A court in Diyarbakir, a southeastern city in Turkey, has released pro-Kurdish HDP deputy Leyla Güven on January 25, a day after the Council of Europe(CoE) adopted a resolution urging Turkey once again to respect human rights and to release jailed MPs and former politicians.
Though it is not mentioned in Turkish media, the abrupt decision of Diyarbakir’s court to release People’s Democratic Party’s (HDP) Leyla Güven, who has been on hunger strike since November 7, is seen as a sign of Turkey’s message to Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe(PACE) that it complies with the CoE’s standards. However, that move is deemed to be a late decision for many human rights advocates.
PACE: Turkey opposition situation declines
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a resolution calling on Turkey to respect the “rights and freedom of expression, association, and assembly” of the opposition on Thursday.
By adopting the resolution, PACE called the Turkish authorities to release jailed MPs and former MPs.
In 2016, the Turkish parliament’s general assembly voted on a bill to remove the immunity of 112 Members of Parliament in relation to over 500 dossiers. Following this, Selahattin Demirtas, the pro-Kurdish HDP’s former leader, was among the nine MPs of his party who faced various charges. Demirtas was sentenced to four years and eight months in prison in September 2018.
After releasement of Güven, eight other HDP MPs were imprisoned with Demirtas. One of the more serious charges of which he was convicted was propaganda for PKK – the Kurdistan Workers Party that has waged an armed insurrection in Turkey for decades.
Demirtas ran for the presidency during the presidential elections of June 2018. He had to run his campaign from his prison cell despite the calls from other candidates for his release in order to have a free and fair election.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) demanded his release in November 2018 but Turkish courts have not implemented that decision. As a reminder of this situation in the context of freedom of opposition figures, PACE called on Turkish authorities to implement the decision of the ECHR and release Demirtas.
Secretary-General Thorbjørn Jagland expressed his concern over Turkey’s failing judicial system at a speech he gave to the general assembly. Jagland said that the role of the judiciary, and therefore the Council’s Convention system, was being tested. He warned that if justice was not served in due time, hundreds or even thousands of Turkish cases could end up in the Strasbourg Court.
PACE: Turkey needs legislation, not just action
PACE also called on Turkish authorities to review their due legislation.
Pointing out two major articles that cause human rights violations on freedom of expression, which are Article 299 (insulting the president) and Article 301 (degrading the Turkish Nation, the State of the Turkish Republic, the Organs and Institutions of the State), were requested, by parliamentarians, to be repealed by the authorities.
PACE also underlined the importance of amending the current anti-terror law which holds a broad view of terrorism, unlike its European counterparts.
The Turkish authorities were asked to review the country’s electoral legislation by the parliamentarians, particularly the 10% electoral threshold. According to PACE, this threshold impedes the ability of the opposition to be represented in the Turkish parliament.
The 2017 constitutional amendments, which saw the country adopt the presidential system, were also called into question. PACE called on Turkish authorities to review them “to restore a proper balance of an effective separation between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of power.”