The death of bin Laden was not an “execution” and does not call into question Europe’s opposition to the death penalty, the European Commission said today.
In the wake of a statement from Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso welcoming his death as a “major achievement” which ensured his crimes did not go unpunished, a spokeswoman insisted the EU’s underlying values of justice were not called into question.
“Our values relating to justice in the EU are very important values for us.”
She said the statement, issued jointly with EU Council president Herman Van Rompuy, hailed an “important defeat” for a terrorist movement responsible for many deaths across the world.
She added: “Bin Laden was responsible for many deaths and with his death one enemy has disappeared and we see that as a step towards making the world a safer place.
“This in no way questions the basic principles and values we have always supported ... this was not the execution of a death sentence, it was something completely different. We continue to be against the death penalty.”
The joint Commission statement said: “Osama bin Laden was a criminal responsible for heinous terrorist attacks that cost the lives of thousands of innocent people. His death makes the world a safer place and shows that such crimes do not remain unpunished.
“This is a major achievement in our efforts to rid the world of terrorism.
“The European Union continues to stand shoulder to shoulder with the United States, our international partners and our friends in the Muslim world in combating the scourge of global extremism and in building a world of peace, security and prosperity for all.”
Thorbjorn Jagland, secretary general of Europe’s human rights watchdog the Council of Europe, hailed the death as of huge significance.
He said: “The news of the death of Osama bin Laden is certainly an important step in the international efforts in fighting terrorism. It is of immense symbolic significance.
“However, as recent events have shown, the threat of terrorism remains acute today and the Council of Europe is dedicated to combating terrorism together with its member states.”
European Parliament president Jerzy Buzek said: “We have woken up in a more secure world.
“Although the fight of the international community against terrorists is not over, an important step has been made in the fight against al Qaida, to give security to millions of people: Christians, Muslims, all those who believe in peaceful coexistence.”