European Press Review: End of Death Penalty in Iraq? | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 18.12.2003
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European Press Review: End of Death Penalty in Iraq?

The European press on Thursday weighed in on the growing debate on the future of Saddam Hussein and French President Chirac’s proposal for a law banning conspicuous religious symbols in state schools.

Several papers on Thursday commented on the growing international debate regarding the future of captured former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

A German newspaper, the Aachener Nachrichten analyzed Bush’s arguments for the death penalty. "They are simple and at first sight seem logical: Saddam is a murderer, therefore he deserves death," the daily wrote. "But to execute the former Iraqi leader would mean to cross the border between civilization and barbarism," the paper argued. "There is no right to kill," the paper concluded. "And turning down the death penalty would mark a real change of times in Iraq, It would be the signal for a new culture of cohabitation based on right and order - and not on revenge."

British paper The Guardian commented on Bush’s "misplaced obsession" with Saddam Hussein amidst more serious threats to global security. Considering last month’s bombings in Istanbul and the most recent attempt on Pakistan leader General Pervez Musharraf’s life, evidence is piling up that the threat of terrorism and al Qaeda is steadily expanding, the paper wrote. "What is Mr. Bush doing?" the paper asked. "Abandoning his Blair-advised self-restraint over Saddam’s capture, he gleefully anticipates the execution of a man who, whatever terrible things he did, was and is irrelevant to the post 9-11 war on terror." The paper concluded on an ominous note: "Mr. Bush mistakes his duty; stopping Bin Laden would be a sight more useful. Others will not be as fortunate as Gen. Musharraf. The true, inflated price for the Iraq distraction is still to be paid."

French papers on Thursday focused on the speech by President Jacques Chirac, in which he proposed a law banning conspicuous religious symbols such as Islamic head scarves in state schools.

The conservative Le Figaro wrote, "Jacques Chirac didn’t only speak out about the Islamic head covering yesterday, but gave one of his most important speeches. His statement aimed to lay down the organization of a joint future, the future of a country which today and tomorrow must come to terms with the coexistence of many religions." The paper added that the unprecedented announcement from such a high governmental level is welcome.

Left liberal daily La Liberation however said the issue is more complex than Chirac’s speech allows. "The President stressed the fight against discrimination and equality of the sexes, but he did not say anything about the inability of the government to make progress in these areas. Neither did he say what methods he hopes to use in the fight against the effects and causes of social disintegration," the paper wrote. "This remains the great weakness of Chiracism: many words but not always meaningful actions," it concluded.