Tag Archives: Death Penalty

UKIP, “the laziest party in Europe” – didn’t we already know this though?

In a rare example of accountability, the Mirror has today branded UKIP the ‘laziest party in Europe’.

The story highlights the far-right party’s voting record, the worse of any political party in Europe. UKIP’s leader, Nigel Farage it reports, has the 5th to worst voting record out of all 752 Members of the European Parliament.

Two of the politicians that fared worse than Farage were his UKIP colleagues Godfrey Bloom and UKIP’s deputy leader Paul Nuttall. UKIP MEPs missed approximately a third of all votes they were expected to attend.

Quite rightly, Conservative MEP leader Richard Ashworth condemned this voting record saying, “UKIP bank the salary, pocket the expenses, but don’t turn up to do the work. They let their country down.”

The problem though rests in the fact that this article represents an exception to the rule. It represents a rare example of holding our elected representatives in Brussels to account.

Think about, when was the last time you read a story about a vote in the European Parliament compared to a story about a vote in the UK parliament?

The only reason this story has appeared in our national press now, is because of the impact UKIP is currently enjoying on our national UK politics.

Indeed, the almost exact same story was ignored by our press back in 2010 when Labour MEP Mary Honeyball blogged about UKIP’s voting record.

This situation though, of what is happening in Brussels being ignored by the majority of the British media, is nothing new. Let me give you an example.

In 2011 the then Tory (now UKIP) MEP, Roger Helmer, tweeted overtly homophobic comments (and indeed dismissed the whole notion of homophobia as, “a propaganda device designed to denigrate and stigmatise those holding conventional opinions”). These outrageous comments were picked up, but only by online blogs such as Liberal Conspiracy*.

Take though the recent comments by Tory MP David Davies (he commented that parents “wouldn’t want gay children”). On this occasion, The Daily Mail, The Telegraph, The Guardian, The BBC and Mirror all picked up on these comments.

One comment made by a MP, the other by a MEP.

In the last few years Tory MEPs have voted against opposition to the death penalty, against basic measures to combat climate change and against women’s rights. Where is the public and media outrage?

UKIP embarrassing Britain in Brussels is nothing new, but because of their success in the recent elections, our papers now deem it newsworthy!

*This comment in no way means to belittle online blogs such as Liberal Conspiracy which holds a readership comparable to much of the mainstream media. But the comment aims to highlight the different editorial standards blogs and traditional papers hold. 

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Amnesty International is 50 years old and is still as relevant as ever

This last weekend, people up and down the country having been raising a glass to the world’s oldest human rights organisations, Amnesty International.

Amnesty is a very important organisation to me. I have been heavily involved ever since I got involved with my local University group in Bath. At the time, we were campaigning for a global arms trade treaty. I remember all too clearly students (and lecturers) saying to me that this was a pointless aspiration, and it would never happen. Well, looks what a little optimism can do!

Throughout its entire history, Amnesty International has strived, and succeeded, in gaining victories people wrote off as impossible.

In 1965 Amnesty sponsored a resolution at the UN to suspend and abolish capital punishment for peacetime political offences.  A request which seemed outlandish at the time; last year, Gabon became the 139th country to either abolish the penalty outright or to cease to use it in practice.

For years, Amnesty campaigned against the use of torture. In 1975 UN unanimously adopted a declaration against torture following the Amnesty campaign.

In 1983, Amnesty was mocked for saying that it was not only Governments, but also individuals who can commit human rights violations. Today, this is a central pillar of human rights law. One that was central to seeing the recent arrest of Ratko Mladic.

In 1989, Amnesty International members sent 25,000 letters to Chinese authorities condemning the events that took place in Tiananmen Square. Today Amnesty International continues to take on this issue, defending those who wish to speak out against the atrocities that took place that day.

In 1996 Amnesty launched a campaign for a permanent International Criminal Court. In 1998 this was adopted by the UN.

There is so so much more I could talk about. Amnesty’s history tells us that when you shout alone, often nothing happens. But when over 3 million people stand together, their voice holds significant weight.

Today, Amnesty is working on tackling the death penalty, highlighting the abuses in the war on terror, calling governments to account and much more. They can only do this vital work if they have your support.

If you do not believe me, believe Bu Dongwei.

Please join today. Give either money or your time – both are precious to Amnesty.

Remember, All it takes for Evil to prevail in this world is for enough good men to do nothing. 

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Leaked email reveals that the Tories have ‘anti-Semitic, homophobic and racist links’ in Europe!

McMillan Scott (far right) has been "sent to Coventry" after highlighting the Tories extremist links. Photo thanks to EP photostream!

I have stumbled across a leaked email from McMillan Scott,former Tory MEP, that highlights what many have feared about the Tories new ECR grouping for a long time. At the inaugural meeting of the Tories new grouping, the ECR, McMillan Scott expressed concerns about some of the “extremists” that the Tories are now sitting with in the European Parliament.  This cumulated with him standing for Vice-President of the Parliament against the ECR candidate  Michał Kamiński a Polish MEP from the Law and Justice Party.  McMillan Scott now sits as a non-aligned in the Parliament.

For me, this email confirms what I already knew.  The Tories are sitting with some nasty characters in the European Parliament putting them in “awkward positions” around LGBT rights and the death penalty to name just two!

Here, I copy in the entirety of the email I received:

EDWARD McMILLAN-SCOTT
EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT VICE-PRESIDENT
Yorkshire & Humber, UK


MY EXPULSION FROM THE CONSERVATIVE PARTY
> 8 February 2010

> Dear Westminster parliamentary colleague,

> I am writing to many Conservative MPs (and I am sorry this is not personalised) about the Party’s treatment of a parliamentarian. Despite my restraint with the media, there is a risk of it becoming an issue in the General Election. The reputational damage to the Party is already considerable: Keira Knightley’s contemporary West End opens with a speech about David Cameron’s ‘grubby fascist friend’

> Whatever view you take about David Cameron’s pledge to leave the EPP it has been panned by every commentator, and the choice of EU allies has been controversial. Putting the Polish MEP Michal Kaminski up for Vice-President was a disastrous choice and would have led to a furore, whether or not I stood against him. Expelling me from the Party until after the next European Election has been a CCHQ own goal and it is time it was corrected – by politicians.

David Cameron may well be unaware of what has been taking place but my numerous attempts to achieve an amicable solution are being systematically blocked by CCHQ.

 I now urge the parliamentary party to appoint an experienced MP – perhaps a member of the 1922 Executive – to conduct an inquiry and resolve this quickly.

The whip was withdrawn from me by Timothy Kirkhope to divert attention from political misjudgements.

However my expulsion from the Party is of another order and must not be allowed to stand. 

You can take me out of the Conservative Party, but you cannot take the Conservative out of me. Please let me know if you wish to help or want more information. My private email is xx@xxx and my mobile number is xxxxxxxxxxx. The Party is more important than any individual, but principles trump the Party and I will not let matters rest.

> Yours,

10 Killer Points: Edward McMillan-Scott MEP��s expulsion from the Conservative Party

  1. I complied with the manifesto, leaving the EPP and joining the new ECR group. I said that I was ‘uncomfortable’ because of moral, constitutional and extremist issues.  I stood against a Polish MEP, Michal Kaminski, and was re-elected Vice-President of the European Parliament with strong cross-party support and NGO support (see http://www.edwardforvp.eu/) on 14 July – see attached Timeline.  This was done on a point of principle because Kaminski had recent and easily-discovered ‘anti-Semitic, homophobic and racist links’ – for some details see attached Kaminski Uncovered

 

2.      Kaminski and his party represent the rise of disguised extremism in Europe.  My longstanding concern and action about extremism stems from a family secret since 1940, revealed on BBC Radio 4’s Mother was a Blackshirt only in January by my aunt, Diana Bailey, that my maternal grandparents were interned by Churchill as senior Blackshirts (please ask for a transcript)

3. Kaminski was not an official Conservative candidate. He was nominated by Timothy Kirkhope, Tory MEP leader, as part of a stitch-up to promote Kirkhope as leader of the new group without election. The Tory MEPs’ rules of procedure for nominations for EP parliamentary posts were ignored. I stood as an independent. Another Conservative stood independently the next day for another parliamentary post (‘Quaestor’ = Ways & Means) but no action was taken. Only I lost the whip.

4. My Brussels assistants and I were ‘sent to Coventry’ (this was ignored by Tory MEPs and staff); my UK staff were told to stop working for me by Party officials (they refused); all material carrying my name was to be expunged from constituency offices, invitations to Party functions withdrawn; my conference pass was revoked, a fringe meeting cancelled, among other petty actions. Throughout all this, CCHQ has flagrantly ignored the Party’s constitution, its principles – and its reputation

5. A smear campaign was launched against me, starting with a specious letter which William Hague sent to key Conservatives in my constituency and also issued to the media although he knew that, for legal reasons, I could not reply. Six Conservative Press Officers vilified me to constituency media and the nationals while defending Kaminski. This perverse CCHQ strategy has created an issue on which, I am told, Gordon Brown has achieved electoral ‘cut-through’ on our weakest topic – Europe

6. On September 15, without notice or reason, I was expelled from the Party after an email exchange between Board members. They did not meet. This decision is subject to a prolonged internal CCHQ appeal procedure in which my lawyers and I have little faith (I was on the Board for three years) and, as a result, may lead to court action.

7. My UK lawyers, the best in their field, say that my expulsion was against natural justice, disproportionate and unconstitutional: they look forward to the High Court

8. The ‘blind pledge’ (signed by all Tory Euro-candidates that they would join whatever EU grouping Cameron devised) is illegal under EU law and my treatment by the Party is contrary to the EU’s ‘Race Directive’ (and the Race Relations Act)

9. The Party appears to seek to terminate my parliamentary career (I am 60) – as well as my livelihood – despite 25 years as an MEP, 4 years as leader of the MEPs, 3 years on the Board and 43 years as a Party member. I have a reputation for tenacity

10. The only other parliamentarians to have been expelled from the Party were Den Dover for two years, after allegedly misusing his MEP expenses; and Lord Archer for five years, after imprisonment for perjury in the High Court. Who is CCHQ kidding? http://www.emcmillanscott.com/ .

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The Death Penalty – Myths and Facts

A hangmans noose, still used as a method of execution. Photo thanks to peppergrass (flickr)

I have recently blogged on a number of occasions about the Death Penalty (China executing…well, anyone really).  The discussions and comments that have followed have thrown up some basic myths that I will spend a small amount of time trying to counter.  The list is pretty long but I have tried to pick out some of the most common accusations thrown at anti-death penalty campaigners. 

1) The Death Penalty acts as a strong deterrent to violent crime.

In the US, states that still have the death penalty have a higher murder rate (per population) than states that have abolished the death penalty.  The deterrent argument assumes that a criminal will have thought about the punishment and decided that a long-term prison sentence is acceptable while execution is not.  This ignores the reality that most violent crimes are committed spontaneously leaving little possibility for the punishment to affect the decision process.  The idea that someone was going to undertake a stabbing but then thought better of it after hearing that this might result in his execution is laughable.

2) The Death Penalty is legitimate because most people support it

History is littered with examples where fundamental human rights violations have occurred with the support of a population.  Slavery, racial segregation and voting in New Labour in 2005 all had strong public support, but we would look back now and state that these actions were wrong. 

This does not tackle the issue however of why people support the death penalty.  It appears that people do not support the death penalty per se, more a desire to be free from crime (holding the view that the death penalty will lead them to this condition).  If politicians can be shown to be tough on crime and to be tackling the causes of crime (I am aware I sound a bit like Tony Blair) then I think the public support for the death penalty would drop.  Indeed, a poll in the US showed that when life imprisonment was offered as an alternative option to the death penalty, support for the punishment dropped from 68% to 48%. 

3) The Death Penalty is the most cost effective way of dealing with nasty criminals.  Why should we pay for murders to be kept inside a cell for the rest of their lives? 

The number of prisoners condemned to death compared to prison populations in tiny.  In the US for example, prison population is about 2.2 million, and those sentenced to death make up about 3,000.  Cost to the tax payer? If you are worried about this issue, start campaigning for alternatives to prison (especially in relation to mental illness).  This would save the tax payer more than executing a few hundred (or thousand in China’s case).

The Death Penalty remains an out-dated ineffectual form of punishment.  In Europe it is slowly dying out (with only Belarus still practising), but across the word there are still many regimes that you would not expect undertaking it.  Countries that still retain the death penalty are:

Afghanistan, Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Botswana, Chad, China, Comoros, Democratic Republic of Congo, Cuba, Dominica, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Guinea, Guyana, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Malaysia, Mongolia, Nigeria, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Singapore, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad And Tobago, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United States Of America, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zimbabwe

Want to know more from some experts? Have a look at: http://www.amnesty.org/en/death-penalty

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China, executing…well anyone really!

Today, China has executed British citizen Akmal Shaikh.  Akmal is a 53 year old who is described as having “mental problems”.  He was arrested two years ago for smuggling heroin in from Tajikistan.  It is widely reported that he was tricked into this action. I am not questioning whether Akmal was innocent or not, but what I am questioning is, how many of the 2,390 people that China executed (that we know about) in 2008 where innocent? This blog is not about Akmal, it is about the thousands of people that China has executed and is in-line to execute!

I will not hide the fact that I am a strong opponent to the Death Penalty.  I think it is a barbaric and out-dated punishment.  I think it is ineffectual in fighting crime and I think it is irreversible when the judiciary gets it wrong.  What I wish to present here however, is why China’s situation is unique and needs the world’s attention.  I hope to put out an argument to suggest that even the most hardened supporters of the death penalty should be disgusted by what is happening in China.

Firstly, China executed 2,390 people that we know of in 2008.  That’s 72% of executions from around the world.  This is a huge number by anyone’s standards (even taking into consideration the population size of China they execute by far the most per, 1000 citizens). The worrying part of these figures is that we do not actually know how many people China executes annually.  They still refuse to make public the figures arguing that they are “state secrets”.  You have to question why they are considered a “state secret”.  Estimates have been as high 10,000.  This is going beyond executions and bordering on an annual slaughter!

Secondly, the different offenses that are considered to be serious enough to judicially execute someone for in China, is breath taking.  Tax evasion, fraud, robbery, are all considered serious enough to end someone’s life.  Call me old fashioned, but does this not strike you as being a smidgen disproportionate? I shall re-state that of course I oppose the death penalty in all situations, but you can follow the mislead logic to why you might want to execute a murder or a rapist.  Someone who avoids paying taxes though?

The death penalty is used in a more widespread and systematic way than in any other nation state in the world.  They continue to execute both nationals and foreigners (arguing non-discrimination!). It is time that even the most ardent supporters of the death penalty stood up and said that what China is doing is wrong! There is no justification for the mass-murder that is currently taking place in China.  There is complete disregard for human life.  In the lead up to the Olympics China promised to improve its human rights records.  We need to question why they do not consider their use of the death penalty not to be a violation of their human rights commitments!

This is one occasion where I stand side by side with the Daily Mail:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/debate/article-1239060/China-shot-tax-evasion.html

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