Turkish government moves to amend criticized military code
ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
In this file photo, Chief of Gen. Staff Necdet Özel (C) visits a military school in Bursa. The government is preparing to amend a controversial article of the Internal Service Code of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). DHA photoThe government has finally taken a concrete step toward the amendment of an article considered as providing legal justification for military coups d’état.
Although having taken important strides in normalizing civilian-military relations particularly via EU-inspired reforms since coming to power in 2002, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has so far shied away from taking any concrete step for amending the Article 35 of the Internal Service Code of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), despite the opposition’s willingness.
The bill introduced to Parliament yesterday, which includes other notable revisions, is expected to return to the agenda following the upcoming summer recess.
“The duty of the Armed Forces is to protect and safeguard the Turkish homeland and the Turkish Republic as stipulated by the Constitution,” the infamous Article 35 currently states.
Yet with the newly introduced draft bill, this will be replaced by: “The duty of the Armed Forces is to protect the Turkish homeland against threats and dangers to come from abroad, to ensure the preservation and strengthening of military power in a manner that will provide deterrence, to fulfill the duties abroad with the decision of the Parliament and help maintain international peace,” putting great emphasis on threats from outside.
The current Article 2 of the code is also to be altered in a way to limit its extent. The article at the moment reads; “Military service is liable to learn and conduct the art of war to protect the Turkish homeland, independence and Republic. This liability is executed with private laws.” Under the proposed bill, this will be replaced with “Military service is liable to learn and conduct the art of war.”
The article framing the army’s involvement in politics was also revised. The Article 43 of the current code states “Turkish Armed Forces are superior to, and on the outside of, all sorts of political effects and ideas. Therefore, the members of the Armed Forces are forbidden to enter political parties and association, to be involved with the political activities of these, to meddle with all sorts of political demonstration and meetings and deliver speeches and statements and write on them with this purpose.” In the draft, this section is intended to be changed into “The members of the Turkish Armed Forces cannot be involved in political activities.”
BDP: Important but not sufficient by itself
While Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ, for his part, particularly underlined yesterday that revoking the said article was out of question, Parliament Speaker Cemil Çiçek voiced his personal pleasure over the government’s move as he indicated that the current article was not in line with democratic standards.
“If such a proposal comes from the government, I guess the Parliament will also respond positively. I personally find it positive too,” Çiçek said. “Now, it has nothing to be discussed. It should become law at once,” he said.
The Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) deputy parliamentary group chair, İdris Baluken, called the move “an important step.”
A roadmap presented recently by the BDP outlined such amendments, Baluken said, adding, “But we don’t consider this as a sufficient step by itself. This step is meaningful. However, we believe that it should definitely be supported by other steps.”