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Turkey - Human Rights Council - Death Penalty - July 2019

Date: July 1, 2019
Country: Turkey
Type: Intl Mechanism Submission
Issues: Death Penalty, Expression and Opinion, Human Rights Defenders, International Advocacy
Mechanism: Universal Periodic Review
Report Type: Stakeholder Report
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The Advocates for Human Rights submitted a stakeholder report on the death penalty in Turkey to the 35th Session of the Working Group for the Universal Periodic Review.

Although Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004, resent discourse suggests that the government is in favor of reestablishing the death penalty as a counter-terrorism mechanism. President Erdogan publicly supported reinstating the death penalty following calls to execute rebel soldiers involved in the failed 2016 coup attempt. Human rights defenders worry that this measure sets a precedent for using capital punishment to silence political opposition. Moreover, Turkey recently amended its Anti-terrorism law to classify certain propaganda as a terrorist act. The simultaneous expansion of the Anti-terrorism law to cover forms of expression as well as the reinstatement of the death penalty render human rights defenders, journalists, Kurdish ethnic minorities, and other opposition figures particularly vulnerable to human rights violations.

Turkey ratified the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as Protocol 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights, in March 2006. Both agreements directly prohibit the death penalty in all circumstances, putting Turkey in direct violation of international law should the death penalty be reinstated. The death penalty would also likely increase ethnic discrimination and restrictions on freedom of expression, violating Article 6 of the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights.

This stakeholder submission suggests several recommendations for Turkey, including:

  • Respect its obligations under the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and cease all statements suggestion that Turkish authorities are considering reinstating the death penalty.
  • Ensure that all lawmakers are familiar with the text of the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the fact that the Protocol does not authorize a State Party to withdraw from the Protocol.
  • Amend provisions in the Penal Code relevant to counter-terrorism to ensure that they exclude from the definition of terrorists and terrorism any speech or other expression that amounts to opposition to or criticism of the Turkish authorities.