Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Parliament Passes Military Courts Reform

(updated below)

On Friday night, the Turkish Parliament passed an amendment to the Turkish Code on Criminal Procedure (CMK) that allows civil courts to try members of the armed forces who are accused of crimes --crimes involving threats to national security, constitutional violations, the organization of armed groups, and attempts to topple the government in peace time. From Hürriyet:
A legislation restricting the powers of military courts, a long-standing European Union demand, was passed in Parliament in a last-minute late night meeting Friday. The legislation passed at 1:30 a.m. Saturday with the participation of a small number of opposition deputies. The opposition parties remaining silent during the session through the early hours of Saturday have led to interpretations that the legislation went unnoticed by the opposition parties. Parliament Speaker Köksal Toptan said he didn’t know about the legislation while CHP leader Deniz Baykal Sunday described the move as a kind of "midnight coup."
In Kocaeli on Sunday, Prime Minister Erdoğan defended the legislation, averring that there was nothing tricky about the vote and that it was made in efforts to meet EU standards pertinent to civil-military relations. Erdoğan also accused Baykal and the CHP of hypocrisy, pointing to Baykal's support -- expressed last week -- of a repeal of Article 15 of the Turkish Consitition, which grants immunity to plotters of the 1980 coup. That change in the law would pave the way for General Evren and others to be tried in civilian courts for their actions.

UPDATE 6/30 -- The CHP has announced that it will petition the Constitutional Court to annul Friday's amendment as unconstitutional. The CHP is arguing the amendment contradicts Article 145 of the Constitution, which declares that the military judiciary is responsible for cases within the military. The MHP is backing CHP on the issue.

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