Germany Could Block Turkey’s Death Penalty Referendum in Consulates


Turkish citizens hold Erdogan’s portrait after failed coup attempt in 2016 (photo by Mstyslav Chernov via Wikimedia Commons)

The German government is considering legal actions to block a referendum to reinstate the death penalty in Turkey.

Shortly after declaring victory in a referendum held on April 16 designed to expand presidential powers, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told crowds of flag-waving supporters that Turkey could hold another referendum on reinstating the death penalty. Erdogan had pledged to take such step in the run-up to the vote. “I believe, God willing, that after the 16 April vote, parliament will do the necessary concerning your demands for capital punishment,” he had stated in a televised rally.

According to German media reports, Berlin is now considering legal ways to prevent the referendum from being held on German soil.

A report from the Research Services of the German parliament quoted in German media states that the German government has legal powers to block a referendum that contravenes constitutional and human rights standards. Furthermore, a referendum held by a foreign government on German soil requires the consent of the German authorities.

There are in Germany around 1,4 million Turkish people eligible to vote. In April nearly 700,000 German Turks voted in polling stations set up by the German authorities as well as in Turkey’s 13 consulates in the country. In Germany Erdogan’s proposed reforms won by a 63% margin, while in Turkey itself only slightly more than 51% endorsed them.

Gunther Krichbaum, a lawmaker from the ruling Christian Democratic Party, told the Saarbrücker Zeitung that the German government could not enter Turkish consulates to stop the vote, but it should do “everything possible to make it more difficult.” He stated that the death penalty is an “inhumane form of punishment” which “contradicts the fundamental human rights of the EU.”

Rolf Mützenich of the German Social Democratic Party told the same newspaper: “Holding in Germany a referendum to reinstate the death penalty in Turkey is in my opinion unthinkable.” He added that the German government had informed Turkey of its position.

Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004 in order to facilitate negotiations to join the EU. If Ankara should reinstate the capital punishment, it could constitute a legal basis for the EU to break off membership talks.

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