Good Reads: World reacts to Troy Davis execution with vigils, debates

The hope expressed at late-night vigils from Paris to Hong Kong turned to revulsion as the US state of Georgia carried out its execution of Troy Davis.

ZUMA Press/Newscom
A demonstration at the Place de La Concorde in Paris, France on Sept. 21 for Troy Davis, who was executed in the United States Wednesday in a case that has brought strong international opposition. The Paris square was the site of beheadings during the French Revolution.

Events in the United States seem to be dominating global headlines, between the execution of Troy Davis and world leaders in New York debating whether to support a Palestinian statehood bid at the UN.

Debates filled the world’s editorial pages over whether the death penalty is effective at deterring crime, administered fairly, used more often against blacks than whites, and whether it is morally sound in a nation that champions human rights on a global stage. Symbolic protests were held from Hong Kong to the Place de la Concorde in Paris.

But in the end, Troy Davis – who was convicted in the shooting death of a Georgia cop, Mark MacPhail – was put to death by lethal injection. The BBC was one of the few news organizations that mentioned in its Troy Davis coverage that another man, Lawrence Russell Brewer, an admitted white racist, was also executed last night – in the state of Texas – for the 1998 dragging death of James Byrd Jr., a black man.

The death penalty may still enjoy support in the US, but much of the world’s media reflected global revulsion for the US’s justice system. In Britain’s left-leaning newspaper, the Guardian, Ed Pilkington writes that the debate over the death penalty “will continue long after the gurney has been put away.”

In the final gruesome hours of waiting, the American judicial system at its very highest echelons was involved – including the US supreme court, which issued the decisive final ruling. The decision to press ahead with the death sentence despite serious doubts over Davis's guilt drew accusations that this was the system at its most grotesque.

The Daily Telegraph, a more conservative British newspaper, gathered up comments from around the world on both sides of the issue. Supporters of the death penalty argued that justice was served, and that Davis enjoyed plenty of chances to exonerate himself. Others expressed horror, noting that several witnesses had recanted their testimony.

This quote stood out.

"Americans seem to be more disgusted with death-row in Saudi Arabia and Iran than they are in our own country. If you murder one person, you get sentenced to jail or death. If you murder millions, it's "mission accomplished" #landofthefree"
Palestinan blogger

Interestingly, though, many of the papers with the strongest headlines on Troy Davis didn’t have reporters on the scene, but instead used the Associated Press, Reuters, or other wire services to cover the execution and the death penalty debate. Just an observation...

Meanwhile, in New York, the speeches of President Barack Obama and his French counterpart Nicholas Sarkozy at the UN General Assembly meeting refocused the debate on the Palestinian bid for full membership as a sovereign nation-state. Few newspapers expressed optimism that the bid would get past the UN Security Council, where the US has vowed to block it, but there is a possibility that the General Assembly could hold a vote to allow the Palestinian Authority to upgrade to nonvoting observer state – a status currently held only by the Vatican.

The New York TimesHelene Cooper covered President Obama’s attempt at diplomatic persuasion, urging the Palestinians to eschew unilateral symbolic moves and to return to the negotiation table with Israel – an effort McClatchy newspaper's Lesley Clark and Jonathan Landay reported as having failed. Meanwhile, on the West Bank, the Guardian’s Phoebe Greenwood Harriet Sherwood in Nablus met with the Palestinian people themselves in Ramallah and Nablus, finding a range of opinions, from resignation to anger.

"This is the beginning of the third intifada," activist Ashraf Abu Rahma said, taking cover from a blast of teargas. "Everyone says they want peace but it is not possible. There will be more violence. I brought several young boys with me today to fight."

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