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Abstract

This report is concerned with the mandatory death penalty – capital punishment that is required by law, whether or not a sentencing judge thinks it fair – and it identifies grave shortcomings that affect systems of automatic execution. In certain jurisdictions, the offences that trigger death sentences are insufficiently serious to merit such a sanction in the first place. More generally, any procedure that obliges a court to impose the death penalty is inherently flawed. It makes it difficult or impossible for the law to give due weight to relevant facts: most obviously, the details that necessarily make one crime more or less serious than another. The paper surveys recent developments all over the world, but there are certain countries that have been especially likely to impose the mandatory death penalty – those influenced by either the common law or Islamic jurisprudence – and particular attention is therefore paid to these jurisdictions.

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