Other Questions. - Death Penalty in Turkey.

Michael Finucane


12 Mr. Finucane asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his position on the death penalty in Turkey. [25479/99]

Thomas P. Broughan


26 Mr. Broughan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the representations, if any, he has made to the Turkish authorities regarding the death sentence on the Kurdish leader, Abdullah Ocalan, whose sentence was recently upheld by the Turkish Supreme Court; the response, if any, he has received; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25496/99]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 12 and 26 together.

The Government has expressed its total opposition to the use of the death penalty on a number of occasions over the past number of years, most recently in the House on 29 September last, and in the Seanad on 17 February. The Government has stressed its commitment to avail of every suitable opportunity to press for the abolition of capital punishment. The Government's view is that the abolition of the death penalty contributes to the enhancement of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights. The EU has continued to focus on promoting the universal abolition of the death penalty. As a step in this direction, in June 1998, EU Foreign Ministers agreed guidelines stating that where the death penalty still exists, the EU will continue to press for its use to be progressively restricted and for moratoria to be introduced. In the case of Turkey, since 1984 the Justice committee of the Turkish parliament has not referred death penalty cases for a plenary parliamentary vote, and no death sentence has been carried out in Turkey in that period. There has thus been a virtual moratorium on the death penalty in Turkey in recent years. Our views were communicated directly to the then speaker of the Turkish Grand National Assembly during his visit to Dublin last March and he responded positively to my concerns. Our strong views are regularly put to the Turkish authorities, both bi-laterally and on the occasion of EU-Turkey contacts.

The decision by Turkey's appeals court, on 25 November, to uphold the death sentence against Mr. Abdullah Ocalan led to widespread international appeals, including by the European Union, to spare Mr. Ocalan's life. Ireland strongly supports the appeal to Turkey not to execute Mr. Ocalan. I will continue to follow proceedings in this case with the closest attention.

Has the Minister of State raised the Ocalan case with the Turkish Ambassador and, if so, what response did she receive? Like the Minister of State, I also raised the matter with the speaker of the Turkish parliament when he was in Dublin with his deputation. If Turkey is serious about its application for EU membership, has it given an undertaking that the death penalty will be abolished? It is not consist ent with membership of the European Union. As the EU is taking Turkey's application for membership more seriously, one could reasonably expect Turkey to take its own application more seriously. Has our ambassador in Turkey raised the matter with the authorities there? Will we be raising this matter with Turkey during our presidency of the Council of Europe?

As I outlined in my reply, this matter has been raised with the Turkish authorities on several occasions. I have not met personally with the Turkish ambassador to discuss his country's stance on the death penalty. However, the Turkish authorities have been made aware of our concerns over several years of contacts with Irish Ministers and officials. I agree that the situation does have a detrimental effect on the prospects for Turkey's candidacy for EU membership. The EU has continued to focus on promoting the universal abolition of the death penalty. It has pointed out to Turkey that the execution of Mr. Ocalan would delay its recognition as a candidate for EU accession for a very long time. Together with its EU partners, Ireland considers adherence to the Copenhagen criteria, including recognition of minorities and respect for their rights, to be an essential political qualification for EU accession. As an application has now been made by Mr. Ocalan's lawyers to the European Court of Human Rights, the matter issub judice. However, Ireland will use every opportunity provided by its chairmanship of the committee of ministers of the Council of Europe to further the total abolition of the death penalty, which is a core value and principle of the Council of Europe.

My question relates to whether or not Ireland would insist that the death penalty be abolished in Turkey before that country can seriously be considered as a member of the European Union.

I made clear in my reply that if Turkey proceeds with the execution of Mr. Ocalan it will seriously jeopardise the country's status as a candidate for EU accession. If a state retains the death penalty on its statute book, it is clearly a very significant aspect of accession to the EU.

Would the Minister of State agree with the Greek Prime Minister that establishing proper human rights norms in Turkey should not be considered as concessions? These are not negotiating positions. It is asine qua non that human rights norms should be established in any state that seeks to become a member of the European Union.

The issue of good governance and compliance with international human rights norms is one of the significant criteria which is considered in relation to the status of countries who wish to become members of the European Union. This is not unique to Turkey. Other states are anxious to join the European Union but they will have to live up to and comply with normal human rights standards in civilised states.