In my most recent post, I made reference to the idea that the EU now allows the death penalty in cases of “rebellion”.
There was some question about the accuracy of this assertion, so I did some quick research to trace the story back to its source, which is the European Convention on Human Rights.
The word used is “insurrection”, not “rebellion”, and the text of the document does not explicitly state that the death penalty is allowed in cases involving insurrection.
Here’s what Section I, Article 2 of the ECHR actually says:
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|Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law. No one shall be deprived of his life intentionally save in the execution of a sentence of a court following his conviction of a crime for which this penalty is provided by law.
|Deprivation of life shall not be regarded as inflicted in contravention of this article when it results from the use of force which is no more than absolutely necessary:
|in defence of any person from unlawful violence;
|in order to effect a lawful arrest or to prevent escape of a person unlawfully detained;
|in action lawfully taken for the purpose of quelling a riot or insurrection.
Some legal scholars are of the opinion that this last clause does not open the door to applying a death sentence in the case of insurrection, and that the bloggers and journalists who say it does are being hysterical. A cautious reading of the text supports the idea that 2(c) simply absolves the police or military personnel from blame if they are required by circumstances to shoot and kill rioters during an insurrection.
On the other hand, there does seem to be some wiggle room in this clause. The American tradition of skepticism assumes that governments will tend to act tyrannically unless specifically prevented from doing so, and a tyrant might well find ample flexibility in the ECHR that would allow him to bend it to his will.
Imagine the following statement, made by a future EU President whose powers have been greatly enhanced by the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty:
“I used no more force than was absolutely necessary against those rioters in Copenhagen who violently objected to the imprisonment of Kurt Westergaard for racist and xenophobic incitement.
“The EU police, acting lawfully under my instructions, were required to execute the leaders of the Vesterbro mob in order to quell an insurrection against the rightful authority of the European Union.
“This government will brook no acts of rebellion in any of the regions of Europe.”