09 December 2007


I'd like to elucidate something about the Gallic, or actually pan-European, views on capital punishment.

Europe and the U.S are far apart on this issue. Europeans see the U.S. as driven by an out-of-control gun culture and blood lust for retribution. They equate capital punishment with torture and slavery and place the U.S. with repressive countries who exact the death penalty in large numbers: China, Iran, Saudi Arabia, and D.R. Congo.

Americans usually have no knowledge, nor interest, about European views about anything, the death penalty included. Europeans, on the other hand, are kept informed by the European press about the use of capital punishment in the U.S., including impending executions. Both the political Left and Right in Europe are critical of the U.S. in this matter. The furthest Right daily newspaper in Britain noted that the newly elected George Bush was best known for signing 153 death warrants. France’s minister of justice described Bush as "the world’s leading executioner." European politicians visit with the condemned on death rows in the U.S. On many occasions the European Parliament has issued formal declarations of protest against scheduled executions. Europe will not, cannot by law, extradite criminals to the U.S., if there is a chance the death penalty will be carried out. The E.U.’s Charter of Fundamental rights states, “No one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed.” This principle has become a pan-European crusade of sorts to abolish capital punishment all over the world.

In fact, the U.S. is the ONLY industrialized country who still exacts the death penalty. However, Europeans believe that the number of executions here is large, in the thousands. This is not true. The number peaked in 1999 at 98. Last year, 2006, there were only 52. Another misunderstood fact is that the death penalty is a State matter. Each State in the U.S. controls most aspects of capital punishment, including whether it is practiced or not. Fourteen states, I believe, do not practice it. And, there is a sizeable minority of people (about 34%) who are against it. The American Bar Association opposes it on humanitarian grounds.

I have attempted to set the context for understanding Europe's views. The pan-European social model and world view indicates that Europeans exhibit a depth of feeling, sheer revulsion, against the death penalty.

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