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America Is Stuck With the Death Penalty for (At Least) a Generation

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With Justice Anthony Kennedy's retirement, the national fight to abolish capital punishment will have to go local.
When the Supreme Court revived capital punishment in 1976, just four years after de facto abolishing it, the justices effectively took ownership of the American death penalty and all its outcomes. They have spent the decades since then setting its legal and constitutional parameters, supervising its general implementation, sanctioning its use in specific cases, and brushing aside concerns about its many flaws.
That unusual role in the American legal system is about to change. With Justice Anthony Kennedy’s retirement from the court this summer, the Supreme Court will lose a heterodox jurist whose willingness to cross ideological divides made him the deciding factor in many legal battles. In cases involving the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment, his judgment often meant the difference between life and death for hundreds of death-row pr…

President Erdogan's death penalty remarks start debate with Europe

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's remarks over reinstating capital punishment following the approval of constitutional amendments in the April 16 referendum has triggered a fresh debate, collecting warnings from European allies.

Erdogan said during his arrival to Ankara from Istanbul on April 17 that he would approve the return of the death penalty if the parliament passes such a law to pay respect "to our martyrs."

"If [a bill] comes before me, I will approve it. But if there isn't support [from opposition MPs], then we could have another referendum for that," Erdogan said late on April 16 to a crowd in Istanbul, which chanted for its reintroduction.

A referendum on restoring the death penalty in Turkey would constitute a break from European values, the French president's office warned on April 17.

France said the organization of a referendum on the death penalty would "obviously be a break with values and engagements" that was accepted by Turkey when it first joined Europe's top rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, the presidency said.

The French presidency said it "took note" of the figures and the "disputes" surrounding them, saying they showed "that Turkish society is divided over the proposed deep reforms."

In a separate statement, France's foreign ministry called on the Turkish government to respect the European Convention on Human Rights and its ban on the death penalty.

Although the death penalty had not been in effect since 1984, Turkey abolished the capital punishment in 2004 as a part of reforms to ease Turkey's accession into the European Union.

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker said in March that any return of the death penalty in Turkey would be a "red line" in the country's stalled EU membership bid.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, meanwhile, said on April 17 that Turkish authorities needed to address concerns about the content and procedure of the referendum raised by a panel of European legal experts.

"The German government respects the right of Turkish citizens to decide on their own constitutional order," they said in a statement.

"The tight referendum result shows how deeply divided the Turkish society is and that means a big responsibility for the Turkish leadership and for President Erdogan personally," the statement said.

The European Commission said Turkey should seek a broad national consensus on constitutional amendments. In March, the Venice Commission, a panel of legal experts at the Council of Europe, said the proposed changes to the constitution on which Turks voted, namely boosting Erdogan's power, represented a "dangerous step backwards" for democracy.

Austria, which has repeatedly called for halting membership talks, once more called for them to stop.

"We can't just go back to the daily routine after the Turkey referendum. We finally need some honesty in the relationship between the EU and Turkey," said Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz, adding the bloc should instead work on a "partnership agreement."

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on April 17 that the results of the Turkish referendum should be respected. He said the vote was a domestic Turkish matter.

Rached Ghannouch, the leader of Tunisia's Ennahdha Party, said he called Erdogan to congratulate him over the win.

Both Hamas and the Palestinian Liberation Army congratulated Erdogan, according to state-run Anadolu Agency.

Source: Hurriyet Daily News, April 18, 2017

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