, and there is no doubt that its content will continue to improve over time. Ultimately, we hope that this will become a principal resource for lawyers, jurists, journalists, policymakers and activists who are seeking reliable information on the laws and practices of retentionist and de facto abolitionist states. In the future, we hope to gather sample briefs on issues of international law and make them available to defense counsel seeking to challenge the application of the death penalty. We are keenly aware of the resource constraints facing defense counsel around the world, particularly in the global south, and hope that this website will provide much-needed information regarding legal arguments they can employ in their advocacy.
Last updated on October 25, 2011