Archive for the ‘Death Penalty’ Category
With a 5-to-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled yesterday June 25 against the capital punishment of child rapists.
Of course those rapists better spend a few decades in prison. But it is quite momentuous finally to hear affirmed in the USA the principle that the death penalty cannot be applied to crimes where victims have not died.
One may start wondering if, according to the Supreme Court, capital punishment is “just” a “State revenge”, a death to compensate another death. But we can leave that to a more appropriate time.: because the other important achievement in the majority’s opinion, written by Justice Anthony Kennedy:
When the law punishes by death, it risks its own sudden descent into brutality, transgressing the constitutional commitment to decency and restraint
Justice Kennedy has thus confirmed what already known to those fighting for the abolition of the death penalty: the very application of capital punishment means (running the risk of) brutalizing the entire legal system of the whole nation, including the professional executioners, the prosecutors arguing to terminate a human being’s life, and the judges and juries deciding to end that life.
Three “hoorays” for Justice Kennedy.
The US Supreme Court has started discussing whether current 3-drug death penalty procedures in Kentucky can be defined as “cruel and unusual punishment” and thereby declared uncostitutional (regarding the Eigth Amendment).
Actually, and quite strangely, the above is not strictly true. What the Court is being asked to deliberate on, is the proposal by two death row inmates in Kentucky to be killed with a single drug, rather than three.
In a supremely ironical situation, their lawyer is trying to argue something like “one drug good, three drugs bad”.
Some of the justices have problems with the whole reasoning, and rightly so: what would be there to avoid in the future a repeat of the same discussion, with somebody arguing that the “one drug” procedure is unconstitutional too?
Why not stick to what is relatively well known (three-drug) since there is no evidence one-drug will be less cruel and/or less unusual?
IMNSHO the underlying problem is that the entire setup is wrong.
The Constitution says “[…] cruel and unusual punishments [shall not be] inflicted“. It does not refer to “the least cruel” and/or “the least unusual” penalties.
If the 3-drug procedure is cruel/unusual, then it is ipso facto wrong to use: even if it is the least cruel/unusual way anybody has thought of at the moment.
The burden of coming up with a constitutional (non-cruel, non-unusual) way of applying the Death Penalty should be with the people advocating for it.
Everything else, makes very little sense indeed.
Newspapers are slowly waking up to the importance of the Moratorium against Death Penalty approved on Thursday, Dec 18 by the UN General Assembly. Here’s an important editorial “A Pause from Death” from The New York Times (and “Lining up against the death penalty” from the International Herald Tribune):
The United Nations General Assembly voted on Tuesday for a global moratorium on the death penalty. The resolution was nonbinding; its symbolic weight made barely a ripple in the news ocean of the United States, where governments’ right to kill a killer is enshrined in law and custom.
Go to The Board » But for those who have been trying to move the world away from lethal revenge as government policy, this was a milestone. The resolution failed repeatedly in the 1990s, but this time the vote was 104 to 54, with 29 nations abstaining. Progress has come in Europe and Africa. Nations like Senegal, Burundi, Gabon — even Rwanda, shamed by genocide — have decided to reject the death penalty, as official barbarism.
The United States, as usual, lined up on the other side, with Iran, China, Pakistan, Sudan and Iraq. Together this blood brotherhood accounts for more than 90 percent of the world’s executions, according to Amnesty International. These countries’ devotion to their sovereignty is rigid, as is their perverse faith in execution as a criminal deterrent and an instrument of civilized justice. But out beyond Texas, Ohio, Virginia, Myanmar, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and Zimbabwe, there are growing numbers who expect better of humanity.
Many are not nations or states but groups of regular people, organizations like the Community of Sant’Egidio, a lay Catholic movement begun in Italy whose advocacy did much to bring about this week’s successful vote in the General Assembly.
They are motivated by hope — and there is even some in the United States. The Supreme Court will soon hear debate on the cruelty of execution by lethal injection. On Monday, New Jersey became the first state in 40 years to abolish its death penalty.
That event, too, left much of this country underwhelmed. But overseas, the votes in Trenton and the United Nations were treated as glorious news. Rome continued a tradition to mark victories against capital punishment: it bathed the Colosseum, where Christians once were fed to lions, in golden light.
It is rather unfortunate that no mention has been given of the Transnational Radical Party and “Hands Off Cain“, the organizations that have initiated the whole process almost 14 years ago. But the fact that the NYT deemed it important enough to warrant an editorial, should be placate those claiming the Moratorium, as a nonbinding document, is a useless document or worse.
For other articles on the Moratorium:
(1) On the Los Angeles Times, an opinion piece “The UN’s Death Blow” by Louise Arbour, the United Nations high commissioner for human rights.
(2) On BBC News, a Special Report “UN votes for death penalty freeze” with words from the Singapore and Mexican ambassadors and the “detail” that only 51 nations still retain the right to use death penalty
(3) On Euronews (in French), an article “L’Italie s’est fortement impliquée en faveur d’un moratoire sur la peine de mort” with some background on those that have fought for the Moratorium
(4) On the Sueddeutsche Zeitung (in German), an article “Die guten Menschen von Rom” about the Community of Sant’Egidio mentioned by the New York Times’ editorial.
(5) On the Tagesenzeiger (Swiss, in German), an editorial “Ein Akt der Zivilisation” that makes the rather obvious points that dangerous criminals should be locked up, and the death penalty, whatever one thinks of it, is arrogant and archaic.
(6) The Argentinian El Mundo (in Spanish) hosts a commentary “Una victoria italiana contra la pena de muerte“ by the local Italian Ambassador, Stefano Ronca.
(7) In Diário Digital (in Portuguese) there is an exhaustively explanatory article “ONU: AG aprova apelo a moratória na aplicação pena de morte“, explaining the origin of the “Hands Off Cain” name.
And I am sure there’s lots more in other languages I an as yet unable to perform searches with…
104 States in favor, 54 against, 29 abstentions. We finally have a Moratorium on the Death Penalty, a moratorium that is approved by the United Nations General Assemply.
The ecumenical impetus is so strong, even the Vatican has positively commented the results.
December 18 may go down in history as the largest Italian foreign policy victory in more than 140 years. And finally, one will be able to say that Italy has given something to international politics, something else than the the invention of Fascism.
A very Merry Christmas to everybody!
The UN General Assembly is likely going to vote on the Universal Moratorium on Capital Punishment on Tuesday 18, presumably shortly after 10am New York time (3pm GMT).
There are many positive indications that a majority of States will support the resolution, although of course nothing will be certain until after the vote’s results are announced.
In any case, it will be the culmination of almost 14 years of efforts:
(1) In 1994, following an initiative by “Hands Off Cain” and the Transnational Radical Party, the Italian Government asked the UN General Assembly to vote on a document asking all Member States to stop capital executions. The resolution did not pass by just 8 votes.
(2) In 1997, the Moratorium was approved by the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva. The same Commission has approved it since, every single year.
(3) In the meanwhile, the number of States still having the death penalty in their penal codes has gone down from 97 (in 1994) to 48 now.
(4) The Moratorium was presented to the UN General Assembly in 1999, by the European Union that proceeded to inexplicably withdraw it.
(5) During the past year, “Hands Off Cain” and the Transnational Radical Party have been working relentlessly for more than one year with Parliaments, Governments and citizens the world over, to get the resolution once again submitted for a UN General Assembly vote.
(6) The Italian Parliament lower Chamber and the European Parliament have unanimously declared support for the resolution. Signatories to an “Appeal for the Moratorium” included 55 Nobel Prize winners and tens of thousands more people.
(7) On June 18, 2007 the European Union General Affairs Council decided to present the resolution to the UN General Assembly’s 62th Session in September.
(8) On November 15, 2007 the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly approved the resolution as presented by Italy and 86 more countries from all continents. Votes have been 99 in favour, 52 against.
Finally, sometimes on December 18, 2007 the whole UN General Assembly will be asked to approve the Moratorium.
(by the Nonviolent Radical Party, Transnational and Transparty, registered as an Ngo in General Consultative Status with the UN’s ECOSOC under the name of Transnational Radical Party)
The 62nd UN General Assembly opens on September 24.
According to a communiqué by the Italian Government dated September 11, the text of the Resolution for a Universal Moratorium on Capital Punishment will be presented to the UN the day after, September 25.
The Members of the Transnational Nonviolent Radical Party, of the “Hands Off Cain” association and of the Italian Radical Party have however not forgotten that in 14 years the approval of the Resolution has been compromised three times, by mistakes and delays caused by, if not outright ostracising behaviour from, several European Governments.
Above all, for more than a decade the European Council bureaucracy in Brussels has hindered the voting of the Universal Moratorium on Capital Punishment at the UN General Assembly, where the number of member nations still using the death penalty has been reduced to a mere fifth of the total.
In order for the Resolution pro-Moratorium (for emphasis: moratorium on the death penalty, not abolition) to be presented at the opening of the General Assembly on September 24, we must strengthen our nonviolent movement right now – and more than ever before.
A hunger strike is in progress from September 2, by many people including Italian politicians Marco Pannella, Lucio Bertè, Guido Biancardi, Sergio D’Elia, Marco Perduca, Michele Rana, Alessandro Rosasco, Antonio Stango, Claudia Sterzi, Valter Vecellio and Dominique Velati.
At the same time, an extraordinary number of people have become members to show their support.
Becoming a member is in fact a vital part of the nonviolent action supporting the Transnational Radical Party, “Hands Off Cain” and the Italian Radical Party in their effort to provide the UN General Assembly the chance to vote the Resolution for a Universal Moratorium on Capital Punishment.
HOW YOU CAN PARTICIPATE IN THE INITIATIVE (click on the link of your chosen option):
- JOIN THE HUNGER STRIKE OR OTHER NONVIOLENT ACTIONS
- MAKE A FINANCIAL CONTRIBUTION TO THE CAMPAIGN (e.g. an amount for each day of nonviolent action, or a single contribution)
BECOME A MEMBER OF: