ISLAMABAD - European Union’s ambassador-designate to Pakistan Jean-Francois Cautain Monday said that the 28-member western alliance cannot push Pakistan for immediate abolition of capital punishment because of its special circumstances and engagement in fighting terrorism.

However, he made it clear that European Union (EU) does not believe that the death penalty is the answer and sought a broader debate in the government, in the parliament and in all segments of Pakistani society he hoped would eventually result in the abolition of the capital punishment in the Islamic Republic.

In his inaugural and concluding remarks at the panel discussion on capital punishment in Pakistan, Jean-Francois also emphasised the need for exemption to juveniles or mentally disabled people from execution. Among the panellists were Chairman of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan I.A. Rehman, Sarah Bilal Advocate and Javaid Siddique, Resident Editor of Nawa-e-Waqt.

Kicking off the discussion, Ambassador Jean-Francois Cautain sought to discuss two main points to broaden the debate and engage the wider population in Pakistan as the arguments for or against the death penalty were mostly owned by politicians, opinion makers and NGOs.

Secondly, how to ensure basic legal guarantees in death penalty while working towards its possible abolition irrespective of one’s views for or against it as EU as matter of policy encourages all its partners across the globe to abolish the death penalty that also applies to the United States, China, Pakistan and others.

Capital punishment, he said, was not abolished in the European Union overnight as it was after a long process with much debate. “We know that this debate is taking place in Pakistan as well. We understand that in Pakistan - with tens of thousands of victims that terrorism has caused over the years – there is a strong popular call for retribution,” the ambassador said in his opening remarks.

He pointed out that since death penalty is a form of violence carried out by the state against its citizens, thus the European Union, he said, had four key reasons for opposition to death penalty.

First, as a moral principle, EU rejects the death penalty as inappropriate violence carried by the state, because it believes it is cruel and inhuman form of punishment to which no human being should be subjected, regardless of their offense.

Second, the European Union does not believe that death penalty can act as deterrence against crime or terrorism. In fact studies have shown that there is no correlation whatsoever between the death penalty and crimes rates. He said many believed that violence triggers more violence and the use of death penalty may contribute to a more brutal and violent society. Third, miscarriage of justice, which is bound to happen in the judicial system, will become irreversible if the person is executed. He was of the view that there are many examples from around the world of people who have been executed only later to be proven innocent.

And finally, application of the death penalty is always socially biased against the poor. If one is rich he can afford a good lawyer or in some countries pays blood money and escapes the capital punishment.

The ambassador concluded that terrorism in Europe was fought through political rather than military means.