Death penalty debate rekindled in Turkey

Speculation surrounding the reintroduction of the death penalty has heightened in Turkey following comments made by head of a minor Turkish party allied with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Cumhuriyet newspaper said.

Mustafa Destici, leader of the Great Unity Party (BBP), suggested a proposal to reinstate the death penalty for offences such as murder, treason and sexual offences against children would be introduced to Turkey’s parliament in October. He also suggested a referendum could be held in which the electorate could decide on the issue. Debate about the death penalty, abolished in 2004, has been ongoing in Turkey since the attempted coup of July 2016, with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, having frequently said he would endorse any legislation that reinstates the punishment.

However implementing any such decision would be problematic according to Öztürk Türkdoğan, head of the Turkish Human Rights Association (IHD). Türkdoğan, a lawyer, pointed out that Destici’s proposal would require changing Turkey’s constitution, rather than laws and that gaining the necessary numbers of votes in Turkey’s 600 seat parliaments to do this, or even to bring the issue to a referendum, would be difficult.

He also pointed out that Turkey is a signatory to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Additional Protocol No. 2 and a member of the European Court of Human Rights, both of which prohibit the death penalty.

Any reintroduction of the death penalty, Türkdoğan said, would also be tantamount to “economic suicide”, because it would result in the official end of Turkey’s decades old-bid for European Union membership.