Capital Punishment and the Morality of Human Rights

30 Pages Posted: 2 May 2005 Last revised: 10 Mar 2020


According to the morality of human rights, every human being has inherent dignity and is inviolable. In a paper I posted on SSRN last month, I inquired whether there is a nonreligious ground for the morality of human rights. Here is the URL for that paper:

In this paper, I pursue the implications of the morality of human rights for the issue of capital punishment. Should we who affirm the morality of human rights, because we affirm it, want the law to protect human beings from - by giving them a right to be free from - capital punishment. One of the most prominent and powerful voices against capital punishment in recent years was that of Pope John Paul II, whose position was more radical - more oppositionist - than than the official position of the Roman Catholic Church. In this paper, I present John Paul II's position and then explain why I am unable to embrace it. I then present an alternative position - an alternative reason why we who affirm the morality of human rights should oppose capital punishment.

Note: This paper, which was the basis for a lecture I presented at St. John's University on October 13, 2004, is drawn from a book-in-progress, tentatively titled HUMAN RIGHTS AS MORALITY, HUMAN RIGHTS AS LAW.

Suggested Citation

Perry, Michael John, Capital Punishment and the Morality of Human Rights. Emory Public Law Research Paper No. 05-10, Available at SSRN:

Michael John Perry (Contact Author)

Emory University School of Law ( email )

1301 Clifton Road
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States
404-712-2086 (Phone)

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