The death penalty in Bhutan was abolished on 20th March 2004 in a Royal Kasho by His Majesty The Fourth King.
The last time the death penalty was imposed was in 1964 as part of a semi-domestic and semi-foreign judicial process in the trial of Chabdha in relation to the assassination of the late Prime Minister.
After that, Bhutan’s judicial system never gave anyone the death penalty, no matter what the crime.
Bhutan’s deep Buddhist values and the unwillingness of the Monarchy to encourage such a punishment seems to have played its part.
In 1998 there was much controversy as the judiciary gave life imprisonment to a serious repeat offender.
The National Assembly at the time roundly criticized the judiciary and even asked for the death penalty in that case.
So what is happening now seems to be a repeat of what happened at the time with an MP and members of the public demanding the reinstatement of the death penalty.
Bhutan’s Constitution forbids the death penalty under Article 7 or Fundamental Rights section 18 which says, ‘A person shall not be subjected to capital punishment.’
It is notable that despite grave security issues in the 1990s and 2003 and the presence of the death penalty in the National Security Act, His Majesty The Fourth King never allowed the state to prosecute anti-nationals, foreign militants and their collaborators under this section.
There must definitely have been some deep wisdom behind this.
Contrary to the actions and Kasho of His Majesty The Fourth King, most authoritarian governments simply love the death penalty and use it not only for criminal acts but also as an active tool of political repression of its people.
The three countries that led executions in 2018 were China, Iran and Saudi Arabia who all have authoritarian regimes.
The writer is the Editor of the paper