The UN Assembly, this autumn, will try to pass a motion calling for a worldwide ban on the death penalty. The European Union wants to show support by having a European Day Against the Death Penalty on October 10. All 27 countries supported the idea, accept one – Poland, who vetoed the initiative stone dead.
Oh, no! Not Poland again!
Polish Deputy Justice Minister Andrzej Duda said that the EU "should approach the subject in a broader way and debate the protection of life".
"The death penalty is only one element of the debate; there are more - for example, abortion and euthanasia."
The Polish government also complains that since the death penalty is not practiced in any state in the EU then what is the point of having a ‘day’ against it.
Krzysztof Bosak, of the League of Polish Families (LPR), who is also a member of the Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly (and currently in the cheesy Polish version of Dancing with the Stars!) - "I think it is hypocritical on the part of the EU to promote abortion, destructive lifestyles and euthanasia and at the same time to pretend to care about the right to life in only one case - death penalty," he said.
President Lech Kaczynski is thought to be in favour of the death penalty, but against euthanasia and abortion. Confused?
He’s not the only one
Amnesty International is one of the main cheer leaders of the worldwide campaign against the death penalty.
Amnesty’s campaigner Martin Macpherson:
Amnesty International opposes the death penalty in all cases and without exception, believing it to be a violation of the right to life and the ultimate cruel, inhuman and degrading punishment. The death penalty legitimises an irreversible act of violence by the state and will inevitably claim innocent victims. Amnesty therefore demands unconditional and worldwide abolition of the death penalty.
I completely agree. But if Amnesty are calling for ‘worldwide bans’ on the death penalty, then you would expect, would you not, that they would have a ‘worldwide’ policy on abortion – either for it, or against it, right?
Well, yes and no. Until very recently Amnesty – not wanting to upset the Catholic Church, with which it has had close links in the past - didn’t have a policy on the issue, at all. It left that one, ‘up to individual countries’.
But now they have finally issued a demand insisting that abortion should be universally available in case of rape, incest, or if the pregnancy endangered the life of the mother.
That’s interesting. Amnesty – universal human rights liberal warriors - after all this time, have just adopted the same policy on abortion as the current arch-Conservative Polish government!
And does this mean Amnesty think that a women’s autonomy over her own body is not a ‘human right’?
Former UK foreign minister Jack Straw tried to help sort out the confusion - by being confusing:
"I think the death penalty is something people have intense debates about, but abortion and euthanasia are seen as a private matter."
Hmmm. Not convinced. People also have passionate debates about abortion, assisted suicide rights, etc. And terminations and euthanasia is a public matter if the state has decided to restrict behaviour on these matters – which all states do. .
I am a pro-choice, anti-death penalty, don’t-know-where-I-stand on euthanasia, type person. So me and the Polish government are at complete opposites on these issues, and many more. But I think if you are going to call for universal rights then you had better be consistent over which rights you have in mind. The Polish government is right, but for all the wrong reasons.
Capital punishment is actually in decline in worldwide
In 2006 Amnesty recorded 1,591 executions, compared to 2,148 in 2005. ‘These figures demonstrate that there is now a real momentum to end capital punishment,’ they say.
So why is the EU as a collective body getting so excited by the whole thing, now, at a time when less regimes (China, Saudi…US) are using this method of ‘punishment’?
Why is it so keen, now, to campaign on banning things that don’t occur within its own borders?
Well, maybe it’s still on the road it has always been – trying to find a reason to be. Brussels can’t find many things to get the different nations together over (Constitution, anyone?) so why not pick something as safe – in Europe – as being against the death penalty? That’s a sure fire winner!
And then the Polish government goes and spoils it all.