NPWJ convenes a roundtable discussion on freedom of scientific research in Europe

6 Jun, 2012 | Press Releases

Brussels, 6 June 2012
On Wednesday 6 June 2012, No Peace Without Justice welcomed in its Brussels office Mina Welby, President of the Associazione Luca Coscioni and Marco Cappato, member of the Italian Radical Party, treasurer of the Associazione Luca Conscioni and former member of European Parliament. Both Mr Cappato and Ms Welby joined us as speakers for this month’s Brown Bag Lunch seminar series. The series consists of monthly lectures and seminars by prominent speakers and experts in a subject within the sphere of NPWJ’s activities.

Marco Cappato was the representative of the Transnational Radical Party to the United Nations in New York in 1997 and 1998, where he became particularly involved in the campaign for the establishment of the International Criminal Court. In 1999 he was elected to European Parliament, where he served until 2004 and then again from 2006 to 2009, representing the Lista Bonino. Due to his efforts in countering the generalized control proposals in electronic communications, he was named European of the Year by the weekly newspaper European Voice. He was also awarded the Politician of the Year award by the magazine Wired for his campaigning against European monitoring laws. In 2004, he was elected Secretary of the Associazione Luca Conscioni.

Mina Welby was Co-President of the Associazione Luca Coscioni with her husband Piergiorgio Welby until his death in 2006, after which she has continued as President. The organisation and Mina Welby personally have played a leading role in the legal and political battle in favour of euthanasia and the principle of Living Will, as well as the campaign promoting stem cell research. Mina Welby is in Brussels to present her book, “L’ultimo gesto d’amore”, and the activities of the Associazione Luca Coscioni.

Hon. Cappato began the talk by introducing the issues of whether European Union funds can be used for stem cell research, and the difficulties in creating legislation supporting assisted suicide and euthanasia. Mina Welby then outlined the efforts her organisation has undergone over the years to rally support for such legislation. Discussion followed concerning the different difficulties faced by legislative and judicial campaigns, and which realm of law is more likely to yield positive development on these issues. Due to variable political environments and piecemeal success within different EU states, the goal of the Associazione’s efforts is a European legislative endeavour to build on the European Convention and generate laws which are binding on all member states. Marco Cappato pointed out that an important consideration is the mobility of persons seeking assisted suicide and the great expense faced in travelling to different countries for that purpose; another barrier is the extreme legal consequences often faced by those supporting the individual seeking assisted suicide. Mina Welby then posited that the concept of natural death no longer truly exists, and frequently neither does natural conception; the most important issue is accepting the consciousness and will of others. The participants in the round table then briefly discussed how these issues interact with various religious doctrines.

The round table then discussed the role of NGOs in promoting these civil rights issues. Marco Cappato argued that nonviolent tools are the most useful for promoting civil, political and human rights. The table then considered funding strategies for such campaigns and maximizing access to justice, as well as the politics of developing ethical strategies for decision-makers in euthanasia and assisted suicide cases.

This seminar, which took the form of an interactive discussion, generated a great deal of fruitful debate among NPWJ staff under the expert guidance of our guests. The NPWJ Brussels office extends its thanks to Marco Cappato and Mina Welby for their time and meaningful contributions to the continuing professional development of our staff.