Local view for "http://purl.org/linkedpolitics/eu/plenary/2004-01-14-Speech-3-165"

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"Mr President, we welcome the statement by the President-in-Office of the Council that there can be no compromises on the subject of human rights. Unfortunately, the experience of the European institutions shows that the reality is often quite the opposite. I should like to say a few words on two subjects on which I believe Europe should summon up all its political prestige and use it in Geneva. The first is the death penalty. The Italian Presidency’s about-turn on the resolution for a moratorium on the death penalty at the United Nations General Assembly, which was announced by the Presidency but never tabled, is a serious occurrence that has left the European Union exposed and, above all, has eroded some of its political authority. This shows that even on a subject apparently as widely agreed on and as precious as human rights and the abolition of the death penalty as a judicial solution we are held hostage to many governments’ petty self-interest. This is a battle that must be fought at a political level, starting in Geneva. In China last year 3 138 executions were recorded; there were also plenty of executions in many so-called liberal democracies, from Taiwan to Thailand, from Japan to India to the United States. We cannot address a matter like this on the slippery slope of political convenience and, above all, we cannot expect it to be a battle based purely on principle and evidence, because it is not like that. This is shown by the fact that the Governor of Illinois recently decided to commute 167 death sentences, and I believe it was because he felt the impetus and pressure of international public opinion. Another important point, Mr President, concerns journalists; in other words, the right to speak out and not to remain silent, which is a fair indicator of the real quality of a democracy. In the last ten years more than 400 journalists have been killed, and for very few of these do we have any legal certainty. In the last six months there have been 228 arrests and 250 unjustified trials, many of which were in countries that belong to the so-called group of western democracies; the latest case emerged only two days ago and involves Turkey. Among other things, we believe that the forces of repression against journalists and press freedoms have learnt to use more underhand methods. Violence against the freedom to speak out and not remain silent is committed and consummated also by gagging, censoring and taking broadcasts off the air; unfortunately, these are practices that have also recently found a place here in our countries, including my own country. In this respect we want to call on the Presidency to exercise a rigorous and courageous mandate, a political undertaking that I should like to try and define in the matter of human rights with just two words, which are the words Parliament has always sought to convey to the Commission and the Presidency: on human rights we will not tolerate any exceptions or any omissions."@en1

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