Saturday, October 09, 2010

EU Foreign Affairs Minister May Raise Death Penalty With President Obama

European Union Foreign Affairs Minister May Raise Death Penalty With President Obama

By Martin Banks - 7th October 2010

“Several countries have abolished the death penalty”
Edward McMillan-Scott

EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton has been urged to raise the case of death row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal with the Obama administration

The demand comes as parliament prepared to vote on a resolution on the death penalty on Thursday.

Speaking in a parliamentary debate on Wednesday to mark "World day against the death penalty," Danish MEP Søren Søndergaard said he "deplored" the practice of execution by states of "defenceless" people in custody and raised the case of Abu-Jamal.

"The death penalty itself is a crime. But it is often more than that; waiting on death row in miserable conditions for years is torture. Capital punishment is also a form of terror, used to frighten people from resisting oppression and dictatorship."

"African-American journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal - the voice of the voiceless - is a key symbol of struggle against the death penalty.

"For nearly 30 years he has sat on death row, convicted in a trial notable for its errors and racism.

"High representative Ashton should raise the case with US authorities - in the fight against the death penalty there is no room for double standards. In the fight against the death penalty there applies only one standard: unconditional rejection."

Further comment came from Dutch ALDE MEP Marietje Schaake who said, "No EU member state provides for the death penalty in its statutes and so we can assume the leadership as a global player to address this inhumane form of punishment.

"Whether in our relations with the United States or Iran, we call for the abolition or moratorium on the death penalty in all its forms."

"The EU has repeatedly and strongly committed itself to abolishing the death penalty. It also means the EU has a responsibility in providing shelter for people who risk the death penalty when exercising their human rights such as freedom of expression or peaceful opposition.

"In Iran even children face the death penalty. We need to spare no means to prevent this from happening."

Parliament vice president and ALDE MEP Edward McMillan-Scott said, "Death penalty is the ultimate denial of human rights and its use is cruel, inhumane and degrading. Hence it is unworthy of democratic countries, such as Japan, Taiwan or the USA."

"Of those countries still killing human beings, the worst offender is China which executes an estimated 5000 people each year - more than the rest of the world put together. This does not include groups such as Falun Gong practitioners, of whom more than 3,000 have died under torture since the persecution by the regime began in 1999 nor those who are killed for their vital organs."

McMillan-Scott added, "Several hundred people have been saved from the death penalty worldwide as a result of funding from this EU programme. Several countries have abolished the death penalty or established moratoria in recent years as a result of EU pressure."

Meanwhile, Eduard Kukan, EPP spokesman on parliament's report on the death penalty issue, said, "The position at the forefront of the struggle against the death penalty forces the EU to constantly raise awareness on the abolition of the death penalty both in bilateral negotiations as well as in international fora".

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