Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey should consider lifting its ban on capital punishment, a move that may deal a further blow to its stalled European Union membership bid.
“In the face of killings, if needed the death penalty should be brought back to the table,” Erdogan said on his Twitter account today. “We do not think the state is entitled to forgive a killer. This authority belongs to the family of the victim and it can’t belong to us.”
Turkey lifted the death penalty in 2002 to meet EU conditions before Erdogan’s party came to power. In recent years Turkey’s bid to join the bloc has stalled amid opposition from EU members including France and Germany.
“The EU is crystal clear: abolition of the death penalty is a condition for accession to the EU,” Marietje Schaake, a Dutch member of European Parliament, said by e-mail. She said Erdogan’s comment was “a direct indication that he is willing to abandon this objective.”
Erdogan’s proposal follows an escalation in attacks by the autonomy-seeking Kurdistan Workers’ Party or PKK on Turkish soldiers in the country’s largely Kurdish southeast. Seventeen Turkish soldiers were killed in a helicopter crash in the region on Nov. 10.
Erdogan recently told members of his Justice and Development Party that there were growing calls from the public to restore the death penalty. He said today that the death penalty is still on the statute books in the U.S., Russia, China and Japan.
“Most of them are members of the UN Security Council,” Erdogan said on Twitter. “In that case, we should reconsider our position.”
Turkey lifted the death penalty amid intense debate over whether to send imprisoned PKK chief Abdullah Ocalan to the gallows. Dozens of people were on death row when the measure was passed. Turkey has not executed anyone since 1984, although courts were routinely imposing death sentences until 2002.
Schaake said the EU has already voiced concerns about aspects of the rule of law in Turkey.
“Fair trial, due process and the independence of the judiciary have all been explicitly mentioned as areas where serious reforms are needed,” she said. “In general, but especially in a country where improvements in the rule of law are urgent, the death penalty should never be reintroduced.”