The study led by Prof Dirk van Zyl Smit and Dr Catherine Appleton and published in 2019 in the award-winning book, Life Imprisonment: A Global Human Rights Analysis
, was quoted in a recent article by the Economist, ‘As the death penalty becomes less common, life imprisonment becomes more so
’. The article analyses why and how the recourse to life sentences is increasing worldwide, why scepticism about life sentences is spreading, and how campaigners use the courts to curb life sentences. It also questions whether life sentences are excessively harsh.
Dr Appleton highlighted the fact that life-sentencing regimes vary across regions and countries. She contrasted the punishment of Mr Tarrant, who was sentenced to lifelong imprisonment in August 2020 following the murder of 51 people at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, and the treatment of Mr Breivik, who murdered 77 people in Norway in 2011 and received the maximum prison sentence of 21 years, after which the courts will decide if he is still dangerous and should remain in prison.
Discussing the role of international human rights treaties and tribunals in the prohibition of life sentences without parole, Prof van Zyl Smit added that “25 years is increasingly established in international law as the maximum minimum” when it comes to reviewing life sentences.
Posted on Monday 12th July 2021