Chief prosecutor to make a verbal assessment in HDP closure case
Current efforts to dissolve the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP,) the second-largest opposition party in Turkey’s parliament ahead of parliamentary and presidential elections are the latest in a deeply problematic practice in Turkey of forcing the closure of political parties, a group of 10 international and local non-governmental organizations, including Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project said, ahead of a key hearing in the case where the prosecutor is expected to make a verbal statement.
The prosecutors asked the Constitutional Court in March 2021 to order the closure of the HDP, a political party with 56 deputies in the parliament and a ban for 451 politicians and party members from organized political activity or membership of political parties for a period of five years and forfeiture of the party’s assets.
On January 5, the Constitutional Court agreed to a request by the chief prosecutor of the Court of Cassation for the interim measure of freezing the party’s bank accounts containing treasury support which political party groups in parliament are entitled to receive.
On Tuesday, the Chief Public Prosecutor of the Supreme Court Bekir Sahin will make a verbal statement to the Constitutional Court delegation.
After Tuesday’s statement by the prosecutor, the HDP will respond at a later date and finally the court will convene to issue a final ruling.
The 10 organizations submitted a third-party intervention to the Constitutional Court arguing that arbitrary closure of political parties violates multiple rights.
“International law guarantees the rights of political parties within the frame of freedom of association, expression, peaceful assembly, and views the rights of every citizen to take part in the conduct of public affairs, to vote and to stand for election as core principles of democracy,” said Philip Leach of the Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project. “The case before Turkey’s Constitutional Court concerning the possible closure of the Peoples’ Democratic Party is a fundamental test of whether the court will abide by international law and respect democratic norms. Closing down a political party without compelling grounds violates multiple rights and is an attack on democracy.”
The NGOs argued in their intervention that the case against the HDP should be seen in the context of Turkey’s long history of party closures which contrasts starkly with the practice in other Council of Europe member states and has repeatedly been found to violate the European Convention on Human Rights.
Since 1982, Turkey’s Constitutional Court has ordered the dissolution of 19 political parties out of the 40 cases it has reviewed. The majority of these have been parties representing the interests of Kurds in Turkey or leftist parties. The vague and widely drawn prohibition of acting “in conflict with … the indivisible integrity of the State with its territory and nation” has been the principal charge.
Three parties have been closed down on the equally vague grounds of acting “in conflict with… the principles of the democratic and secular republic.” In 2008, President Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party itself narrowly escaped party closure on the latter grounds.
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has found that party closure decisions violated the European Convention on Human Rights in six out of seven of the cases from Turkey it has examined.