August 8, 2011
The government has launched a new website where people can post petitions for signature. If a petition gets at least 100,000 signatures, it will may be debated in the House of Commons. The petitions website is here http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/index.html.
One of the first campaigns to be launched is the so-called Restore Justice campaign, arguing for the restoration of the death penalty for murderers of police officers and children. (There is also a rival petition, defending the status quo.) If the restoration petition gets its 100,000 signatures, which is not impossible, the issues that it raises are more complex than just those of law and order. The petition itself asks:
“the government to review all treaties and international commitments which may inhibit the ability of Parliament to restore capital punishment.”
Those treaties include the Lisbon treaty, which gave legal effect to the Charter of Fundamental Rights, in which Article 2, “Right to life”, reads:
1. Everyone has the right to life.
2. No one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed.
To reintroduce the death penalty in the UK would require withdrawal from this part of the Charter. How that could be done, nobody knows. The Lisbon treaty does not make provision for a member state to pick and choose some bits of the treaty and not others, but rather for a member state to withdraw altogether.
The proponents of the petition are themselves aware of the complications. Paul Staines, a well-known blogger, who launched the idea, tweeted that “restoring the death penalty has profoundly eurosceptic implications”. Perhaps this is what they want.
The European Movement itself does not have a formal view of whether or not the death penalty should be brought back, but its members and supporters may well have views of their own. Here are the rival petitions, if you wish to sign one or other of them:
In favour of death penalty http://epetitions.direct.gov.uk/petitions/138European Movement UK