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Turkey: Erdogan’s crackdown after the failed coup. The EU draws a line: “no” to death penalty

Brussels and Washington are concerned over Ankara’s government harsh reaction to the attempted coup. It is necessary to balance political stability with the respect of democracy and human rights. The possibility of reinstating death penalty came as a shock to international institutions, beyond realpolitik. The defence of human life is an “inviolable boundary”

“We expect the arrest of one thousand Pikachu.” Social networks can be decisive when it comes to ensuring that people take the streets, as Erdogan did on Friday night, to foil a “coup d’état” (quote unquote). But they can be equally explicit in denouncing – tongue-in-cheek – the excesses of a “democratic power” (again, quote – unquote) when, after the failed coup, he exerted a crackdown on his ascertained or alleged opponents. Thus Pokémon Go, the fashion frenzy of this Summer 2016 marked by increasingly disturbing news, became a tool to report the excesses of the government in Ankara. The attempted “putsch” is yesterday’s news, with hundreds dead and thousands wounded, while arrests and purges in Turkey escalate and thousands of soldiers, policemen, judges, prefects are taken into custody. It is feared there will be further restraints on freedom of information and civil rights, while the reinstatement of the death penalty hovers over the horizon. And now – finally – the EU drew a line: “Turkey can’t join with the death penalty.”

Stop to negotiations. Since the first hours of Saturday July 16, when it became clear that the military insurgence against President Tayyip Erdogan was doomed to failure, the government launched its retaliation with arrests and acts of violence. Europe breathed a sigh of relief, for the established order and the elected president were back in power. But it became equally clear that the safeguard of stability in the Euro-Asian country had entailed a hard blow to democracy and Rule of Law.

Albeit in diplomatic tones, with appeals to the respect of fundamental human rights, Washington, Brussels (EU and NATO), Strasbourg (Council of Europe), German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Italian government, along with many more European political leaders, have all conveyed their concerns.

But the present stand is stronger and more straightforward: the possibility of reintroducing death penalty – which as stipulated by law, should be discussed and voted by Ankara’s parliament, signed by President Erdogan and implemented by the government – would bar the way to the “common home” and freeze negotiations for Turkey’s EU adhesion.

“The law shall prevail.” This is what has been said. In fact, as reiterated umpteenth times, the EU needs Turkey to combat ISIS in the Middle East and to curb the flow of migrants headed towards the Old Continent. However, it should be noted that the Council of Foreign Ministers of EU 28, held in Brussels on July 18th, released a clear statement: parliament, government, and the president elected through democratic elections, must remain in their place, in the full respect of democracy and of the rights of all citizens. High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, and Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy Johannes Hahn, jointly declared:

We underline the need for a swift return to Turkey’s constitutional order with its checks and balances and stress the importance for the rule of law and fundamental freedoms to prevail.”

These words reflect those of the most authoritative political leader in today’s Europe: chancellor Angela Merkel, who said she “vehemently opposes” the reinstatement of capital punishment. Merkel added that “the wave of arrests and dismissals” of police officers and soldiers, judges and civil servants in Turkey “are a matter for grave concern.” Berlin and the EU made it clear that such “arbitrary” violence and arrests, nor the “retaliation”, will not be tolerated. Strong statements are accompanied by more conciliatory words, identifying Turkey as a fundamental partner of the EU.

No to capital punishment. Explicit words of condemnation were voiced also Pedro Agramunt, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. He is neither a State leader nor an absolute protagonist of the international political scene. Rather, owing to his position, he can afford to release statements that are not necessarily conditioned by excessive political correctedness dictated by questions of realpolitik. Agramunt thus condemned the attempt to subvert the constitutional order in Turkey. He deplored the loss of human life (with no distinctions, for all human lives deserve protection.)

He invoked compliance with human rights standards “in all circumstances”

enshrined in the Convention of the Court of Strasbourg, adopted within the context of the Council of Europe. He equally denounced the arrest of magistrates and senior civil servants whose responsibilities in the coup have not yet been ascertained. Finally, he voiced his concerns over the “announced debate” in Ankara’s parliament on the reinstatement of capital punishment.

Insurmountable limit. Given the recent developments in Ankara and Istanbul, Erdogan’s increasing power ensuing a pseudo-coup (considering its dimension and the extent of its armaments, if the Turkish army imposed a coup in all likelihood it would succeed) along with concerns over the already precarious situation of the Middle East, the EU placed at least one insurmountable limit through a firm and decisive “no” to death penalty. It is a lot from the point of view of politics, but – we must be clear – it’s not all.




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