Monday, November 17, 2008

Dangerous Precedent Set for Kurdish Dissenters

From TDZ:
The Supreme Court of Appeals has issued a verdict punishing people who participated in demonstrations held in support of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) as if they were PKK members.

The Supreme Court of Appeals issued its decision with reference to the Turkish Penal Code (TCK), which states, "People who are not members of an organization but commit crimes in its name are to be punished as if they were members." The court was examining the case of a teenager who participated to an illegal demonstration in December 2006. A local court had convicted the youth on charges of "participating in an illegal demonstration," but the Supreme Court of Appeals has ruled that he should be punished for being a member of the PKK because calls for the demonstration to be organized had been broadcast on the PKK-affiliated Roj TV.
"The organization urged people to close their shops for a boycott and not to send their children to school," the court noted in its decision.

The court also underlined that in a recent PKK meeting the organization decided to use nonviolent actions that would create problems for the state domestically and internationally. Some of these actions included petition drives for universities to open Kurdish-language departments and for primary schools to offer education in Kurdish and encouraging people to wear traditional Kurdish clothes in demonstrations.

Former Human Rights Associations (İHD) Chairman Yusuf Alataş noted that local courts will take the ruling into consideration in future cases.

"It seems that, first a decision was made to prevent people from participating demonstrations. Then they asked themselves how they could distort the law for this aim. In order to be regarded as a member of an illegal organization it is necessary to have a place in the organization's hierarchy," Alataş said.

Hasip Kaplan, a lawyer and deputy for the Democratic Society Party (DTP), suggested that if courts reach verdicts on the basis of this decision, their rulings will be rejected by the European Court of Human Rights. He added that this decision portrays any demand regarding the rights of Kurds as terrorist demands but stressed that these kinds of decisions would not be enough to prevent people from making such demands.
The Court's ruling is yet another barrier to allaying the Kurdish conflict, and will likely fuel zealous prosecutors to file similar cases under Turkey's rigid anti-terrorism laws. Note that these protests were largely peaceful, and most definitely difficult to define under any viable international consensus as to what constitutes terrorism.

Turkey should liberalize its laws in the southeast if conflict there is to be allayed. Kurdish politics are murky, and in many ways, inextricably linked to the pervading presence of the PKK. If Turkey changed its legal norms so as to lessen restrictions on the politics of its Kurdish minority, the power of the PKK would surely diminish. New openings conducive to conciliation would likely to merge, and the polarization between the Turkish state and the PKK that has largely fueled the conflict would be less severe.

In addition to this most important precedent, this case is also significant in that it again involves the state trying children as adults.

1 comment:

Bulent Murtezaoglu said...

The very same law is used in the Ergenekon investigation/indictments (against Ilhan Selcuk and others), and the same implication was made in parts of the press against people who participated in the 'Rallies for the Republic.' The problem we're having is that we selectively bad-mouth prosecutions because, apparently, nobody believes that justice will be served if, um, non-evidentiary merits of the cases are not considered. Still, this can cut both ways, and it'd be interesting to see if this legal precedent is actually brought up and put to use in the Ergenekon case.