[Deathpenalty] death penalty news-----worldwide
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Sep 30 17:31:51 CDT 2007
COUNCIL OF EUROPE:
The abolition of the death penalty is unfinished business ---- CoE
declares European day against death penalty
One day, in the not-too-distant future, the death penalty will be
eradicated throughout the world. It may take time, but it will happen. It
is an inevitable consequence of the slow but steady evolution towards ever
higher standards of civilisation. 2 centuries ago, the entire civilised
world abolished slavery because it accepted that slavery was inhuman and
wrong. Hopefully, sooner rather than later, the death penalty will meet
the same fate.
In Europe, only Belarus continues to execute people. In 47 other European
countries, all of them being members of the Council of Europe, which
Belarus is not, they have signed Protocol 6 to our European Convention on
Human Rights which outlaws this uncivilised and inhumane form of
punishment in peace time. The tide is also turning in other parts of the
world. More and more countries in all continents are either abolishing the
death penalty or critically reviewing its application. Experts, public
opinion and the political establishment are increasingly accepting that
the death penalty is barbaric, that it does not deter crime, that it does
not help the victims of crime, and that it transforms murderers into
martyrs and judicial errors into irreversible tragedies. Europe can play a
role in reinforcing the global trend towards abolition. Some of our
closest friends and allies continue to execute people. We all know that
the decision to abolish the death penalty must come from them. But until
they decide to do so and eventually, they will - we should not remain
silent. Politely but persistently, we should encourage them to follow our
example and say yes to justice and no to cruelty, torture and death. But
even in Europe, the abolition of death penalty is still unfinished
First, many Europeans are still in favour of the death penalty. This is
not something we can ignore. We need to go out and explain to people why
the death penalty is wrong, why it has been abolished, and why it should
Second, abolishing the death penalty must be accompanied by the
introduction of adequate alternative sanctions where these do not yet
exist which provide for the highest possible protection of the public and
take into account the rights of the victims of crimes without compromising
the fundamental principles of efficiency, proportionality and humanity of
Third, in many countries which have abolished death penalty as a result of
their accession to the Council of Europe prisons are often in poor
condition and fail to meet minimum standards in terms of space, security,
health and living conditions. This is a problem for all prison
populations, but especially for those serving long-term prison sentences.
The Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture is regularly
visiting places of detention in all European countries except non-member
Belarus, and the recommendations and standards it has developed have
helped to improve the situation to some extent, but not enough. Often, the
problems are the shortage of money and the fact that investment in prisons
is not popular so that it is not high on the political agenda. Finally, we
need to encourage all European countries which have not yet done so to
sign and ratify Protocol 13 to the European Convention on Human Rights,
which bans the death penalty in all circumstances. This will consolidate
the legal prohibition of capital punishment in Europe and send an
important signal to other parts of the world.
(source: New Europe----Terry Davis is the Secretary General of the Council
MEPs overstep Poland in campaign against death penalty
A clear majority of European lawmakers last week overrode Polands
opposition to their campaign against the death penalty. Members of the
European Parliament supported a Councilbacked resolution calling for an
immediate moratorium on the death penalty to be presented at the current
62nd session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York and
overwhelmingly voted in favour, 504-45, to establish a European Day
against the Death Penalty.
Europe has always been the forerunner in campaigning against executions.
The "EU is on the frontline amongst abolitionists throughout the world,"
Secretary of State for European Affairs Manuel Lobo Antunes said. He was
in Strasbourg representing the Council Presidency of Portugal the 1st EU
country to abolish the death penalty. With or without Poland, the campaign
will go on.
Lisbon will host a high-level conference on the issue on October 9. The
European Council is due to table the resolution to the UNGA early to
mid-October. The death penalty "replaces justice with vengeance," Italian
MEP Luisa Morgantini said in the Plenary debate in Strasbourg on September
25. German MEP Martin Schulz called it the lowest point of human morale"
and the opposite of human dignity." Europe has met with internal
In September, Poland single- handedly blocked the 26 member states from
establishing the European Day on October 10. The Council said a unanimous
vote was needed for such a move. Joining the EU as part of the Big Bang in
2004, Poland abolished the death penalty in the late 1980s as a
requirement to move forward with EU accession talks. However, the
rightwing government led by the Kaczynski twins has slowly adopted a
harsher stance, even though Poles remain evenly split on the issue.
The political climate in Poland is intense as support is waning for the
brothers nationalist Law and Justice party ahead of October 21 snap
elections in which they are slated against arch-rival opposition liberal
Civic Platform in a neck-toneck race. Polish MEP Konrad Szymanski
supported his national government, representing the sole opposition in the
debate. He stressed that politics also touch on other categories in the
question of life and death such as euthanasia and abortion.
The Polish ruling government argues that a European Day should also
condemn questions such as these. It is "saddening to know that the Europe
we have always defended has come to include such views," Morgantini said.
"We need to isolate voices who still argue against" the abolition of the
death penalty. Polish MEP Jozef Pinior compared Szymanskis speech with
that of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejads in New York. As far as Im
concerned, your government has left my country, and gone towards the
positions of Iran and Belarus."
Belarus is the only country left in Europe allowing executions. Schulz
went so far as to call on the EU to isolate Poland - sparking controversy
within his own Socialist party. "The European Parliament must ensure that
the political climate in Europe stays hostile towards any efforts to
reintroduce the death penalty," he said. A member of Polands national
parliament responded with nationalist rhetoric in a plea for Socialist
Polish MEPs to sack Schulz, according to press reports.
After the showdown in the Plenary, Szymanski told New Europe that the EU's
campaigning efforts to establish a European Day is "hypocrisy." It was
hypocritical, he said, to talk about such an issue when "we are completely
silenced on abortion on demand," for example. "We are not talking about
anything very serious I personally think that we have too many special
days in the European countries for everything." "The European Commission
involved in such social campaigning is not very serious," he said.
Asked why Poland blocked a clear majority decision in the Council, he
responded: "That was the toll". Just last year, Polish President Lech
Kaczynski said the climate in Europe would change.
"Countries who give up this penalty award an unimaginable advantage to the
criminal over his victim, the advantage of life over death, he was quoted
as saying. The climate in Europe remains the same - staunch opposition to
the death penalty. MEPs pointed out that there is no proof that executions
Following failure by the European Union to submit a resolution to the UNGA
in 1994 and 1999, the Italians started a third initiative. The death
sentence "is an extreme act that goes against the most basic principles
of civil coexistence that has been kept alive through the ages thanks to
the logic of violence against violence in an endless chain," Italian Prime
Minister Romano Prodi wrote in La Repubblica last week. He took the
campaign to New York, urging the UNGA to support an eventual abolition of
the death penalty. The death penalty is banned under the European Unions
Charter of Fundamental Rights. Protocol 6, adopted by the Council of
Europe in 1982, only allows executions in times of war, while Protocol 13
adopted in 2002, bans it under any circumstance.
France, Italy, Latvia, Poland and Spain still have yet to ratify No. 13.
The global trend is toward a complete abolition, with Rwanda being the
latest country joining in the appeal. Recent Amnesty International figures
show that 90 countries or territories have abolished the death penalty for
all crimes and 11 have abolished it for all but exceptional crimes, such
as during war, while 30 are abolitionists in practice. 66 countries still
retain the form of punishment - such as China, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Sudan
and the US. Amnesty International is supporting the resolution for at the
UNGA as a first step toward a global abolition. Europeans made
considerable progress last week, but they still have a long road ahead in
convincing dominant world players such as the US in supporting their
campaign, death penalty opponents said.
"I also think that we should continue to urge our American colleagues to
abolish the death penalty once and for all," Finnish MEP Piia-Noora Kauppi
said. She called it "cruel and inhuman punishment - counter to the values
of a person's right to life set out in the 1948 UN Universal Declaration
of Human Rights. More US states are starting to question the legality of
the death penalty: marches are taking place in California - a state with
more than 600 people on death row; New York declared it unconstitutional
in 2004. However, executions are still legal in 37 states, with almost
1,100 being carried out since 1976, data from the Washington DC-based
Death Penalty Information Center showed.
(source: New Europe)
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