This chapter presents the book's sources of information, its plan, and the approach taken towards capital punishment. This book began as a report to the United Nations Committee on Crime Prevention and Control in 1988. The chapter argues that it is necessary to approach the question of capital punishment from both normative and utilitarian points of view, and always in relation to how it is applied in practice. In essence, therefore, the case for retaining the death penalty — and thus resisting the movement to make its abolition an international norm — cannot rest solely on moral, cultural, or religious arguments. It would also have to be shown that it is useful and that it can be applied fairly, without mistakes, and without any degree of arbitrariness or cruelty unacceptable to contemporary social and legal values.
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