Europe against the Death Penalty
Europe against the Death Penalty
ABSTRACT: In February 1992 the European Parliament commission for foreign affairs and security approved a resolution on the death penalty (we publish the most important passages on this page) put forward by Adelaide Aglietta, chairman of the Green group and member of the Radical Party Federal Council.
This article was written on 1 March 1992, before the chamber debated the resolution, which was due to occur during the March session.
(THE PARTY new - n. 6 - march 1992)
With the resolution for the abolition of the death penalty in the world I have attempted to make the matter propositional rather than declamatory, as occurs with so much of what happens in our parliament.
This has obviously created some difficulties: when faced with specific political choices, the European Parliament in as much as it does not have parliamentary powers obliging it to find governmental solutions to problems, and does not have a European government with which to dialogue but twelve national governments, splits along group lines, within groups themselves, out of loyalty to "national" parties or as a result of the activities of governmental lobbies. On this occasion the opposition and changes few but significant that turned up in the Commission were a consequence of this state of affairs.
The most serious suppression which we will attempt to re-introduce in the chamber regards the non-provision of the death penalty as an indispensable prerequisite for new countries joining the Community. This was a case of anti-abolitionists teaming up with Community countries protecting their own status quo, such as Belgium or Greece, who still have the death penalty on their statute books, although for years it has not been applied.
There was also resistance to taking on the duty of interference with respect to situations in which the death penalty is provided for (reduced to "active commitment"), concerning both the proposal for a Community economic and trade policy, strongly conditioned by respect for human rights and, therefore, by the continuing existence of the death penalty, even though in this case the proposal was passed.
The March session will be looking at these questions. If the proposals are not further cut down, and it is possible to re-introduce the most important proposal concerning membership application, we legislators will have another means within our countries to help us to bring choices of judicial and foreign policy into line with what has become a de facto situation in international law. There are still far too many democratic nations or nations on the way to becoming democratic which have the death penalty on their statute books (starting with the United States) or who have an ambiguous policy on the matter (an example being Italy's attitudes toward China now, or to Somalia in the past).
The European Parliament,
holds that no State should have the life of its citizens at its disposal, providing for the death penalty on its statute books as a consequence of crime, however serious it may be; that commitment to work for the abolition of the death penalty may be assumed as a legitimate duty.
The operative part of the resolution requests all member states: to commit themselves to abolishing the death penalty from the statutes which provides it for ordinary crimes (Belgium and Greece) and for exceptional crimes (Belgium, Italy, United Kingdom, Spain); to sign and/or ratify (Belgium, Greece, Ireland, United Kingdom) the "European convention on human rights" and the "Optional protocol to the International Pact on civil and political rights"; to commit themselves to not permitting the extradition of accused criminals threatened with a death sentence in the requesting country, unless the country provides sufficient guarantee that this shall not occur.
In the resolution it is wished that the commitment to abolish the death penalty is taken on by member states of the Council of Europe who have not already done so (Cyprus, Malta and Switzerland for exceptional crimes; Poland and Turkey for ordinary and exceptional crimes) and by member states of the CSCE who still provide for the death penalty (Albania, Bulgaria, the Commonwealth of Independent States, the United States of America). The Commission, the Council and member states are requested to work so that the death penalty is abolished in all states where it is provided for; to work within the UN in order to obtain a binding deliberation for a generalized moratorium on the death penalty; to follow their own foreign policy with the abolition of the death penalty as a fundamental and diriment condition; to promote an information campaign for the purpose of awakening public opinion on the uselessness and unacceptable nature of capital punishment; to intervene forthwith on nations so that death sentences are n
ot handed down or carried out on persons who at the moment of committing their crime were less than 18 years old, on women who are pregnant or have small children, on old people, on the sick or the mentally retarded; that a fair trial is guaranteed for all defendants, this being especially important for those accused of crimes for which capital punishment is provided for.