Bill to give Turkish PM power on state secrets
AA PhotoA committee led by the prime minister could soon gain significant control over restricted information if a draft law establishing their authority to declare which documents are classified as state secrets is passed by Parliament.
The documents and information declared as state secrets by the commission would not be revealed for 50 years, and the prime minister would have the right to decide what important issues are included under “the scope of secrecy,” according to the bill.
Parliament started working on the draft yesterday and is expected to approve it later this week.
The “State Secrets Assessment Board,” chaired by the prime minister with the participation of the justice, interior, foreign and defense ministers, will be able to decide to take any information, documents and records under preservation according to the draft law, which was still being discussed in Parliament as the Hürriyet Daily News went to print yesterday.
The board will be convened upon the request of the prime minister, who will have the broad authority to determine what should be kept secret since the other members of the committee will be ministers working under him.
It is the first time Turkey will have a law regulating state secrets, as well as a board that is tasked with determining what should be kept secret.
There is no specific law or board under current Turkish legislation to regulate state secrets. Institutions such as the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) or the Prime Minister’s Office keep information, documents or records secret according to their own institutional regulations for a certain period of time.
The relevant ministry will be responsible for offering to declare state secrets.
Institutions connected to the Prime Minister’s Office, such as the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), will have the right to propose that some documents or information be kept secret. However, the Prime Minister’s Office or the ministries will be free to disregard the offers.
Çankaya not covered
The board will not have authority over presidential documents. The classification of information, documents and records regarding the President’s Office will be assessed by the president, who will also evaluate which information, documents and records will or will not be sent to court.
Secrets will be kept for 50 years. Any civil servant who reveals any of them will be punished with two to four years in prison. If the act is done via the media, the punishment will be increased by half.
Exemption from informing the courts
If courts ask for information, documents or records classified as state secrets, it will be up to the State Secrets Assessment Board whether or not to submit them.
If the board decides not to release the information, it will instead draft a written “justification” for refusing to present the material.
Non-submitted documents, information and records will not be regarded as negative evidence against the relevant party.