Monday

27th Jun 2022

MEPs call for worldwide ban on death penalty

The European Parliament has with an overwhelming majority voted in favour of a global moratorium on the death penalty, but European capitals are divided over a common EU stance on the issue.

MEPs on Thursday (1 February) adopted a resolution with 591 votes in favour, 45 against and 31 abstentions calling "for a worldwide moratorium on executions to be established immediately and unconditionally through a relevant resolution of the current United Nations General Assembly."

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The death penalty is currently legal in 68 countries, although 30 of them have not used it for at least ten years.

The MEPs also demanded that Germany - which currently holds the agenda-setting EU presidency - must act urgently and submit on behalf of the EU a resolution for such a moratorium to the UN general assembly.

"The death penalty is a cruel and inhuman punishment and a violation of the right to life," the EU assembly said in the resolution.

The parliament also condemned the execution of Saddam Hussein in December "and the media's exploitation of his hanging."

The move comes after Italian liberal MEP - and civil rights campaigner - Marco Panella went on hunger strike in his native country after hearing that Saddam Hussein was to be executed.

Ms Pannella's campaign prompted Italian prime minister Romano Prodi to push the EU to propose a death penalty moratorium before the UN's general assembly.

Member states divided

But when Italian foreign minister Massimo D'Alema tried to obtain backing for a common EU stance on the proposal at an EU foreign ministers' meeting in Brussels last week, some member states had reservations.

The UK said the UN general assembly was not a good forum for a call on a universal moratorium on the death penalty, adding that the international organisation was for "stability and security" issues.

The risk that the Italian idea might harm relations with the US was also "a consideration" for London, EU diplomats said.

Due to the lack of consensus among member states, German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier then referred the issue to an EU working group consisting of human rights experts who are set to meet in February.

"It...was agreed that we should first develop a carefully considered approach which will gradually lend our topic greater weight in the United Nations," German Europe minister Günther Gloser told MEPs debating the death penalty resolution in Brussels on Wednesday (31 January).

"The German...presidency will draw up proposals for further action which it will present to its EU partners in February," Mr Gloser said.

Disappointment

Mr Pannella and his fellow Italian liberal MEP Marco Cappato were disappointed with the behaviour of some of the member states.

"Over the last few days, some European countries such as the United Kingdom have been working to hamper the presentation of a resolution at the current UN general assembly and they have produced contradictory and worrying signals," the two MEPs said in a joint statement after the vote.

"The time has come for the EU to act courageously," they stated, adding that "we must not let prevail the objective alliance between those who...seem to give in to the gloomy blackmail of Baghdad."

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