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eubusiness: Brussels welcomes extension of Turkish ban on death penalty

The European Commission welcomed Friday Turkey’s extension of a ban on the death penalty to include times of war, which removed another obstacle to the country’s long-running bid to join the EU.

The Turkish ambassador to the Council of Europe, the pan-European rights watchdog, signed Friday protocol 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which obliges countries to abolish the death penalty in all circumstances, including times of conflict.

A spokesman for the EU’s executive arm, Jean-Christophe Filori, said “the Commission very warmly welcomes this initiative which is very good news for human rights in Turkey”.

The move “represents a further significant step for Turkey on its way to becoming a fully fledged democracy, fully respecting European standards for human rights”, he told reporters.

Turkey had already signed a protocol abolishing capital punishment in peacetime following a vote in its parliament in August 2002. A moratorium on the death penalty had already been in place in Turkey since 1984.

The signing of the latest protocol is part of a wider programme of human rights reforms in Turkey which the European Union considers vital if negotiations over Ankara’s entry to the EU are to get underway.

The EU is to decide in December 2004 if Turkey, a secular but mainly Muslim country, has made enough progress in democratic reforms to open membership talks.

European Commission head Romano Prodi is to visit Turkey next week, the first such visit since Turkey signed an association agreement with the EU’s predecessor, the European Economic Community, in 1963.

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