Rights groups and legal experts said Wednesday that Turkey would be abandoning international rights conventions, and reverting to relics of military dictatorships if it reinstates the death penalty, which was abolished more than a decade ago.
Since the failed coup, hundreds of protesters have chanted in support of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and demanded the restoration of the death penalty.
Erdogan hasn’t pushed back against those demands, saying reinstating it is a constitutional procedure that the parliament has to discuss. If the parliament approves it, he said, he would back it.
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“You cannot put aside the people’s demands,” Erdogan told hundreds of supporters late Monday at a rally outside his Istanbul home.
But European leaders say talks on Turkey’s bid to join the EU would end if Ankara restores the death penalty. Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004, as part of its bid to join the bloc.
Andrew Gardner, Amnesty researcher in Turkey, said it’s ironic that the country has been among the main campaigners in the United Nations for countries to abolish capital punishment. The last execution carried out in Turkey was in 1984, following the last military coup in 1980.
“The death penalty is a relic of military dictatorship in Turkey,” Gardner said. “By bringing back the death penalty, Turkey would be disregarding its international commitments, massively complicating their international relations.”
A Turkish criminal lawyer said that even if capital punishment was reintroduced in Turkey, it couldn’t be legally applied to any of the alleged perpetrators of the coup because it would be violating international rights principles. The reinstating of the death penalty would require an amendment to the constitution or a public referendum.
A crime can’t be punished retroactively with an amended law, said Vildan Yirmibesoglu, a criminal and human rights lawyer.
“The suspect is tried with the existing law (at the time of the crime.) It is not possible to apply a law that has been enacted retroactively to a crime that has been committed in the past.”