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Monitors concerned at decision to strip immunity from Turkish parliamentarians

“We are deeply concerned at the decision taken yesterday by the parliament to strip the immunity from prosecution of 138 members of the Turkish Grand National Assembly,” said the co-rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) for post-monitoring dialogue with Turkey, Ingebjørg Godskesen (Norway, EC), and Nataša Vučković (Serbia, SOC).

“Our concern is that this will disproportionately affect opposition parties, in particular the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), given that 53 of its 59 members face potential charges. Some of them, including the party’s co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, as well as PACE members Ertuğrul Kürkçü, Hişyar Özsoy and Feleknas Uca face terrorism-related charges for their statements.

“This decision will damage parliamentary life in Turkey. Parliamentary immunity enables elected representatives to do their jobs without fear of harassment by the executive, the courts or political opponents.”

“Turkey is facing huge challenges, not least the terrorist threat and the urgent need to solve the Kurdish issue peacefully. This step undermines the healthy political environment that Turkey needs to tackle these challenges.”

“We will closely follow the handling of these cases. We expect them to comply with Council of Europe standards on fair proceedings and trials and freedom of expression, which Turkey has pledged to uphold,” the co-rapporteurs concluded.

The Monitoring Committee will discuss a draft report on the functioning of democratic institutions in Turkey at its Paris meeting on 23 May. The Rules Committee adopted, on 17 May, a report on "Parliamentary immunity: challenges to the scope of the privileges and immunities enjoyed by members of PACE". Both reports are expected to be debated at the June 2016 part-session.