Tuesday, May 30, 2017
This week on Monday, a high-profile trial against more than 200 members of Turkish military started in Ankara. The defendants were arrested after the failed coup in July 2016 and charges of high treason and conspiracy to assassinate the president were brought against them. Outside the court building, people were askingfor the death penalty for those on trial. If capital punishment was to be re-instated, EU accession talks would effectively end for good for Turkey.
The death penalty was abolished in Turkey in 2005, part of the necessary reforms for Turkey to start EU membership talks. It was, in fact, Erdogan himself who abolished it. Now, twelve years later, drunk with ever increasing power, he swears to bring it back either through legislative process or by referendum. He will especially be seeking the ultimate punishment for the thousands arrested in the aftermath of the failed coup and who Erdogan believes were connected to the US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen.
The European Union member states are signatories of the European Convention on Human Rights which calls for a universal abolition of the death penalty. Western countries have long believed that capital punishment is a barbaric method, immoral and sometimes carried out on the wrong person. It would also be highly hypocritical and contradictory of democratic, civilized nations who promote life, freedom, liberty and the value of persons to carry out death sentences. Leaders in Europe have spoken out against Erdogan’s intentions, calling it “a red line” which, if crossed, would be a step too far in regards to Turkey becoming part of the EU. Most likely, Turkish nationals living in the EU will not be allowed to vote in a referendum on this matter, as Chancellor Merkel pointed out in regards to Germany.
Therefore, if and when Erdogan’s rhetoric becomes law in Turkey, he will have signed the “death sentence” on the country’s accession to the European Union. Although that is indeed one step too far, we have argued on this website that many of the things that took place in Turkey in the last year should have been reasons strong enough for the membership talks to cease. European voices have been split on the issue so far, claiming Europe and Turkey need each other and both sides stand to gain from Turkey becoming a member. We believe, however, that time and again, Turkish leadership has proven to be utterly incompatible with European values and thus, we consider continuation of the accession talks to be pointless.