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McVeigh: Europe condemns execution

McVeigh's execution has been condemned in Europe  

LONDON, England -- Europeans condemned the U.S. execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh as barbaric and blood-thirsty.

The criticism came on the eve of U.S. President George W. Bush's first official visit to the continent.

The president of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly condemned Monday's execution as "sad, pathetic and wrong."

Lord Russel-Johnston said the execution gave McVeigh the notoriety he sought and called on the United States to reconsider the use of the death penalty.

"Timothy McVeigh was a cold-blooded murderer. He will not be missed. But the way he died was sad, pathetic and wrong," said Russel-Johnston in a statement.

"It demonstrated the futility of capital punishment to act as a deterrent, giving him the notoriety he sought in committing this horrendous crime.

"It is high time the United States rethought its attitude to the death penalty and aligned its position with the great majority of the free and democratic world."

The London-based human rights group Amnesty International said the execution was a triumph of vengeance over justice.

In Italy, where Pope John Paul II had joined with human rights groups in appealing in vain for Bush to spare McVeigh's life, there were protests outside the U.S. embassy.

A Paris-based group opposed to the death penalty described McVeigh's execution as "useless and ridiculous."

The execution was also heavily criticised in Spain, Germany and Portugal.

In a statement, Amnesty said the execution was a failure of human rights leadership in the highest levels of government in the U.S.

"By executing the first federal death row prisoner in nearly four decades, the U.S. has allowed vengeance to triumph over justice and distanced itself yet further from the aspirations of the international community," the statement said.

McVeigh was killed by lethal injection for the deaths of 168 people when he bombed a government office building in Oklahoma City in 1995.

Amnesty said many of the 152 state executions that occurred during Bush's governorship of Texas were in breach of international standards, such that some European media have dubbed him a "serial executioner."

"By refusing to step in and impose a moratorium on federal executions, he has further damaged his country's reputation," the Amnesty statement said.

The head of a France-based group fighting the death penalty around the world called the execution "useless and ridiculous" and predicted it would spur debate about ending capital punishment in the U.S.

"I don't think the execution of Timothy McVeigh will change the problems of America," said Michel Taube, president of Together Against the Death Penalty.

"The question was: does the execution avoid a new Timothy McVeigh .... Unfortunately, the answer is no," Taube told the Associated Press.

Taube's group is organising the first worldwide congress against the death penalty June 21-23 in Strasbourg, expected to feature a call for a moratorium on capital punishment to be made from the chambers of the European Parliament.

For Taube, McVeigh's execution shows that the death penalty "is absurd and useless and ridiculous ...."

"When a man kills, and especially when he kills 170 people, there is no equivalent. It serves no one for the state and the criminal to outbid each other over death."

Sentiment against the death penalty is strong in France, which abolished capital punishment in 1981.

The last person executed in the European Union was killed by guillotine in France in 1977.

The McVeigh case presented an opportunity for the U.S. government to cease their support of a policy "that allows the murderer to set society's moral tone by imitating what it seeks to condemn," said Amnesty.

"Instead, the U.S. government has put its official stamp of approval on this policy; killing, it says, is an appropriate response to killing."

Pepe Mejia, spokesman for a Spanish group planning protests against Bush's stop in Madrid, told Reuters: "This (the death penalty) doesn't solve anything. The politics aren't based on justice."

In Berlin, the German government released a statement saying it "remains opposed to the death penalty, including as far as the execution of Oklahoma bomber Timothy McVeigh is concerned."

But it added: "This does not imply any kind of sympathy with the perpetrators of this awful crime."

Antonio Maria Pereira, president of the Portuguese human rights group Law and Justice said: "The death penalty is a barbarism inappropriate to our times."

America's use of capital punishment puts it ethically at odds with its European allies, who have all banned it.

Many Europeans are puzzled that a nation parading itself as a model of democracy and human rights continues to carry out death sentences.

"The death penalty is a barbarism inappropriate to our times," Antonio Maria Pereira, president of the Portuguese human rights group Law and Justice, told Reuters.

Sergio D'Elia, secretary of a protest group that demonstrated outside the U.S. embassy in Rome, said: "McVeigh committed a horrible crime. What he did or why he did it is not being discussed -- what is being discussed is the death sentence."

"Bush has built his race to the White House on a road paved with those have been put to death," she added.

• Timothy McVeigh: Profile
• U.S. Department of Justice
• Federal Bureau of Investigation
• Amnesty International On-line: human rights website
• The Vatican
• Council of Europe Portal

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