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Spain and Belgium Abolish the Death Penalty

As the U.S. increases the number of people it murders each year the trend in favor of state-sanctioned murder is ebbing elsewhere. Fifty-five countries around the world have abolished the death penalty for all crimes, fifteen others have abolished it for social crimes such as murder and thirty other countries are de facto abolitionist in that they do not carry out executions. On November 17, 1995, Spain announced it had abolished the death penalty in the Military Penal Code in a vote by the Spanish Senate. The death penalty for common crimes was abolished in Spain in 1978. The last executions carried out in Spain were revolutionaries killed in 1975 under the Franco dictatorship.

A week before, on November 10, 1995, the Belgian government approved a bill which would eliminate the death penalty for all crimes, in war as well as peacetime. The death penalty will be replaced by a life sentence and the life sentence by a jail sentence of 20 to 30 years. The last person executed in Belgium was shot by a firing squad in 1950 for war crimes. Belgium was the last West European country to retain the death penalty, which violates the European Human Rights Convention that bans the death penalty in all circumstances. The Belgian parliament is expected to approve the law.

It is worth noting that while Spain has not officially executed anyone since 1975 the Spanish government currently finds itself enmeshed in a widening scandal and cover up about the fact that the government used death squads to hunt down and kill Basque freedom fighters in the early to mid 1980s. At least 27 people were murdered by the government death squads, including 8 who were the wrong targets, i.e., not involved in the Basque independence struggle. Just because a country does not officially have the death penalty does not mean it doesn't murder its political dissidents and criminals.

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