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Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Return of judicial murder to Europe by the EU?

My father landed on Sword beach at dawn on the 6th of June 1944. He lived. He fought his way with his regiment through France and Germany, taking Caen, and via Brussels, ending on the north-east German plain with Doenitz's surrender at Luneberg Heath. Although he was to spend another twenty years as a professional soldier nothing - not even the Hell of Korea - seared itself in his memory as much as the fall-out of that second war. And when that war ended he was less than half the age I am now.

Dad was never articulate about his experience to the extent I wanted him to be. So after his death I followed his war in the writings of war correspondents, in the regimental battle diary, in the evidence, letters and film clips of his comrades. One such was the war correspondent Alan Moorehead, who was in Brussels at the same time as the old man.

In 'Eclipse', Moorehead describes a visit to Brussels zoo, whose cages then housed collaborators, and prostitutes who had served German clients and the like. They were bruised, a bit bloodied, and crouched in hopeless resignation, pressed back against the bars in the animal cages. "What will happen to them?" asked Moorehead of one of the 'resistance' guards. "They will be given a fair trail" he replied "And then they will be shot."

Moorehead wrote eloquently and with great passion about why we were outraged about the Nazis. Why we fought. Why we won. Or rather, about why my father and your father did so. Yet at that moment, he must have have found it hard to refrain from commenting that Brussels had been freed from one tyranny only to inherit another. Was the conqueror with his executions any less culpable than the conquered with theirs? To those who were judicially murdered, whether by the Germans or the Belgian 'resistance' I don't suppose the national origin of the bullet rounds that tore through their frail bodies mattered much.

You will have gathered by now that I am opposed to capital punishment. Yes, irrevocably opposed. Jeremy Clarkson once quipped that the only truly civilised nations were those that had nuclear weapons but didn't have capital punishment - and on that score only the UK and France qualified. Curiously, I wouldn't argue with that.

My dad, and hundreds of thousands of Englishmen like him, put their lives on the line so that I and you wouldn't be subject to the whim of a sociopath who would push us up against a wall, or beside a ditch, and casually end our lives with our bodies torn by gunfire.

Guthrum reports that judicial murder has made its way back onto Europe's agenda. In a footnote to a footnote, that judicial murder in the case of war, or riot, or civil disorder, was back within Europe's purview. It appears that the Lisbon Constitution Treaty will allow States to judicially murder their own citizens in these circumstances.

I don't know whether my old man ever visited Brussels zoo back then, after liberation; either with the cages filled with the condemned, or after, emptied of the newly dead. I don't know that any MEP now visiting Brussels zoo can envision the huddled, terrified Belgians who briefly filled the cages now once again filled with sealions and monkeys. Or their dreadful deaths. But those 'resistance' executioners that Moorehead records as so casually condemning their victims went on, of course, to be pioneers of the EU; lauded and honoured, the cordite and blood still in their nostrils as they founded the European Iron and Steel Federation, EFTA and the EC. And now their sons demand the right to do the same.

But not in my name. And not in my country. Not as long as I have breath left in my body and a keyboard within reach. Never.


Trevor said...

Not pithy I'm afraid, just agree 100%

Or almost 100%

Can we make one exception - I still have a vision of Harpic, a rope and a lampost.

Blue Eyes said...

I am against the death penalty but I want "life" to mean life and long custodial sentences. If we don't have that we have the current situation where law and order is on the cusp of serious breakdown which results in the mob taking over.

No thanks.

Newmania said...

I do not agree. If you take justice from the heart of the justice system then you take everything and we are already far to far down the line .
Umpteen innocents are raped tortured and murdered and Rose West sits in a comopfy cell whining about her sausages
How is that justice ?
I do not foresee such a punishment being imposed on this country by the EU so I am somewhat confused as to what you are getting at.If you are going to call it judicial murder why not call every soldier's kill ,'state murder'. It would be an outrageous description of a soldiers duty but ..they are pretty dead ?
Needless to say anything that comes from the EU is to be resisted but there is no sugar coating it I cannot go along with you on this occassion
Sorry but there it is

Newmania said...

( ....and surely it is not the fact that collaborators are shot but the fact they do not recieve a fair trial that is the problem )

{at said...

Newmania- amen to that


Blue Eyes said...

I suppose it partly depends on what you decide is "punishment". For me death would be preferable to sitting in a small room knowing that I would never be able to leave it. Not being able to pop over the road for a pint of milk or able to share a joke with a friend. Ever.

When Shipman was allowed to kill himself I found myself very angry that he had been able to escape his punishment.

Chris said...

The veterans of WW1 will sadly soon be no more, but even more sadly you can be sure that there will be plenty of WW2 veterans around to see their sacrifice was in vain but too old, too tired, too cheated to do anything about it.

Looking through the eyes of a WW2 veteran it must be so depressing to see the younger generations too bovine, too fat and stupid to do anything about the wretches in power.

Dennis said...

Newmania -- send them to an uninhabited island and let them get on with it. No guards. And no getting off. I am opposed to capital punishment because it makes murderers of us all. But perpetrators of what used to be capital crimes have, most eloquently, expressed their rejection of civilized society.

Raedwald, thanks for your post. They were a remarkable generation. Now look how they have been betrayed.

Daniel1979 said...

Can I just add my agreement with the post, and to Blue Eyes.

Anonymous said...

I must admit to a personal opposition to capital punishment on both moral and practical grounds. Given the massive number of miscarriages of justice I think it easy to hang the "guilty" but rather harder to unhang them when they are found innocent. Be honest, Stefan Kishko would have hung but was convicted not on evidence, but a bent copper. As a Ney, I know the anger of sheep to be a terrible thing, Judicial murder wears a cloak of respectability but it remains murder. Life should mean LIFE with a safeguard for those who are subsequently proven innocent. But for the remainder, life with every day EXACTLY the same.
Apologies for the rant and if I may have offended, please accept my personal apologies.
M J Ney

Hugh said...

Without getting into the general discussion. Found this blog by way of OH. Glad I did, excellent post.

Alfred said...

Maybe I am unique in being in favour of capital punishment. It is an enormous responsibility that we are given and must use it very sparingly, but not to use it is an abrigation of responsibility, IMO.

However, that aside, there is some confusion here. Protocol 13 supercedes protocol 6 to the ECHR but because not all states have signed up to 13, 6 still appears - hence the confusion.

b) Article 2 of the Protocol No 6 to the ECHR:
‘A State may make provision in its law for the death penalty in respect of acts committed in time of war or of imminent threat of war; such a penalty shall be applied only in the instances laid down in the law and in accordance with its provisions…’.

From Press release Reference: IP/07/850 date 19/6/07

Launching the European Day against the Death Penalty 19/6/07

In the context of the Council of Europe, Protocol 6 to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) unconditionally abolishes the death penalty in peacetime. All 27 European Union Member States have ratified Protocol 6. Protocol 13 to the same Convention prohibits the death penalty in all circumstances. Twenty two Member States have ratified Protocol 13; five Member States (France, Italy, Latvia, Poland and Spain) have signed but not yet ratified it.

Similarly, Article 2(2) of the European Union Charter of Fundamental Rights prohibits the death penalty in the following terms: “No one shall be condemned to the death penalty, or executed”.

As Grahnlaw says

If you want the most up-to-date information, ou can go to

and click Human Rights, then choose the Convention.

There you find the Convention, as amended, the separate protocols, summaries, ratifications etc.

The Treaty of Lisbon does two things concerning fundamental rights for citizens: 1) the Charter becomes legally binding on the EU institutions and on the member states when they implement EU legislation, and 2) the European Union is going to accede to the European Council Convention.

Savonarola said...

One of your best Mr Boat.

On executions in wartime. I agree that the so called collaborators huddled in the zoo should not have been executed as revenge for their base behaviour. Feelings run high so the winners kill the losers albeit civilians.

In the warzone executions of the enemy are 'common'. But I suppose this is another issue.

Umbongo said...

I remember attending a debate at LSE in the early 60s on capital punishment. Leading the "No" party was Sidney Silverman who led the abolition cause in the Commons. He said words to the effect that, in the event of abolition, those convicted of murder would and should spend the rest of their lives in prison: no caveats - exactly that. Silverman won the debate both at the LSE and in the Commons.

AFAIAA Silverman and the abolitionists never won the debate in the country (such debate as there was - the bien pensant are not a new phenomenon) then or now: and the "life means life" bargain was, apart from a handful of cases, quickly forgotten. It's all very well to pump up the emotional temperature by citing Belgians speaking in the heat of post-war liberation and who, moreover, suffered under the Germans (and their Belgian collaborators) or by using stock phrases of outrage such as "not in my name" and "judicial murder". However, as Newmania writes, the moral of your story is not the wickedness of the death penalty, it's the necessity to ensure a fair trial.

While we're on anecdote as evidence, the father of my wife's best friend was part of the army unit which relieved Belsen. He was very reluctant to talk about it: first because of a native aversion to displaying emotion (which has sadly disappeared from the English) and second, that it was a particularly disgusting memory which he did not enjoy re-living. What he did say, though, on the single occasion we actually discussed it was that the perpetrators of such atrocities should have been executed to a man and woman; and that sharing God's earth with such people defiled the air we breathe. He was an old-fashioned Christian gentleman, of course, and lived in an England that tended to have fair trials, where faith in the justice system was not (wholly) misplaced and, particularly, where murder was rare (I wonder why!).

There's always an argument that the death penalty is barbarous, particularly because an innocent may be hanged. My belief - and we can swap statistics until the cows come home and not convert either side - is that the occasional innocent wrongly hanged probably saves the lives of tens - probably hundreds - of other innocents in the general population: a nasty calculus but one that the abolitionists ignored in the 60s and ignore now.

Anonymous said...

It is a very hard argument. It is the same one against smacking a child: it is barbaric and used too often.

And yet there is a time for smacking and a time for killing. A rare one, admittedly. So very rare. But remove the father, the one person who can do it without emotion, without callousness, for the good of the family and society, and you loose the head of the nation.
For your female-centred nature (that's what smoking is, a distraction, a happy place) makes you unfit to see that your father killed, justly for you, and your mother even now comforts you in that you wouldn't harm anyone.

Falco said...

The idea of using the death penalty for those who obviously deserve it is very attractive. The problem is that sooner or later, you will kill innocent people.

Perhaps the answer would be for a referendum on the death penalty. If it is passed then all those who have voted in favour must be entered in a hanging lottery when it becomes clear that their vote caused the death of an innocent man.

it's either banned or compulsory said...

Newmania, this death penalty will not be for "innocents are raped tortured and murdered " but for those who propose to bring down the EU.