On Easter Sunday in Rome Italy’s Radical Party took to the streets to highlight the case for an international moratorium on the death penalty.
The march finished in St Peter’s Square to coincide with the Pope’s Easter message to the world. Italy has become the flag-bearer among nations of this cause. Government minister, Emma Bonino said: “This initiative aims to bring about a leap forward in civility and tolerance in humankind, under the banner of the Italy.”
For veterans of the abolitionist campaign, like Marco Pannella, the time to act has come. Speaking just after the execution of Saddam Hussein he urged all Italian politicians to support him: “If we lose this extraordinary occasion for all humanity to reflect, I mean the execution of Saddam, if we lose this occasion then the Italian government isn’t capable of anything.”
Since the beginning of this year Italy has chaired the Security Council at the United Nations. Prime Minister Romano Prodi has made it clear where he stands: “It must be abolished in and by every country, and Italy will work to achieve that,” he said in January.
The European Commission and the Council of Europe held a conference on the issue in Lisbon in October. It aimed to launch a worldwide moratorium that would eventually lead to abolition. Bianca Jagger is at the forefront of the campaign: “I think we have to continue to pressure the US. We have to continue to make them understand that there can’t be a death penalty in a democracy,” she said.
In declaring the tenth of October Europe’s day against the death penalty, the EU was following the Italy’s lead. The President of the European Parliament Hans-Gert Pottering said: “Today, European and International Day against the death penalty, the European Parliament calls on all states where it is still in force to follow our example: abolish the death penalty.”