2012-11-22

Death penalty remarks find little support

Observers see statements on restoring capital punishment as a political move by Turkey's leadership and not a serious effort to impose executions.

By Fréderike Geerdink for SES Türkiye in Diyarbakir -- 21/11/12

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When Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a public debate on reinstating the death penalty recently, few people took it as a sign he plans to bring the practice back.

  • Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a public debate on whether or not the death penalty should be reinstated. [AFP]

    Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for a public debate on whether or not the death penalty should be reinstated. [AFP]

But his statements have caused a pitched debate, prompting some commentators to warn that his remarks could harm democracy and efforts to complete EU integration, regardless of his intentions.

"Such remarks are harmful, of course," veteran journalist and political commentator Mehmet Ali Birand told SES Türkiye. "It is fueling the public opinion about the death penalty. People will say: 'See, even the prime minister says we should have the death penalty back.' This is uncalled for, and wrong."

In a November 12th speech, Erdogan said "in the face of deaths, murders, if necessary the death penalty should be brought back to the table [for discussion]," according to media reports.

His remarks came as Turkey's public debate was focused on the Kurdish prisoners' hunger strike, which has since stopped. The strikers were demanding an end to the isolation of imprisoned PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan and free use of Kurdish in the education and courts systems.

The timing of the comments gave analysts reason to believe they were connected to the hunger strikes and Ocalan, who has been serving a life sentence since the death penalty in peacetime was abolished in 2002.

Birand said Erdogan was only "flirting with ultra-nationalists" when he made his remarks.

"He gave them what they wanted to hear, but he knows it's impossible to bring the death penalty back, so he also didn't insist," Birand said. "Of course [Erdogan] was also distracting the attention away from the hunger strike in prisons."

Birand added that it would be legally impossible to execute Ocalan even if the death penalty were reinstated, and that Turkey abolished the practice out of concern for what would happen if the PKK leader were put to death in the first place.

"The [death penalty wasn't abolished] because of the European Union, as people may think. It was out of fear for our security," Birand said. "The Kurds were going to really shed blood if Ocalan [were] brought to death. There would be a leadership war within the PKK, which would cause even more blood. It would have led to a catastrophe."

Amidst the discussion that followed the prime minister's comments, a spokesman for EU Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule indicated that bringing back capital punishment would harm Turkey's EU prospects.

"Global abolition of the death penalty was one of the main objectives of the EU's human rights policy," he told reporters. "Therefore, when the [EU] monitors compliance by candidate and potential candidate countries with the political criteria, it looks at the legal provisions on the death penalty."

AKP ministers, meanwhile, moved to downplay the controversy.

Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin, for example, was quoted on the party's website as saying "there's currently no effort at our ministry to [bring back capital punishment.]" Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutloglu also reaffirmed Turkey's commitment to EU membership.

On separate occasions, Erdogan voiced for support for the country's death penalty ban, both before and after it was implemented.

Pinar Ilkiz, a spokeswoman for Amnesty International's branch in Turkey, told SES Türkiye the human rights organisation does not anticipate the government will take steps to reinstate the death penalty.

"Since the government hasn't prepared anything, we['ll] leave it at this," she said.

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  • Anonymous about 2 years

    Everyone can get away with what they do in Turkey.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    Mr. Tayyip, death penalty is unnecessary.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    Prime Minister should stop talking nonsense and start taking concrete steps. There is no other way to stop this pain. One should either seem as one is or be as one seems.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    Hello. What death are you talking about? The guy is an imam and he does not open the mosque on Sunday morning. Last Friday, he showed up only for the Friday prayer and he was absent at other times. Do I need to say more? If you’ll publish, I can tell you about further cases. There are similar cases even in the district center.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    Prime Minister is making up false agenda. Death sentence may not come back during the term of this government.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    While there are many issues in Turkey, deputies are busy with cockfighting. Ask the retired people whether they are hungry and how they make ends meet. You can’t ask these, it does not suit your book. Come on and give people a good pension if you can.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    I think there should be death penalty because it would discourage coups, terrorism, theft, rape, etc. Death penalty is required for the well being of a country.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    This country always makes concessions in the name of democracy, but nobody appreciates that. The children of this country give their lives for nothing in the East and Southeast. May god help them. Because people in that region are normal citizens by day and terrorists by night. There is no other country like this.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    Our killing each other only plays into the hands of our enemies. There is enough room for both Kurds and Turks in this country as long as we respect each other.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    I guess those racist people, who speak about Islam, do not hear what they are saying. They are probably keeping the memories of the past fresh in their minds too much. If you are there, wake up, it is almost 2013 and you are no longer relevant. Think positively, see positively.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    The penalty for treason is death. If you forgive and imprison a traitor, then his supporters would call it “isolation” and demand house arrest and even release. I am afraid some day he would even become a member of the parliament. I wouldn’t be surprised if that happens. Some day we may even see the name “Turk” disappear altogether. Then we may raise our voice, but it would be too late.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    Death penalty is necessary for traitors.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    Nobody would give up their ideas even if death penalty was brought back.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    Turkey is heading towards hunger and misery, but nobody cares. But of course, it is normal that they do not care because it is not them who are trying to make a living on minimum wage. Take a look at your people instead of talking about death penalty and other things. Try to understand how they struggle to live on minimum wage. Enough!

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    Guys, death penalty and severe punishments are required. Those, who are fed by infidels, would work for them. Shall we not execute traitors, who live off of this country, but shoot our soldiers? Shall we let them get 15-20 thousand lira and get away with what they did? Punishments must be deterrent. Rich people can be discouraged with physical punishment while the poor can be deterred by cash fines. They burn their schools in the name of seeking their rights. Well, why don’t they burn their houses instead? Such people deserve a punishment. And also let’s ask Turkish anchorman Mehmet Ali Birand which country’s spy he is.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    My god help all my Muslim brothers and give them the best. We can overcome all these things with god’s permission.

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    If death sentence is necessary, then the ones, who sent people to Israel and caused them to die, should be executed first. This would wipe off the ones, who want to change the law, and the problem would be solved.

Name: Anonymous - Have your comments posted immediately!


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