The House plenum on Friday approved a constitution amendment to scrap a provision that could allow for legislation to impose the death penalty for a number of crimes.
In total 49 MPs of those present during the first plenary session of the new legislature approved the 10th constitutional amendment deleting Article 7.2 which provides for the possibility of imposing a death penalty. The last time the death penalty was given was in 1962.
Cyprus abolished the death penalty by law in 1983 for murder cases and in 2002 for all other crimes such as treason but did not amend the constitution.
The scrapped article of the constitution stated that “no person shall be deprived of his life except in the execution of a sentence of a competent court following his conviction of an offence for which this penalty is provided by law”. Under the article, the death penalty covered premeditated murder, high treason, piracy pure gentium and capital offences under military law.
The two MPs of the far right party Elam abstained from the vote as they believe it was “a hasty move”.
“We believe that the Republic of Cyprus could in the future, if the parliament agreed to, to give the death penalty for the crime of high treason during wartime,” the party’s MP Linos Papayiannis said.
“Let’s not forget that … we are a country under occupation, with 40,000 Turkish soldiers in our land and under the permanent threat of Turkey,” he said.
Scrapping the article in question was proposed by the new House speaker Demetris Syllouris arguing that its existence leaves the window open for future legislation re-introducing it.
“The amendment is deemed as necessary as the RoC as a rule of law defending human rights and especially the right to life and physical integrity is opposed as a matter of principle to the death penalty,” a parliamentary document said.
It added that the RoC was an EU member whose Charter of Fundamental Rights provides for the abolition of the death penalty, and has ratified the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms and the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights.
Syllouris said that there were three to four other constitutional articles citing the death penalty, and for which he is in consultation with the attorney-general and the head of the House legal affairs committee.
“A serious job is in order and we as Parliament … will take initiative toward that direction,” Syllouris said.