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Should the EU

accept that how sovereign nations administer justice is their own business   2 votes - 11 %
threaten action against sovereign nations who execute EU citizens   6 votes - 33 %
threaten action against sovereign nations who use the death penalty   10 votes - 55 %
 
18 Total Votes
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China executes Briton - the EU should respond:
   What happened tonight was sickening, but predictable.

and understandable, if not acceptable according to contemporary European values and principles, given Chinese' burning memory of the of the Opium Wars:

A reader named "River of Justice" said: "Everyone is equal before the law. No matter who he is, a Chinese or a foreigner, the result is the death penalty when he commits such a crime."

Another reader named "Du Yunqing" wrote: "In the past, we weren't able to kill a foreigner who commits a crime (on Chinese land) because you (British) got the consular jurisdiction using guns and cannons; Nowadays, you stop interfering on our own land where we have the right to do so."

A reader named "freefool" said: "the supreme court of China set a good example in maintaining its independence of jurisdiction."

Another unnamed user from Wenzhou, Zhejiang province said: "it's a slap on the face of those arrogant Europeans."

Internet users back China's decision on UK drug smuggler



La Chine dorme. Laisse la dormir. Quand la Chine s'éveillera, le monde tremblera.
by marco on Tue Dec 29th, 2009 at 06:09:09 AM EST
When backwards views on rights issues are championed as an issue of national sovereignity, all sense is lost. However, Morus's poll rightly points in the direction that a principled EU opposition to the death penalty shouldn't just focus on EU citizens.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 30th, 2009 at 03:55:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
DoDo: When backwards views on rights issues are championed as an issue of national sovereignity, all sense is lost.

But that begs the question:  "backwards" according to who?

Same goes for Ivan Lewis's statements:

'China cannot expect to receive the respect they yearn from the international community until they abide by minimum standards of human rights.'

'.... it needs to be clear as that country plays a greater role in the world they have to understand their responsibility to adhere to the most basic standards of human rights.'

China's execution of Akmal Shaikh enrages British leaders | World news | guardian.co.uk

The presumption here is that the English/Europeans/Westerners have a monopoly, or at least the last word, on determining what the "minimum/basic standards of human rights" are.  It doesn't seem to occur to them that others may beg to differ, especially in light of the track record of the English/Europeans/Westerners as perceived by those others.

Morus is probably right that if Europeans want to compel other societies to abide by and adopt current European principles and values, then a good strategy would be to bring to bear the collective economic and political weight of the European Union.  But, as you point out, obviously it had better not be in terms of special treatment for EU citizens.

La Chine dorme. Laisse la dormir. Quand la Chine s'éveillera, le monde tremblera.

by marco on Wed Dec 30th, 2009 at 05:46:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But that begs the question:  "backwards" according to who?

Death penalty opponents around the world... Note I am posting not from a core EU member, but from a a region abolishing the death penalty only after 1989, and that against majority public opinion, which persists from the polls I have seen; thus populist politicians regularly call for its reinstatement.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Wed Dec 30th, 2009 at 07:36:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
'China cannot expect to receive the respect they yearn from the international community until they abide by minimum standards of human rights.'

As with the USA---the leader in death sentences?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Dec 31st, 2009 at 01:33:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't know about sentences, but it's not the leader in executions, whether on a per capita basis or in absolute terms.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 31st, 2009 at 02:41:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
China approves death sentence to British drug smuggler - People's Daily Online
China's Supreme People's Court (SPC) said Tuesday that it had reviewed and approved the death sentence against Akmal Shaikh, a British man who was convicted of smuggling drugs into China.

<...>

Officials from the British embassy in China and a British organization had proposed a mental disease examination on Akmal Shaikh, but the documents they provided could not prove he had mental disorder nor did members of his family have history of mental disease, the SPC said.

Akmal Shaikh himself did not provide relevant materials regarding him having a mental disease, according to the SPC.

"There is no reason to cast doubt on Akmal Shaikh's mental status," the SPC said.

Unfortunately, Western media and officials so thoroughly discredited and disgraced themselves in Chinese eyes during the run-up to last year's Olympics that reports of Shaik's mental illness would probably be immediately dismissed as just so much more Western disinformation if people even learned of them in China.

La Chine dorme. Laisse la dormir. Quand la Chine s'éveillera, le monde tremblera.

by marco on Tue Dec 29th, 2009 at 06:20:51 AM EST
PDF: The Charter of Fundamental Rights which is an integral part of the Lisbon Treaty (a part from which the UK regrettably derogated), specifically outlaws capital punishment in Article 2.

The EU (though not the UK) is therefore on firm grounds in opposing the execution as a matter of principle.

However it is understandable, as Marco points out, that many Chinese will take UK protestations with a (neo-colonial) pinch of salt and expect foreign nationals to be subject to the same laws and punishments as Chinese citizens.  

It does not seem to be asking too much to expect the Chinese Courts to order their own, independent, psychiatric evaluation, but failing that, the defence argument does not appear to claim that a miscarriage of justice has occurred: merely that the punishment is excessive, or that appropriate psychiatric protocols were not followed.  But is this a criticism of the Chinese judicial system in general or of the specifics of this case?  All countries guard their sovereignty in relation to their judicial systems very jealously, and even in the UK the findings of the ECJ, for instance, can be very controversial.

The diplomatic route would therefore seem to be to seek to have the outlawing of Capital punishment made a matter of human rights enshrined by Treaty in international law.  We are a very long way away from that.

notes from no w here

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Tue Dec 29th, 2009 at 08:33:03 AM EST
LEO McKINSTRY: Sorry not to join the liberal wailing: heroin traffickers deserve to die | Mail Online

This morning, barring an unlikely last-minute reprieve, convicted drug smuggler Akmal Shaikh was executed by firing squad, having been found guilty of trying to bring 4kg of heroin into China.

His case has prompted outrage in this country from politicians and from the trendy metropolitan elite, for whom drug use is a fashionable habit rather than serious criminal offence.

Yet for all this orchestrated wailing, is it not possible that China is right to put Shaikh to death?

With a set of more disgusting comments.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Tue Dec 29th, 2009 at 10:32:42 AM EST
"Is it because I is black?" to quote someone (sbc I think).   that is, if the person in question were a Mr John Higgenbotham would the daily mail have a different attitude, you think?
by njh on Tue Dec 29th, 2009 at 05:17:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Is that a question?...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 30th, 2009 at 03:57:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
hard to say?
by njh on Wed Dec 30th, 2009 at 06:29:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Words fail me.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.
by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Thu Dec 31st, 2009 at 11:26:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The FCO has a long and fairly consistent track record of not actually give a crap about British nationals locked up in foreign jails, especially if we do a large amount of business with them.

The FCO sees itself as existing to boost the interests of the British state by facilitating British trade, preferably arms. We do grubby deals with all sorts of disgusting dictators and tyrants, because that's how business is done by Great Britain plc. We don't have to hold our noses cos we're one of the dirtiest around.

And we do an awful lot of trade with China and absolutely nobody is government is gonna do anything to disrupt that. So if some mentally unbalanced peasant has to die, well so be it.

And, being honest, I don't see the EU rocking the boat either.

It might not be the way we want our countries to behave, but it's what they do and they've been doing it a long long time.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Tue Dec 29th, 2009 at 11:56:33 AM EST
If Europe is to have a foreign policy, it should begin with a refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of the death penalty, and should institute as a matter of policy that the EU will not tolerate the execution of any of its citizens by any state without consequences.

I have hard time imagining what kind of consequences the eternally interdependent EU might actually be able to conjure in such circumstances.  But even more significant is the fact that European imperial dominance of Asia in the colonial era was largely built upon British drug running from the opium fields of South Asia into China, where the drug trade had been legally suppressed for centuries until the East India Trade Company broke the back of the Chinese empire with military force to protect and expand its profitable opium trade.  Although Europeans might have long since forgotten this history, such humiliation remains a vivid part of Chinese education.  There was no way that a Briton would not be executed for this in an internationally resurgent China, given the chance to do so.

by santiago on Tue Dec 29th, 2009 at 01:14:13 PM EST
But even more significant is the fact that European imperial dominance of Asia in the colonial era was largely built upon British drug running from the opium fields of South Asia into China, where the drug trade had been legally suppressed for centuries until the East India Trade Company broke the back of the Chinese empire with military force to protect and expand its profitable opium trade.  Although Europeans might have long since forgotten this history, such humiliation remains a vivid part of Chinese education.  There was no way that a Briton would not be executed for this in an internationally resurgent China, given the chance to do so.

Bingo.  While I'm the last person to defend the Chinese government on its human rights record, this should all be placed into context.

Several things stick out here.

(1) The condemned is British.

(2) The condemned was smuggling drugs.

(3) The British are essentially asking that their nationals be exempted from prosecution under Chinese law.

If you no anything about the Opium Wars, you know that in the middle of the 19th century, the British forced open trade with China by means of a war that humiliated the Chinese.  The reason for the war?

The Chinese caught the British East India Company smuggling opium, the base ingredient for heroin, into southern China.  This was one of the few items that the British were able to successfully sell in China so that they could by silk, porcelain, and other luxury items.  What started the first war, was that when the Chinese tried to force British traders that they would not smuggle opium into the country on pain of death.  The British asked that their community be granted "extra-territoriality" so that they would be tried according to British, not Chinese law.

Think about that historical context, and remember that the Opium Wars have the same type of weight in the Chinese national memory that the battle of Kosovo has in the Serbian national mind.  

This guy was a British national, caught smuggling heroin into the country, and the Brits essentially asked that he be granted extra-territoriality. Can you see the narrative that can be spun for domestic consumption here?  It doesn't make it right, it just makes it virtually impossible for for the Chinese government to not execute this guy even if they don't want to.  If they don't apply the death penalty, they'd have major nationalist protests in the streets.  And the current Chinese leadership is extremely scared that they are going to lose control of the country because what they call "mass incidents" e.g. riots have been on the rise.    

And I'll give my consent to any government that does not deny a man a living wage-Billy Bragg

by ManfromMiddletown (manfrommiddletown at lycos dot com) on Tue Dec 29th, 2009 at 04:53:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ManfromMiddletown:
It doesn't make it right, it just makes it virtually impossible for for the Chinese government to not execute this guy even if they don't want to.

This being the case to only scenario where they could commute the sentence could be if there had been a bigger diplomatic question at stake where the UK/EU had humbly bent its neck, apologized and conceded that China is here - as in general - always right. Then China could have commuted the sentence (to life.time of hard labor or something) from a position of strength. As a gesture of good will towards an unwashed westerner who has not had the benefit of a Chinese upbringing.

I can not be bothered to figure out the particular details of such a scenario as neither a UK nor an EU government would be willing to be humiliated by China on the public scene to save the life of an insane drug-runner.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Tue Dec 29th, 2009 at 06:11:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One interesting aside from this affair is that the BBC is reporting that
Mr Shaikh is the first EU national to be executed in China in more than 50 years
Ignoring for a moment the anachronism (there was no EU 50 years ago), it is curious that the BBC should describe Shaikh as an EU national - rather than a national of an EU member state - which implies that the EU is a nation state.
No such implication can be drawn. It has been a while since the EU defined EU Citizenship (the 1992 Maastricht Treaty, to be exact).

What the BBC is subtly admitting to (they are probably too embarrassed to say it out loud) is your own conclusion

If we are to learn a lesson it is that a more powerful institution than the British government will be needed to negotiate with the Chinese, and that for all its many faults, the EU is perhaps best placed to be that institution.


En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Dec 29th, 2009 at 02:04:02 PM EST
.
Of course, the attacks of 9/11 changed everything ... opinion on death penalty, torture and Geneva Convention on Humanitarian Law.

Europe's View of the Death Penalty

(NY times) May 13, 2001 - European politicians and intellectuals, who view the death penalty as a human rights issue, are incredulous that Americans support a punishment that fails to deter crime, targets mainly those who cannot afford a decent lawyer, is used on the mentally retarded and has often gotten the wrong man. America's high execution rate stands in striking contrast to its history of respect for individual rights and its role as an international champion of human rights.

The death penalty is becoming a diplomatic impediment for Washington. Some European countries will not extradite suspected murderers to America. Capital punishment may be one reason that Washington's European allies voted against American membership in the United Nations Human Rights Commission.

Surprisingly, public opinion polls show that the death penalty is still popular in many of the countries where it is illegal. Support ranges from very low in Scandinavia to 65 percent in Britain.

Texas Executes a Mexican Citizen Despite a Breach of the Vienna Convention  

"But I will not let myself be reduced to silence."

Global Warming - distance between America and Europe is steadily increasing.

by Oui on Tue Dec 29th, 2009 at 02:06:53 PM EST
When was the last time an EU national was executed anywhere in the world? There are a number of EU citizens on Death Row in the US, but I am not aware of any executions. How about elsewhere?
If Europe is to have a foreign policy, it should begin with a refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of the death penalty, and should institute as a matter of policy that the EU will not tolerate the execution of any of its citizens by any state without consequences.
The EU already doesn't extradite people to countries where they may receive the death penalty. What further 'consequences' do you have in mind?

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Dec 29th, 2009 at 02:08:41 PM EST
I can't find it anywhere right now, but I recall a British citizen being executed in the US about two years ago.
by santiago on Tue Dec 29th, 2009 at 04:04:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Seems like the UK doesn't have a more 'special' relationship with the US than with China...

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Dec 29th, 2009 at 06:13:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Here it is:

http://www.wsws.org/articles/2002/mar2002/exec-m14.shtml

It was in 2002, longer ago than I thought.

by santiago on Tue Dec 29th, 2009 at 04:07:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I remember it, it was a big row this side of the pond.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 30th, 2009 at 04:03:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
...and the US authorities reacted with outrage citing sovereignity, too. This was a big row, too:

* Karl and Walter LaGrand, German citizens, were put to death in Arizona on February 24 and March 3, 1999 respectively. Germany is suing the US in the International Court of Justice at The Hague for denying the brothers consular access when they were arrested in 1982. They claim the US did not inform German authorities of the arrests until 1992, when all legal avenues had been exhausted.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Wed Dec 30th, 2009 at 04:05:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Giving Europeans a sense of European (rather than national) citizenship and using economic muscle to bear against Capital Punishment are twin benefits - both in demonstrating to the world that there is a new major player on the diplomatic scene, but also in fostering a new sense of collective citizenship within the EU: a 'Civis Romanus Sum' for the 21st century.

I'm all for Civis Europaeus Sum, but I wouldn't like the EU to claim extraterritoriality just like I already dislike the US when it acts extraterritorially. In fact, the EU should be pushing for universal jurisdiction instead of bowing to US pressure to eliminate it from the EU national legislations where it was contemplated. The original meaning of the phrase you quote was an assertion of civil rights vis-a-vis the Roman Imperium, not a claim that the Imperium made its citizens above others' laws (though it may well have).

A phrase repeated with pride by many important Roman figures, it was put forward in order to assert the privileges granted to Roman citizens. Even prisoners were allowed to take advantage of that prerogative, and subsequently they were granted favorable treatment. Paul of Tarsus, under trial and appealing to the Emperor, claimed his right as a citizen to be tried in Rome, and the judicial process was suspended until he, in chains and escorted by guards, was carried to the capital city
Of course, you could trust the British Empire to turn civil rights into extraterritoriality:
The locution was quoted by Lord Palmerston who claimed on June 25, 1850 that every British citizen in the world should be protected by the British Empire like a Roman citizen abroad by the Roman Empire.


En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Dec 29th, 2009 at 06:30:16 PM EST
On the other hand, you can take the view that capital punishment is a violation of universal human rights, and thus subject to sanction under universal jurisdiction.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 31st, 2009 at 02:02:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Except we've been busy removing universal jurisdiction from our books, under US pressure...

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 31st, 2009 at 05:01:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One can take the view that the duty to combat capital punishment and similar violations of human rights arises from an innate obligation towards one's fellow man - an obligation countries cannot simply abscond from by changing their laws. Just as countries are held (in principle) to be bound by their human rights obligations to their own citizens regardless of what their domestic laws say.

But whatever one's stance on European human rights activism outside our own borders, we clearly cannot take any action against China that we demonstrated a lack of will to employ against the Americans on precisely the same issue less than a decade ago. So I guess we're down to the well-worn diplomatic sanction of Sternly Worded Letters.

Particularly when, from the press reports, it looks like the Chinese actually did less of a run-around of our diplomats than the Americans did in their case.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 31st, 2009 at 08:49:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
One thing the EU could do is say this is it for everyone, China as well as the US, from here on out.

En un viejo país ineficiente, algo así como España entre dos guerras civiles, poseer una casa y poca hacienda y memoria ninguna. -- Gil de Biedma
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Dec 31st, 2009 at 11:15:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But that would work rather better if either a) the EU did not have a record of saying "this is it" to brown people who speak funny, and then turning the other cheek when the Americans do it, or b) we were talking about one of our allies, like the US, Uzbekistan or Israel.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 31st, 2009 at 11:56:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Even an argument from "common law" is considered weak. An argument from "an innate obligation towards one's fellow man" would likely be seen as laudable but laughable in a US or UK court. Such arguments were certainly useless in and of themselves as a remedy for slavery or race based denial or restriction of civil rights in the US. They required laws and/or amendments to the US constitution.

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Thu Dec 31st, 2009 at 01:51:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This isn't about what flies in court. There are no genuine international courts, excepting perhaps the WTO arbitration process. I'd like for a body of international jurisprudence to come into being, but until and unless it does... well, you work with the international law you have, not the one you'd like.

So it's about political justifications for intervention by the European Union's foreign service in the internal affairs of another country. That is not, and never has been, about laws. So a political justification is both necessary and sufficient - a legal justification is neither.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Thu Dec 31st, 2009 at 02:47:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
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