Monday, December 14, 2009

KHRP Dismayed by Turkey’s Latest Party Closure Case

December 14, 2009 by sks



KHRP is deeply dismayed at today’s Constitutional Court ruling to close the Demokratik Toplum Partisi (Democratic Society Party, DTP)—the first pro-Kurdish party in the Turkish parliament in 14 years.

This decision has imposed on 37 members of the DTP, a five-year ban from politics and may pave the way for a wave of prosecutions against its members following the lifting of their Parliamentary immunity.

Politicians and parties representing the Kurds and Kurdish aspirations have faced systematic persecution in Turkey. Every party that has sought to articulate Kurdish concerns in a peaceful, democratic forum has contended with efforts by the establishment to restrict their activities, threaten their members and ultimately disband the party. This has included, among others, The People’s Labour Party (HEP), the Freedom and Democracy Party (ÖZDEP), Democratic Party (DEP), and pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HADEP).

The well-known decision to shut down the Democratic Party (DEP) in 1994, led to a number of DEP MPs being subsequently arrested and imprisoned after they were stripped of their parliamentary immunity. Five of them – Selim Sadak, Ahmet Türk, Leyla Zana, Mehmet Hatip Dicle and Orhan Do?an – were sentenced to 15 years’ imprisonment because of their public expression of their Kurdish identity.

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) later found that the DEP MPs had been denied the right to a fair trial, a violation of Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), and that the deprivation of their parliamentary mandate was in breach of the right to free elections under Article 3 of Protocol 1 to the ECHR. The ECtHR also found violations of the ECHR in a number of other party closure cases in Turkey.

As was outlined in KHRP’s briefing paper on ‘Protecting Politicians or Protecting Democracy? Parliamentary Immunity and Party Closure in the Run-Up to Local Elections in Turkey’ in March this year, parliamentary immunity ought to protect the electorate, allowing the candidates they have selected to talk openly and to adopt policies without fear of prosecution, and is the practice in most democratic countries. The systematic harassment and persecution of elected representatives by unelected state agents underscores the need for a thorough overhaul of mechanisms in Turkey governing the banning of parties and prosecutions of MPs.

‘Closing elected political parties down in Turkey is a clear example that the rights to freedom of association, free expression, and to free and fair elections are not safe in Turkey’, said Chief Executive, Kerim Yildiz. ‘This latest party closure is not only a major set-back to the Kurdish issue, but it is also another devastating blow to democracy and political stability in Turkey, and indeed to the country’s reform agenda vis-à-vis its EU-accession bid. Once again the severe failings of the Turkish legal and political system have been laid bare for all to see.’