Controversial motion on lifting MPs’ immunities comes to Turkish Parliament

Controversial motion on lifting MPs’ immunities comes to Turkish Parliament

Controversial motion on lifting MPs’ immunities comes to Turkish Parliament

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A legal process to lift the legislative immunities of some members of parliament has gained momentum, with the president and the government framing the issue as a matter of “combatting terrorism.”

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu announced that his ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) government will submit a draft proposal to parliament to remove MPs’ immunity from prosecution as early as April 12.

“Last week, we opened our constitutional amendment proposal to signatures for the process regarding the immunities of so-called lawmakers who lend support to terror and terrorists. The signatures are now completed. Just now, I personally made the last signature. God willing, the proposal of our deputies will be presented to parliament either today [April 12] or tomorrow. Everything will come into sight very clearly. It will be shown who is afraid of lifting of their immunities and who is not,” Davutoğlu said on April 12.

According to the AKP’s proposal, a provision of Article 83 of the constitution, which states, “A deputy who is alleged to have committed an offence before or after election shall not be detained, interrogated, arrested or tried unless the General Assembly decides otherwise,” will not be applied to dossiers regarding parliament members currently filed. 

Accordingly, all the files of summaries of proceedings waiting in parliament’s Joint Constitution and Justice Commission, the Parliament Speaker’s Office, the Prime Ministry and the Justice Ministry will be returned to the Prime Minister’s Office within 15 days after the amendment goes into force in order to be sent to the judicial authorities.

“It will be revealed who is sheltering the deputies that are supporting terrorists in this parliament,” Davutoğlu said, calling on opposition parties to lend support to their proposal, which was personally made public by him on March 17. 

As of April 11, Davutoğlu’s office sent the national assembly the summaries of proceedings against eight members of parliament, four from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and four from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). The Prime Ministry’s move came 10 days after receiving 12 summaries of proceedings, five of which were against HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş from the Justice Ministry on April 1, in an apparently accelerated process. 

“When ‘lifting immunities’ is said, they understand something like ‘let’s allow the immunities of lawmakers to be lifted.’ This is not the essence of the matter. It means that whoever has a summary of proceedings [against them], the process regarding that summary of proceedings will be immediately sent to the judiciary. If you commit a crime, you will be tried,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said on April 11.

“[It is for those] who carry weapons to the terrorist organization in their cars, who carry weapons in coffins,” Erdoğan said, in an apparent reference to allegations about deputies of the Kurdish problem-focused HDP, which he and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government accuse of being a political front for the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The reignited conflict between security forces and the PKK triggered nationalist calls to prosecute politicians accused of being close to the PKK, with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) asking parliament on March 3 to discuss requests to lift the immunities of deputies as part of the fight against terrorism.

The HDP, the third largest party in the national assembly, currently holds 59 seats.