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EU in call to US on death penalty

The European Union is to renew its call on the United States to abandon the "cruel and inhumane" practice of capital punishment.

Speaking in Washington, high-ranking officials from the EU will challenge all countries - including America - still employing the death penalty to fall in line with the rest of the world.

John Bruton, former Irish Taoiseach and current head of the EU delegation to the United States, will state that the use of capital punishment represents an "unacceptable denial of human dignity".

Renewing the EU's opposition, Mr Bruton will say that the European block "considers capital punishment to be cruel and inhumane" adding that "it also fails to deter criminal behaviour and represents an unacceptable denial of human dignity and integrity".

The former Taoiseach will add: "Miscarriages of justice are inevitable in any legal system - and any miscarriage of justice that results in the death penalty is irreversible."

He will be joined at the briefing by Jonas Hafstrom, the Swedish ambassador to the US. Sweden currently holds the EU presidency.

Mr Hafstrom will note: "The death penalty is being progressively abolished worldwide, and at an accelerating pace. 139 countries have now abolished the death penalty in practice or in law, and although 58 countries still retain it, the number of countries where executions are actually carried out is much smaller.

"Last year 93% of all known executions took place in just five countries - China, Iran, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the US."

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