Conflicting statements come from Turkey’s ruling party on immunity given to civilians

Burhan Kuzu

Amid growing reactions from opposition and human rights defenders, conflicting statements came from Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) members on calls for the government to revise a new state of emergency decree that gives immunity to civilians who take part in thwarting coup and terror incidents.

According to Article 121 of decree No. 696, which was released on Sunday, regardless of an official title or duties or the lack thereof, people who played a role in the suppression of a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and subsequent events and terrorist activities will be exempt from criminal liability.

The Article 121 of Decree Law No. 696, which has been interpreted as a “licence to kill” for radical Islamist and neo-nationalist pro-government circles, reads: “Regardless of their official duties, or appointments, any individuals who took part in suppressing the attempted coup d’état on July 15, 2016, terror acts, and other acts which are considered to be a continuation of these, will be subjected to the first clause [on immunity].”

Despite a statement from AKP spokesperson Mahir Ünal that the new regulation would only be applied to the days of a coup attempt last year, July 15, 2016 and July 16, 2016, Burhan Kuzu, a member of the AKP Central Decision and Executive Board (MKYK) said it will be applied to new cases as well.

“With No.696 we have given judicial immunity to civilians. To sum up: If a July 15-like coup attempt or a terror attack takes place, citizens who prevent this treason will be protected legally,” Kuzu tweeted.

Criticizing the main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) reactions to the new decree Kuzu also said: “I wonder if you were readying for a July 15-like coup attempt and  have been caught unawares?”

Hours later Kuzu deleted his first tweet.

Minister of Development Cevdet Yılmaz also said on Monday that the new regulation aims to strengthen the fight against terrorism.

“Citizens who do not have links to terrorism should not worry about it,” Yılmaz said, sendika.org reported.

AKP REACTS TO GÜL’S CALL FOR REVISION OF NEW DECREE

Former President Abdullah Gül on Monday called on the government to revise the new state of emergency decree. “The ambiguity that does not comply with legal parlance in the text of state of emergency decree No. 696, which I think was released to protect the hero citizens who took to the streets to resist a traitorous coup attempt on July 15, is worrisome in terms of a state of law,” Gül said in a tweet.

“I hope to see its revision in order to avoid giving an opportunity to events and developments that could sadden all of us,” he added.

AKP on Tuesday reacted to Gül’s call on the government to revise a new state of emergency decree that gives immunity to civilians who take part in thwarting coup and terror incidents.

“I am saddened to see that someone who did not react to previous regulations that granted the same immunity to officials has become restless today. Whoever he is…” said Bülent Turan, the AKP’s parliamentary group deputy chairman, during a press conference.

“He said this, others said that. I don’t think that’s right. We have the government, the top executive and the relevant ministry. The state of emergency decree was released after the approval of the related institutions,” Turan added.

The Turkish government’s latest decree granting legal immunity to civilians means the abolishment of the rule of law in Turkey, Rıza Türmen a former European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) judge said.

“This regulation takes us back to a primitive state – a state of nature where one may kill another without legal consequences,” Türmen was quoted as saying by leftist newspaper Evrensel.

“This is terrifying” Türmen said of the clause. “An earlier decree granted immunity regarding state officials’ acts. This was already wrong. Now, granting the same immunity to civilians can have grave consequences, an official policy of immunity can lead to chaos in the country.”

Türmen noted that the decree laws issued during Turkey’s state of emergency should remain limited to the period of emergency and be lifted when the state of emergency ends. “But these regulations amend laws permanently,” highlighted Türmen.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) on Monday slammed the government for the state of emergency decree issued on Sunday, saying it paves the way for armed civilian gangs in Turkey.

“Where do you find this sort of article? In fascist, military states, where states aim to frighten civilians with paramilitary forces. This is an article paving the way to the establishment of armed civilian gangs by the government, an article preparing a substructure for it,” said Bülent Tezcan, deputy chairman and spokesperson of the CHP, during a press conference.

“This article is a disguised amnesty. It says those who perpetrated such a crime in the past will be forgiven,” added Tezcan.

Reactions to the new decree that gives immunity and impunity to civilian violence in the context of the coup attempt and terrorist attacks are not limited to the CHP.

At an Ankara press conference, pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) spokesperson Ayhan Bilgen called for an extraordinary parliamentary convention, urging a unified reaction to what he labeled as a step toward further polarization, chaos, and even civil war. “Tomorrow can be too late,” he warned. No guarantee of security was left for government critics or opposition groups in case they come under attack, Bilgen argued.

Kerem Altıparmak, a human rights lawyer from Ankara University, underlined in a tweet that with the new decree the worst human rights violations and all kinds of crimes have been legitimized under the cover of fighting terrorism. Recalling that the Turkish Constitutional Court has approved the government’s state of emergency decrees, Altıparmak called on victims and their relatives to go directly to European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

The legal definition of an “act of terror” is very vague in Turkey, Altıparmak said on social media, pointing to another problem inherent in the decree. “While prosecutors and courts take years to try journalists, academics on ‘terror crimes,’ politicians are being charged with ‘terror offences’ for their speeches; what will stop mobs from attacking dissidents?” Altıparmak asked.

Human rights advocate Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu summarized the new decree in a tweet: “If you make an innocent protest and someone kills you, he may not be punished. What else could be done to show that the state of law has ended?”

“Erdoğan regime has welcomed private participation in witch hunts against Erdogan enemies. Now pro-state vigilantism is formally legal,” tweeted Timur Kuran, a professor of economic and political development at Duke University. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

Take a second to support SCF on Patreon!