European Lawyers appeal to annul bill lifting immunities of Turkish MP

ELDH[i] is highly alarmed concerning the vote in Turkey’s parliament which approved a bill to amend the Constitution to strip Members of Parliament of their immunity from prosecution, a move that paves the way for the trials of pro-Kurdish and other opposition members of parliament. If the President approves the amendments they will put 138 politicians, the vast majority of them from two opposition parties, at risk of prosecution. This is the most severe attack on Turkish democracy since the 1980 military coup d’état. Following mass trials of thousands of political opponents, journalists, lawyers, academics and even police officers and judges, this is the latest  in a series of attempts to silence the whole political opposition in Turkey.

Without any doubt the main targets of this bill are the Kurdish people and their movement, their organisations, the HDP (The Peoples’ Democratic Party) and other political  left-wing forces. After the Government lost an absolute majority in Parliament in June 2015, peace negotiations with PKK were stopped it, and journalists and even prosecutors who revealed the support of Daesh by the Turkish government were punished, and curfews were imposed on Kurdish cities in the South-East, the Kurdish populations were and still are terrorized by the so called security forces. There have been  more than 1,000 victims.

ELDH fully supports those Members of Parliament who have appealed to the Turkish Constitutional Court for the annulment of the amendments to the Turkish Constitution. Accountability is of course an important element of democratic governance, and it is the absence of accountability – thanks to its overwhelming parliamentary majority – that the current Turkish government is most accused of. This latest move proves that the objective of the Turkish government and the ruling party is not to improve accountability but to eliminate the political opposition and  to gain additional seats for the AKP. Even under the unamended Constitution the immunity of MPs could to be rescinded only by means of a regular parliamentary debate and a separate vote on each alleged crime. “Parliamentary  immunity” is  a legal  instrument, which  temporarily  or  permanently inhibits legal action, measures of investigation, or measures of law enforcement in criminal or civil matters against members of parliament. Its  purpose is  to  ensure the  proper functioning of  parliament and to guarantee its independence. Immunity is not a personal privilege of members of parliament, but an institutional privilege of parliament as a body.”[ii]

The Kurdish question will not be solved by violence and it will not be solved by abolishing democracy. A peaceful solution of the Kurdish conflict is urgent and necessary. Any kind of support to the Daesh must end.

ELDH calls for respect by the Government for international law, and particularly the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the Geneva Conventions and Protocols, which are applicable to the Kurdish conflict. ELDH calls for respect for the overarching principle of self-determination of peoples, the immediate restarting of peace negotiations between the Turkish government and the PKK, and the renewal of the Turkish democracy based on free elections and political and civil freedoms.

ELDH invites the United Nations and all governments, including US and European states, to act to uphold these principles and not to legitimize the antidemocratic policies of the Turkish government. ELDH appeals to the European Union not to bargain away the rights of asylum seekers.

[i] The European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights (ELDH), a non-governmental organization with members is 18 European countries is dedicated to uphold human rights and international law, including those democratic rights derived from the enjoyment of the right of self-determination of the peoples.

[ii] Sascha Hardt, Maastricht University, “Parliamentary immunity in a European context”, in-depth analysis commissioned by the European Parliament’s Policy Department for Citizens’ Rights and Constitutional Affairs at the request of the JURI committee, 2015, at