Wed, Jul 21, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Nobel Prize winners urge an end to US death penalty

AFP , Washington

The EU, former US president Jimmy Carter and the ex president of the former Soviet Union Mikhail Gorbachev called on the US Supreme Court on Monday to end the death penalty for offenders younger than 18 at the time of their crimes.

"The execution of persons below 18 years of age at the time of their offenses violates widely accepted human rights norms and the minimum standards of human rights set forth by the United Nations," the EU and the former political leaders asserted in a legal submission to the court.

The brief was also supported by Canada and Mexico.

The US' highest court is examining the legality of executions of offenders aged under 18 at the time of their crimes and is expected to issue a ruling in the autumn.

The member countries of the EU declared themselves "opposed to the death penalty in all cases," and suggested the US position on the execution of juvenile offenders "is out of step with the international community."

Carter, Gorbachev and 16 other Nobel peace price winners supported the brief to the court which was also backed by US medical groups and American diplomats.

The court is reviewing the case of Chris Simmons, condemned to death for throwing a woman off a bridge over the Meramec river in Missouri after tying her up with electrical wire and robbing her apartment in September 1993.

Simmons was 17 when he threw the woman from the bridge. Missouri's highest state court commuted his sentence to life imprisonment in August 2001, judging his death sentence unconstitutional.

The execution of juvenile killers is permitted in 19 US states, but actual executions remain rare.

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