EU-NGO forum: death penalty is a priority
The European Union (EU) invited partner NGOs, including the World Coalition, to a joint forum in Brussels on July 12.
Many abolitionist organizations were present, in keeping with the EU’s robust action against the death penalty.
During the forum introduction, the EU’s foreign affairs representative Catherine Ashton and Amnesty International’s former secretary general Irene Khan highlighted Europe’s commitment against the death penalty.
Koos Richelle from the European Commission’s donor office EuropeAid said: “The death penalty is at the core of European policy. The first set of EU Human Rights Guidelines was on the death penalty.” He added that the EU is the largest source of funding for abolitionist civil society organizations.
Speakers said that the death penalty is a key European priority on which an alliance of all forces is crucial because of the strong opposition to abolition in some other parts of the world.
Dick Dieter of the Death Penalty Information Center in the US said: “Actions of EU diplomats are very important. You have to tell them that US diplomats are listening!”
EU leaders assured that abolition would remain a priority after the implementation of the Lisbon treaty, which has been adopted to reform European institutions. However, the EU wants to evaluate the impact of its death penalty policy and redefine their scope of intervention by 2013.
Europe can foster debates in Japan’s parliament
The EU-NGO Forum included a two-day workshop on the death penalty during which the following ideas were exchanged:
• Propose alternative sanctions and justice systems to retentionist states to replace the death penalty.
• Foster parliamentary debates drawing from the experience from parliaments that have recently abolished the death penalty, which could lead to the creation of a network of parliamentarians for the abolition of the death penalty. Maiko Tagusari, the secretary of the Japanese World Coalition member organisation Center for Prisoners’ Rights, said: “The role of the EU Delegation in Japan is very important. They can activate discussions in Parliament by holding seminars in the Diet with the participation of members of the European Parliament or EU state members’ MPs.”
• Work on individual stories (people sentenced to death, exonerees, murder victims’ families…).
• Work with Islamic scholars to counter the utilisation of Sharia law in favour of the death penalty.
As part of the recommendations made by NGOs to the EU, Taghreed Jaber, who manages the Middle East and North Africa programme at World Coalition member organization Penal Reform International, called on European institutions to enter “a continuous and systematic consultation with NGOs who have the local knowledge about the death penalty”.