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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 October 2007, 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK
Europe fights capital punishment
Prisoner on death row in the US (file)
Abolishing capital punishment is a requirement for EU membership
Europe is marking its first anti-death penalty day, despite moves from Poland to block the event, calling for it also to condemn abortion and euthanasia.

The day was organised by the Council of Europe, a human rights body, after Poland's veto threatened to derail an EU-sponsored event.

The event is being held in conjunction with a global anti-death penalty day.

Capital punishment is banned in all 27 EU states but Poland's president called on the EU to reintroduce it last year.

Poland, Ireland and Malta are the only EU member states where abortion is illegal.

Contrary view

Last month, Poland was the only member state to oppose an EU-sponsored European Day Against the Death Penalty, with Deputy Justice Minister Andrzej Duda saying the EU "should approach the subject in a broader way and debate the protection of life".

We know that there are many people in Europe who continue to support the death penalty... We need to go out and explain to people why the death penalty is wrong
Terry Davis
Council of Europe Secretary General

The event was then managed by the 47-member Council of Europe, which requires only a majority decision, not unanimity.

Abolishing capital punishment is a requirement for EU members, so the event might have been expected to go through on the nod, says the BBC's Alix Kroeger in Brussels.

But Poland's conservative, populist government has made something of a speciality of going against EU opinion on issues ranging from homosexuality to environmental protection, our correspondent says.

Council of Europe Secretary General Terry Davis said the abolition of capital punishment was "far too important to be taken for granted".

"We know that there are many people in Europe who continue to support the death penalty. Every time there is a particularly gruesome crime, or, in some cases, when an election is coming - there are voices calling for the death penalty to be reinstated," he said.

"We need to go out and explain to people why the death penalty is wrong, why it has been abolished, and why it should stay abolished."

In 2006, more than 3,800 people were sentenced to death in 55 countries, the EU says.

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