Turkey’s move to ban HDP worries international community and rights organizations

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The international community and human rights organizations have criticized Turkey’s move towards banning the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the third largest group in the Turkish parliament.

 “We are … monitoring the initiation of efforts to dissolve the [Peoples’] Democratic Party, a decision that would unduly subvert the will of Turkish voters, further undermine democracy in Turkey, and deny millions of Turkish citizens their chosen representation,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

“We call on the government of Turkey to respect freedom of expression in line with protections in the Turkish constitution and with Turkey’s international obligations,” he added.

Bekir Şahin, chief public prosecutor Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals, asked the Constitutional Court to shut down the HDP. Şahin argued that the HDP was trying to “destroy the indivisibility between the state and the people,” the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The 609-page indictment put before the Constitutional Court accuses the HDP of being a threat to the “indivisible integrity of the state” and seeks to ban 687 party members from engaging in politics for five years.

The European Union today said it was “deeply concerned” about attempts to shut down the HDP, warning the move heightens worries over “backsliding” by Ankara.

“Closing the second largest opposition party would violate the rights of millions of voters in Turkey,” EU foreign policy chief Joseph Borrell and enlargement commissioner Oliver Varhelyi said in a statement. “It adds to the EU’s concerns regarding the backsliding in fundamental rights in Turkey and undermines the credibility of the Turkish authorities’ stated commitment to reforms.”

The EU statement insisted that Ankara “urgently needs to respect its core democratic obligations, including respect for democracy, human rights and the rule of law.”

The prosecutor’s announcement of the case came on the same day that Turkey’s parliament stripped a prominent HDP deputy and human rights defender Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu of his parliamentary status.

A Supreme Court of Appeals decision upholding a prison sentence given to the rights advocate lawmaker on charges of disseminating terrorist propaganda was read out yesterday in the General Assembly.

The case to shutter the HDP and the expulsion from parliament of Gergerlioğlu “represent significant new threats to political freedom and pluralism in Turkey,” nongovernmental organization Freedom House said in a statement.

“We also call on Turkey’s international partners to uphold basic democratic norms by condemning these abuses without delay,” Freedom House said.

Today Amnesty International Europe Office head Eve Geddie and Human Rights Watch Europe and Central Asia Director Hugh Williamson sent a joint letter to Josep Borrell, the EU high representative for foreign affairs and security policy, ahead of the March 25-26 European Council discussion on EU-Turkey relations.

Geddie and Williams called on the EU to “ensure that human rights are placed at the centre of upcoming discussions and any decisions on the future development of EU-Turkey relations.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has long portrayed the HDP as the political front of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), an armed secessionist group listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the EU and the US. The party denies links to the militants and says it is coming under attack because of its strong opposition to Erdoğan’s 18-year rule.

The political and legal assault on the HDP intensified after a truce between the Kurdish militants and Erdogan’s government broke down in 2015.

It grew even stronger after Erdoğan survived a failed coup attempt in 2016 that was followed by a sweeping political crackdown that saw tens of thousands jailed or stripped of their government jobs.

The HDP’s future was thrown into question when Devlet Bahçeli, Erdogan’s ultra-nationalist ally, began calling on Turkey’s top courts to take action late last year.

The Supreme Court of Appeals opened an investigation into the party on March 2, two weeks after Erdoğan accused Kurdish militants of killing a group of Turkish captives in Iraq during a failed government rescue operation.

Last month parliament also began examining whether to lift the immunity of 25 lawmakers, including 20 from the HDP.

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