Turkish main opposition CHP to appeal for the annulment of the security package

Turkish main opposition CHP to appeal for the annulment of the security package

Turkish main opposition CHP to appeal for the annulment of the security package

DHA Photo

Turkey’s main opposition party has said it will appeal to the high court for the annulment of a controversial security package on the grounds that it undermines constitutional rights and freedoms, following parliament’s approval of the bill early March 27.

“A government that strengthens the authority of the police that much has lost its legitimacy. There is a government that is trying to keep up thanks to the support it takes from the police, not from the people. There is no winner but losers. Freedoms and democracy will lose [because of it],” Akif Hamzaçebi, deputy parliamentary group leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), said after the bill was approved by the votes of the ruling party despite the strong opposition of three oppositional parties.  

Hamzaçebi said the CHP would take the security bill to the Constitutional Court next week for its annulment. “I believe this bill that deals a heavy blow to the constitution and the law will be returned by the court,” he said.

Composed of 68 articles, the new security package broadens police powers and allows the use of firearms against demonstrators, deepening fears of crackdowns on dissent ahead of parliamentary elections slated for June 7. All three opposition parties have shown a rare unity in standing against the government-proposed security bill out of fears it will increase authoritarianism in the country under President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The bill gives police the right to detain a person if they deem the situation to be in flagrante delicto. Officers will be able to keep suspects in custody for 24 hours without seeing a judge. The period can be extended to 48 hours if the police deem the existence of a “collective crime.” Police will also be able to take the testimonies of witnesses and victims at their homes or offices.

A police chief who is assigned by the highest administrative chief, such as the provincial governor, will be able to order a strip search or a car search without a court decision.

Police will also be able to use firearms against those who “use or attempt to use Molotov cocktails, as well as explosives, inflammables, incendiaries, suffocating devices, or injurious or similar arms.” The police will also be able to use colored water from water cannon to disperse mass demonstrations.

The bill makes key amendments to two articles of Law 2911. The first one classifies slingshots, iron pellets and fireworks as arms. The second amendment stipulates prison sentences of up to four years for those who participate in a demonstration with these “arms” or with their faces covered fully or partly. Another change stipulates a prison sentence of up to three years for those who participate in a demonstration with the emblem, sign or uniform of an “illegal organization.”

Administrative chiefs who are appointed by the government, like governors, will assume some of the powers of prosecutors, like being able to issue orders for the police to investigate a crime and find the culprits. They have also been given the authority to use all publicly owned vehicles for public order and security. Any public servant who does not comply with their orders can be jailed from three months to one year in prison, the bill states.

The bill has also made important amendments to the structure of the Gendarmerie Forces Command. All non-military activities of the gendarmerie will be inspected by the Interior Ministry, which will also appoint key figures to the command.

The motion allows the government to dismiss police officers who fail to receive a promotion over the previous five years as part of a move to clear the police department from what the government calls the “parallel structure.” The opposition argues that around 1,500 top police officers will be forced to retire through the law, which will also shut down the Police Academy.

In a move to deter the illegal production and sale of bonzai, a synthetic drug, the bill will also broaden the concept of synthetic drugs and related by-products. Sentences for those that produce and sell the drugs have also been increased.