European fascism and death row in Georgia

The European Union doesn’t want people to forget the crimes committed by totalitarian regimes in Europe. Nor does it want the U.S. state of Georgia to execute Troy Davis. What do the two have to do with each other? Everything.

Holocaust memorial in Berlin
Holocaust memorial in Berlin, Germany

In conclusions recently adopted by the Council of the European Union, the council cited a 2009 resolution, which said “there could be no reconciliation without truth and remembrance.”

From the Stockholm Programme, the council quoted: “The Union is an area of shared values … the memory of [crimes committed by totalitarian regimes] must be a collective memory.”

Europe in the last century was ravaged by wars among nations. The European Union, in theory based upon the concepts of universal human rights and a unified economy, bears the legacy and scars from authoritarian regimes, be they fascist or communist.

“Throughout history, totalitarian regimes have resulted in violations of fundamental rights and in the complete denial of any semblance of human dignity,” an EU report from last December says.

And that’s why it’s opposing the death penalty for a Black man from Georgia.

Troy Davis was convicted of murdering a policeman in 1989, and he’s been on death row since 1991.

“The European Union reaffirms its principled and longstanding opposition to the use of capital punishment under all circumstances,” a recent EU statement said in opposing the sentence, also noting that “serious and compelling doubts regarding [Troy Davis’] culpability continue to persist.”

The EU’s opposition to the death penalty is enshrined in human rights conventions, the ratification of which was the result of many years of negotiation between nations that were formerly enemies.

In other words, Europe opposes the death penalty because it learned about the value of human life the hard way.

Europeans now consider America barbaric for continuing to allow its legal systems to pronounce human beings to death.
And older European politicians want to remind younger European generations that killing people is wrong.

That’s why it held a conference this past March, with the title: “What do Young Europeans know about Totalitarianisms?”
The effort is also intended to fight a new rise in fascism in the old country.

I remember after May Day this year, I was on a shared ride back to Bonn from Berlin, after documenting leftist demonstrations there, when I heard the news that the U.S. government had killed Osama Bin Laden.

I asked my fellow ride-sharer, a 23-year-old Berliner, what he thought about it.

After a moment of reflection, he said: “I guess it’s good that Bin Laden’s dead. But it would have been better for him to get a trial.”

So I think, even if the memory of totalitarian regimes in Europe fades, their legacy could live on, in the form of values, passed on.


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