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    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    I thank Mr. Garton Ash for his balanced views of what the European idea could be about. There are many things that are worth thinking about, but I want to raise and discuss a slightly different issue connected with the European idea. I am currently interested in the relationship between European identity and the death penalty and would like to hear what others have to say on the issue.

    When Saddam Hussein was exeuted on December 29th, reactions to the execution differed substantially. On one side of the Atlantic, US President George W. Bush welcomed the execution as “an important milestone on Iraq's course to becoming a democracy that can govern, sustain, and defend itself”. In Europe, by contrast, the event was greeted much less enthusiastically. Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, called the execution “barbaric.”He stated that “one cannot fight barbarism with means that are equally barbaric”. The commissioner from Belgium continued, „The Death Penalty is not compatible with Democracy.“ More drastically, Member of the European Parliament Martin Schulz (Social Democrats) called the execution a „state-sanctioned murder“. The French and German authorities issued statements which expressed their opposition to Capital Punishment. But even from Britain, which had been an ally to the U.S. in the conquest of Iraq, skepticism about the U.S. position could be heard. British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett emphasized that the government “did not support the use of the death penalty in Iraq or anywhere else.”

    The Council of Europe has expressed its “firm conviction that capital punishment [..], has no place in civilised, democratic societies governed by the rule of law”. European Court of Human Rights Justice de Meyer put it simply when he said that “[Capital] punishment is not consistent with the present state of European civilisation” (Soering v United Kingdom). The European Union makes frequent diplomatic interventions against executions, and funds abolitionist projects all over the world, spreading the gospel with the "fervour of the recently converted" (Zimring) even to Japan and Korea. It has organized and financed, together with the Council of Europe, two major international anti-death penalty congresses in Strassbourg 2001 and Montreal 2004. It also supports the current 3rd. World Congress Against the Death Penalty which has just started in Paris. Most influentially, the Council of Europe and the European Union have manage to push all East and Central European countries (except the "nasty little authoritarian" Belarus) into abolition, in almost all cases against the overwhelming support of the punishment by the population.

    What do you think? Is Abolitionism part of the European idea? Is the European "Anti-Death-Penalty-Evangelism", as one scholar has called it, warranted?

    Thank you for your opinion.

    Christian Boulanger
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Though personally I am anti-death penalty I would hesitate to claim my opinion on this as particularly European. To do so would be to risk attracting the ire of fellow Europeans who believe strongly that I am wrong and that execution is morally correct. I do think that a scepticism about the death penalty is a strand in our common European history, and it's a part of our culture. In summary, I am happy to celebrate and be proud of the tradition of Abolition, but not to the extent of denying the 'European-ness' of those who disagree with me.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    I do think that abolitionism could (and should) be part of Europe's values. Europe is the only continent where the death penalty doesn't exist (as far as I know). Being against the death penalty is one of the ideas that Europe gave birth to, and that expanded later to become more or less universal. The fact that some Europeans now put it in doubt doesn't bother me any more than the fact that some Europeans put democracy, equality of ethnias or secularism in doubt. It doesn't mean it isn't a core value that Europe should stand up for.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    I agree with araceli, although he is not entirely correct. There are still countries in Europe where the death penalty is still existing, at least in law. It is also a question of how you define Europe, but that is an entirely other debate.

    That aside, when I look at this map (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/c/cb/Death_Penalty_World_Map.png) I do so with a certain pride. To me, the abolition of death penalty is part of both democratic and liberal ideals. These ideas are not European in themselves, but they are definitely amongst the ideas I would want Europe to be based on.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    that's the way, an european principe
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Britain's recent decision to deport a Jordanian back to Jordan is a perfect example of why European countries should press other countries to abandon the death penalty. Abu Qatada is accused of terrorism in Jordan. The death penalty is an option in Jordan. No European state should deport a person to a place where they may face the death penalty.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Where are your morals, you who call yourselves Christians? "Thou shalt not kill" doesn't come with any exceptions or loopholes!

    It was sinful to kill in Iraq to catch Saddam in the first place, and was sinful to kill him. And I don't want to hear about the difference between morality and law because I have always lived my life by morality and would have no problem at all breaking a law if it conflicted with what I thought was morally right.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    vince,

    '"Thou shalt not kill" doesn't come with any exceptions or loopholes!' So there are no just wars then?


    "I have always lived my life by morality and would have no problem at all breaking a law if it conflicted with what I thought was morally right." And when McVeigh believes it is morally right to kill government workers is that OK. Law must be based on morals and ethics but no-one can claim to have moral authority over the law.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    GaryLondon, that's where you and I differ. To me, moral authority is always above the law and it's the duty of the law to make sure it follows moral authority. The reverse would be a rather repressive political idea, if we all had to adjust our moral viewpoints to make them fit whatever law has been passed.

    Those who acted against the law within the resistance during World War II and those who assisted Jews within Germany and Poland are two examples of groups who put moral authority above the law. I'm sure you are not suggesting that what they did was wrong.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    vince,

    As I said laws should be based on morality. Nazi laws were not based on morality, they were based on discrimination, a little like your objection to homosexuality.

    "we all had to adjust our moral viewpoints to make them fit whatever law has been passed" this is were you are missing the point. There are universal values, as discussed in the values strand, and those universal values reflect universal morals and ethics. Individuals who have moral positions which are in opposition to universal morals should not be able to break the laws based in thise universal morals.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    GaryLondon - in that case I must apologise because I misunderstood you. I thought you were saying that the law should come before what is morally right. It seems we agree that morality is above legality. That brings us full circle and back to the topic of this thread.

    Do you think it is morally wrong to kill innocent people? Do you think it\'s morally wrong to kill the guilty? I suspect that agreement to the former case can be labelled a \'universal value\', although the second case may be more controversial. My reference to Christianity is important because Christianity makes it very clear that it is sinful to kill anyone, innocent or guilty. I think that sometimes \'universal values\' need to be pulled up where they are lagging, and using a more moral standpoint than perhaps most people hold as a basis for the constitution would be a jolly good way of ensuring that.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    vince,

    "Those who acted against the law within the resistance during World War II and those who assisted Jews within Germany and Poland are two examples of groups who put moral authority above the law. I'm sure you are not suggesting that what they did was wrong. " Does Christianity say that is was wrong for those who helped the Jews in Germany and Poland to kill? I think in practice Christianity says if by helping the innocent you kill the guilty because there is no other way to help the innocent, then that is OK. Or it is a "greater sin" to allow the innocent to die than to kill the guilty. I know its a while ago but were those who killed in the name of the Inquisition sinful or good Christians? It isn't as clear to me as you make out which is why I wouldn't want to have any religion stated as being the starting point for our decision making.

    " It seems we agree that morality is above legality" - Universal morality gives us laws which supercede individual morality.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    It's a sad thing to admit, but the teachings of Christianity have been the hardest thing for Christians to accept since the beginning. Even today we have a supposedly Christian Prime Minister in the UK authorising acts which Christian leaders have unequivocally condemned. As we've been told we can use any European language here I'll offer this quotation - "plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose". Despite taking Mass every week and fasting at all the right times, Christianity has rarely been allowed to get in the way of politics, and has frequently been used as a excuse for it.

    The Roman Empire couldn't control Christianity and so they did the only thing they really could, which was to adopt it and put politics in the driving seat. Not much has changed since. Ideas such as 'Holy War' and 'justified sin' came directly from politics and not from Christianity, they were created solely to ensure that rulers and politicians could continue to do exactly what they were going to anyway. Priests will still, even today, pray for the safety of soliders who are at war, without a mention of the fact that they are committing the very serious sin of murder.

    I'm sure you've come across the quotation "let he who is without sin cast the first stone". That particular quotation addresses the topic of the death penalty directly. According to Christianity, there is only one who is without sin, and he's not shown a lot of willing to turn up for executions and do the deed. I hope this clarifies things and I apologise for dragging this thread off topic.
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    vince,

    I don't think you've dragged it off topic. It seems to me that you are in favour of both parts of this topic. That you believe that the death penalty should be abolished in Europe and that Europe should press/try to persuade other countries to abolish the death penalty too. You have come to that conclusion through your faith, others (me for example) have come to that conclusion via another path. Both paths are fine. Maybe you can start a petition for this too? :-)
    • CommentAuthoradmin
    • CommentTimeOct 22nd 2008
     
    Doesn't George Bush claim to be Christian, too?! He doesn't act like a good Christian ...
    But back to Europe, I also think that abolitionism is a universal value and should maybe be added to the European constitution. The problem is in this case it must be banned from all memberstates-constitutions. And I don't think European laws have the right to change all those constitutions.
    In Germany the Grundgesetz (basically our constitution) says that the death penalty is abolished but the article 21 of the constitution of the state of Hesse still allows the death penalty ("[...] Ist jemand einer strafbaren Handlung für schuldig befunden worden, so können ihm auf Grund der Strafgesetze durch richterliches Urteil die Freiheit und die bürgerlichen Ehrenrechte entzogen oder beschränkt werden. Bei besonders schweren Verbrechen kann er zum Tode verurteilt werden.[...]") It is not being executed because federal German law breaks state law but it is still in the constitution ... That's strange to me, I just don't get it why the government of Hesse hasn't change that article decades ago.