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European Union: Humanitarian Appeal Against Death Penalty

(Feb. 23, 2009) On February 2, 2009, the Czech Presidency of the European Union, together with Sweden, which will assume the Presidency in June 2009, and the European Commission, appealed in writing to the Governor of Virginia to review the case of Edward Nathaniel Bell, a Jamaican national, who is scheduled to be executed on February 19, 2009, and to order relief from the death penalty.

The letter, which openly expresses the strong opposition of the EU to the death penalty under all circumstances, raises the following arguments against its imposition:

a) the United Nations General Assembly resolution of December 18, 2007, urged all nations to institute a moratorium on executions and to eventually abolish the death penalty;

b) the U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of Atkins v. Virginia, which also involves an inmate in a Virginia prison, banned the execution of individuals with mental retardation;

c) the death penalty should not be imposed against Bell, who, based on the evidence, suffers from mild mental retardation; and

d) imposition of the death penalty on individuals with mental disabilities violates minimum standards of human rights as established in international instruments.

Finally, the letter states that the Virginian authorities failed to notify Bell of his right to contact the Jamaican Consulate for legal assistance at the time of his arrest, as required by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. This obligation of the United States was upheld by the International Court of Justice in its 2004 judgment in Avena and Other Mexican Nationals v. United States. (Letter from Peter Kolá"5;, Ambassador of the Czech Republic to the United States, Jonas Hafström, Ambassador of Sweden to the United States, and John Bruton, Ambassador for the Delegation of the European Commission to the United States, to Governor Timothy M. Kaine of Virginia (Feb. 2, 2009), available at