Turkey’s HDP, civil society launch campaign against lifting immunities

Turkey’s HDP, civil society launch campaign against lifting immunities

Turkey’s HDP, civil society launch campaign against lifting immunities

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More than 250 civil society organizations (CSOs), professional chambers and associations have released a joint declaration against a government-led bill which would strip some parliamentarians of their immunity from prosecution, with the Kurdish-problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the main target of the bill, marking the declaration as a starter for a campaign against “the palace’s coup.”

The joint declaration was released on May 5 upon a call by the Peoples’ Democratic Congress (HDK) and the Democratic Society Congress (DTK) with support from 254 CSOs from eastern and southeastern Turkey.
“This declaration is ‘no’ to a dictatorship under the name of a presidential system,” HDP co-leader Selahattin Demirtaş said, while speaking at a joint meeting with the HDK, the DTK and the CSOs, professional chambers and associations as well as party executives and deputies. In addition to the draft amendment approved earlier this week by a parliamentary panel and expected to be referred to the plenary on May 16, the situation of mayors and councilors from the Democratic Regions Party (DBP), the sister party of the HDP, who have been suspended and detained was also discussed.

“We believe that this wrongdoing and the party leaders’ mistaken stances can be reversed at the plenary. They may not be able to find the figure 330. That’s why we started the ‘no’ campaign,” Demirtaş said.

At the plenary, two rounds of secret voting will take place. For a constitutional change in parliament, a party needs to win 367 seats, although 330 are enough to take a constitutional change to a referendum.

“From here, we are once more calling on lawmakers who can say ‘no’ to this coup in parliament. This issue is not a personal issue which only concerns us. The AKP [Justice and Development Party] has tried to get the other two parties involved in the coup process too,” he said, arguing that Turkey was “openly living the palace coup” since the June 7, 2015, parliamentary elections.

In Turkey, opposition politicians and media widely use the term “palace” in order to refer to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The draft amendment was approved by parliament’s Constitution Commission with support from the AKP, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), while the HDP, the third largest party in the national assembly, stood against the move. Deputies from the AKP and the HDP traded blows, prompting members of the HDP to withdraw.

“While our search and efforts to end violence intensify, the unlawful closure of political channels will be a heavy strike on the search for peace. It is impossible to comprehend the persistence of using the employed methods used in the past which resulted in the growth of problems. What we need is to debate on opening democratic channels of politics,” said the joint call titled the “Joint Declaration Against the Palace Coup.”

“We demand the immediate withdrawal of this amendment leading to the disposal of mainly Kurdish and the marginalized communities represented by the HDP in parliament. We urge parliament members to consider the consequences and vote no to this amendment, which will smother our future. We demand the end of political oppression against journalists, academics, CSOs and municipalities of the DBP, as well as the immediate release and reinstatement of the detained mayors,” it said.

‘Destruction of 1994’

Meanwhile, more than 50 intellectuals from different ideological spectrums released on May 4 a joint call against lifting immunities.

“The destruction that was made in the field of democracy and peace because of what had been done to DEP lawmakers in 1994 and of what happened afterwards is still fresh in the memory of the public in Turkey,” the group said, calling on all 550 members of parliament.

“Also today, this bill, which aims at silencing the democratic opposition and neutralizing the parliament via the majority’s tyranny, targets a political lynching,” the group said.

Back in March 1994, the immunities of four deputies of the now-defunct pro-Kurdish Democratic Labor Party (DEP) - a predecessor of the HDP – were lifted on charges of helping the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Previously, current HDP deputy Leyla Zana, Hatip Dicle, Selim Sadak and late Orhan Doğan had been elected for the now-dissolved Social Democratic Populist Party (SHP) before splitting off to form the DEP.

The four DEP deputies were forcefully put into police cars waiting at parliament’s gates. They were eventually sentenced to jail, where they spent nine years until the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found Turkey guilty of violating their political rights, which led to retrials.