OSCE expresses grave concern over Turkish President’s statement on reintroducing the death penalty

OSCE/ODIHR Director Link, speaking at an event on anti-Roma rhetoric in election campaigns, during Human Dimension Implementation Meeting in Warsaw, 30 September 2015

WARSAW – Michael Georg Link, Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), today expressed grave concern over statements by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that the country’s government would soon introduce a bill to reinstate the death penalty, and that he would sign such a bill into law.

“President Erdoğan’s stated readiness to back the reintroduction of the death penalty in Turkey is alarming, given that most countries in the OSCE region have recognized its inherently cruel, inhuman and degrading nature and no longer impose this punishment,” Director Link said. “Rather than reversing their course, I call on the Turkish authorities to continue to advocate for the global abolition of capital punishment, as they have in the past.”

The ODIHR Director noted that Turkey introduced a moratorium on the imposition of the death penalty more than 30 years ago, in 1984, and abolished it completely in 2004. In 2006, Turkey then ratified Protocol No. 13 to the Council of Europe Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, on the abolition of the death penalty in all circumstances.

The Turkish President’s statement on reintroducing the death penalty was tied to calls for the punishment of those found guilty of taking part in the failed July 2016 coup in the country.

“While I condemn the attempt to overthrow democratically elected leaders and affirm that the Turkish authorities have a responsibility to provide for the security of all in the country, this cannot be used as the basis for bringing the death penalty back into law when all OSCE participating States have committed themselves, instead, to considering its abolishment,” Director Link said. “Further, OSCE countries have all also agreed that no circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture or other ill-treatment, or to undercut fundamental fair trial standards.”

The ODIHR Director’s statement followed reports by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch of the use of torture and ill treatment by Turkish police of individuals in their custody following an emergency decree issued on 23 July 2016, which removed crucial safeguards against torture and other ill-treatment.

“It is clear that no circumstances whatsoever may be used to justify the use of torture, and a prompt and impartial investigation of any such allegations, including the prosecution of anyone found to be responsible, is mandatory under OSCE commitments and international human rights standards,” Director Link said.