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EU taking 'measured' approach to world death penalty abolition after UK balks

[JURIST] The European Union has agreed to adopt a "measured, step-by-step approach" to achieving a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty, according to German Minister of State Gunter Gloser, addressing [speech text] the European Parliament [official website] on Wednesday. The EU adopted an advocacy stance on the issue in 1998 after the signing of the Guidelines to EU policy towards third countries on the death penalty [text]. Following the execution of Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive], Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi, a staunch death penalty opponent [JURIST report], submitted [IPS report] to the UN General Assembly a resolution calling for a worldwide moratorium on the death penalty, but Britain withheld needed support [Independent report], causing the EU as a whole to stop short of presenting the resolution itself. British diplomats said the decision not to support the resolution was partly meant to relieve pressure on the US.

Gloser said Wednesday:

In view of the considerable prevailing risk of failure, the EU has as yet declined to table a resolution in the General Assembly of the United Nations. Instead, an unprecedented non-binding declaration against the death penalty was submitted to the General Assembly on the initiative of the EU on 19 December 2006. It was supported by 85 countries from all regional groups. This was an encouraging result, but at the same time confirmed that the success of an EU resolution in the UN General Assembly cannot yet be considered guaranteed.

Where do we go from here?

All EU partners are agreed that we want to actively bring forward our efforts to fight the death penalty, at UN level too. But it is also clear that conditions remain difficult, and that the EU can only achieve success with a measured, step-by-step approach. Our priority should remain to do all we can to rule out the failure of a new EU initiative. A failure on part of the EU would mean a success for those who support the death penalty and a setback in the fight against this inhumane form of punishment. We cannot and must not let this happen!

Some major non-governmental players (including Amnesty International) are thus warning against hasty action and have suggested that it could be counter-productive for the EU to insist on a renewed debate on this topic in the UN General Assembly.

At the General Affairs Council on 22 January, it was therefore agreed that we should first develop a carefully considered approach which will gradually lend our topic greater weight in the United Nations. Ambassadors in New York and Geneva were accordingly asked to assess all possibilities to advance this discussion at UN level. We should also take account of the recommendations of relevant NGOs regarding further measures to combat the death penalty at UN level. On the basis of these findings, the German Council Presidency will draw up proposals for further action which it will present to its EU partners in February.
The EU condemned the death penalty [JURIST report] in all forms following the Hussein execution earlier this month. AP has more.

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