The death penalty: A critical look at international law

pm elsa marzo2013To understand how international law treats the death penalty, we should start by identifying the sources of international law. It is widely considered that the answer lies in Article 38.1 of the Statute of the International Court of Justice. This provision says that the Court shall apply: a) international treaties, b) international custom, c) general principles of law “recognized by civilized nations” (whatever that means), and d) case law and “the teachings of the most highly qualified publicists”.

There are four international treaties that aim at the abolition of the death penalty to some extent. This last precision is important because only one of these four conventions forbids the capital punishment in all circumstances and at all times. The 6th Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, of 1983, was the first attempt to abolish the death penalty. However, this treaty permits a State to make an exception in time of war or of “imminent threat of war”. A similar exclusion is allowed by the 2nd Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, of 1989, and the Protocol to the American Convention on Human Rights to abolish the death penalty, of 1990. The only treaty that bans the capital punishment unambiguously is the 13th Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights, of 2002, ratified to this day by 43 of the 47 Member States of the Council of Europe, exceptions being Russia, Azerbaijan, Poland and Armenia (these last two countries have signed but not yet ratified the treaty).

If we didn´t look beyond international treaties, we might conclude that only 43 States, all of them from Europe, are not allowed to execute judicially (that´s actually what the death penalty is, at the end of the day). Yet, we can observe certain trends in international custom that provide a different perspective. Continue reading “The death penalty: A critical look at international law”

“Worldwide movement to end human violence launched”, by Salma Yusuf

Many people are concerned about wars being fought in various parts of the world. Others are motivated by images of poverty and starvation locally or in distant parts of the world. Increasing numbers of people are inclined to take action in response to the ongoing climate catastrophe. And for some people, the issue that concerns them is violence against women, or refugees, or nuclear power, or species extinctions, or the occupation of Palestine or Tibet, or …

The list of issues is endless. And yet, something connects them all. They are all manifestations of human violence. But human violence, in itself, is not an issue about which groups campaign. That is, until now. Continue reading ““Worldwide movement to end human violence launched”, by Salma Yusuf”

IT ISN´T A STORM IN A TEACUP (and Part III)

What can we learn from the success of the Tea Party?

By Koldo Casla

  1. INTRODUCTION: A FASCINATED LOOK AT THE TEA PARTY
  2. TEA PARTY: MOBILISING STRUCTURES, POLITICAL OPPORTUNITIES AND FRAMING PROCESSES
  3. CONCLUSION: LET’S TAKE THE TEA PARTY SERIOUSLY

 

III. CONCLUSION: LET’S TAKE THE TEA PARTY SERIOUSLY

This article shows that the emergence and relative success of the Tea Party is the result of the conjunction of powerful mobilising structures, that are not entirely new (Jacksonian populism), a set of political opportunities, some of which may last a bit longer (restricted welfare programs), and others that will probably expire soon (presidential election in November 2012), and framing processes that resonate widely in American political culture (private property, liberalism, free markets, phobia of socialism, anti-statism, etc.). Continue reading “IT ISN´T A STORM IN A TEACUP (and Part III)”

IT ISN´T A STORM IN A TEACUP (Part II)

What can we learn from the success of the Tea Party?

By Koldo Casla

  1. INTRODUCTION: A FASCINATED LOOK AT THE TEA PARTY
  2. TEA PARTY: MOBILISING STRUCTURES, POLITICAL OPPORTUNITIES AND FRAMING PROCESSES
  3. CONCLUSION: LET’S TAKE THE TEA PARTY SERIOUSLY

 

II. TEA PARTY: MOBILISING STRUCTURES, POLITICAL OPPORTUNITIES AND FRAMING PROCESSES

In order to understand the emergence and development of the Tea Party in the last three years or so one must pay attention to the conjunction and interaction of three sets of factors: mobilising structures, political opportunities and framing processes. Continue reading “IT ISN´T A STORM IN A TEACUP (Part II)”

IT ISN´T A STORM IN A TEACUP (Part I)

What can we learn from the success of the Tea Party?

By Koldo Casla

  1. INTRODUCTION: A FASCINATED LOOK AT THE TEA PARTY
  2. TEA PARTY: MOBILISING STRUCTURES, POLITICAL OPPORTUNITIES AND FRAMING PROCESSES
  3. CONCLUSION: LET’S TAKE THE TEA PARTY SERIOUSLY

 

I.      INTRODUCTION: A FASCINATED LOOK AT THE TEA PARTY

Between September 2009 and March 2011, I spent most of my time in the US. I lived there, you might say. Only five days after my arrival, I took a plane from Cedar Rapids (Iowa) to Denver (Colorado). Back then, I was reading a thick book on the democratic transition in Spain (1975-1978, approximately). The book was written in Spanish. The man sat next to me in the plane saw it, looked at me and asked: “Italian?”. I answered, he said something else and suddenly I realised I was having a chat with him. I got quite excited: He was the first American I actually met in the US. (This was my first time in the country; I had met Americans in the past, mostly in England; I also met some Americans in Iowa City, but that happened in the context of a prearranged conference, so it doesn’t count as it lacks the required spontaneity of a random conversation). Continue reading “IT ISN´T A STORM IN A TEACUP (Part I)”