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The European Union criticizes the US

Daily Oklahoman, Feb. 13, 1999

The 15-nation European Union criticized the United States on Thursday for last week's execution of Oklahoma death row inmate Sean Sellers.
The union regularly denounces human rights violations around the world.
It considers the death penalty a human rights violation but does not usually comment on individual executions in the United States.
It made an exception in Sellers' case because he was 16 when he killed his mother, stepfather and a convenience store clerk. Its statement said the execution was extra shocking since "the United States has not executed a prisoner for a crime committed (at age 16) since 1959."

The statement was issued by Germany, which holds the union's presidency.
A dozen European nations due to join the union in the years ahead endorsed it.
The union said the United States signed an international treaty that forbids executing anyone for crimes committed when they were younger than 18.

With its declaration, the union sided with Amnesty International, which has said Sellers' execution was "a further sign of (America's) selective contempt for the international human-rights standards it so often claims to support."

The United States has exempted itself from the age provision, which the union stated "enshrines the minimum rules for the protection of the right to life... The U.S. reservation is incompatible with the object and the purpose of the (rights) convention and should be withdrawn."

Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson said Thursday he agreed that the death penalty is too important to be imposed without considerable debate. But he said the European Union formed its collective opinion based on its perspective.
"I do know that we probably have more homicides in one year in Muskogee than they do in Germany. It's just a different situation.
"I respect their views, but they aren't going to change mine," Edmondson said.
Before Sellers, the last person to die for crimes committed at age 16 was Leonard M. Shockley, executed in Maryland in 1959.
Sellers, 29, was executed early Feb. 4 for the shooting deaths in 1985 and 1986.

The execution put Oklahoma's Catholic governor, Frank Keating, in conflict with Pope John Paul II.
Oklahoma City's Catholic archbishop, Eusebius J. Beltran, urged Keating in a Jan. 23 letter to commute Sellers' sentence.
Keating later said the pope was wrong to speak for all Catholics against the death penalty, prompting Beltran to write a letter criticizing Keating's stance. The letter was read aloud Sunday in many local Catholic churches, including Keating's.
Keating said he skipped the Mass because "I thought it was better for all of us to count to five. I'll be back in church next Sunday."