Hungarian PM censured over death-penalty move

by
22 May 2015

by Gavin Drake in Strasbourg

AP

Long day: Viktor Orbá​n during the debate on his country, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, on Tuesday 

Long day: Viktor Orbá​n during the debate on his country, at the European Parliament in Strasbourg, on Tuesday 

THE Prime Minister of Hungary, Viktor Orbán, has faced criticism by MEPs and the European Commission over his moves to reintroduce the death penalty in the former Soviet-bloc country.

At a debate at the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Tuesday evening, the Commission's first vice-president, Frans Timmermans, reminded MEPs that the death penalty is outlawed under the European Convention on Human Rights, and also under EU law. The right to life is one of the "fundamental values and principles of the European Union", he said.

The Commission "would not hesitate" to impose a "sanctions mechanism" if Hungary moved to reinstate the death penalty.

Mr Orbán said that members of the EU had the right to seek changes to the EU's statement of fundamental rights, which were written by man, and were not commandments from God.

The President of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, said that "there are no commandments in the EU rules. But there are other commandments, including 'Thou shalt not kill.'"

At a press conference at the end of the debate, Mr Orbán described the European Parliament's criticism of Hungary as being "like a ritual". He said: "A religious ritual has a purpose, but questioning democracy in Hungary for the 16th time serves no purpose."

Hungary was a Christian country, Mr Orbán said, and the reintroduction of the death penalty was not about punishment, but about saving lives. "The question is whether it is a good instinct to save the lives that still exist; to save the lives of the innocent, who do not want to become the victims of the killers."

He said that he expected a "ten-year dialogue" with EU institutions before Hungary could reintroduce the death penalty.

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