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Turkey: the arrest of HDP parliamentarians jeopardises the functioning of democracy

The PACE Monitoring Committee expressed today its deep concern at the latest developments in Turkey in the wake of the failed coup d’état of 15 July 2016, which it firmly condemned.

The arrest of ten parliamentarians belonging to the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) since 4 November 2016 – including the party’s co-chairs Selahattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ - as well as the detention of the co-Mayors of Diyarbakir and several others is extremely worrisome and jeopardises the functioning of democracy. All these elected representatives should thus immediately be released. This reinforces the concerns already expressed by the Assembly in June 2016 in its Resolution 2121 (2016) after the immunity of 155 Members of Parliament was lifted, jeopardising MPs’ freedom of expression as guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights. The committee also refers to the last opinion adopted by the Venice Commission, which has criticised the timing and rationae of that procedure.

The committee raises serious questions about the implementation of the state of emergency, notably the continuous and massive dismissal of civil servants and members of the judiciary and the consequences of the measures contained in the decree-laws on fundamental freedoms and fair trials, which will result in numerous complaints being lodged with the European Court of Human Rights, should Turkey fail to redress these shortcomings and ensure effective legal remedies. The arrests of leading journalists from Cumhuriyet - for their alleged support to the PKK and the Gülen Movement - the recent closure of an additional 15 Kurdish media and the restrictions imposed on the autonomy of the universities have further contributed to silencing critical voices and creating a climate of fear, suspicion and polarisation.

Finally, the committee is dismayed by the renewed discussions about the reintroduction of the death penalty in Turkey, which is incompatible with membership of the Council of Europe.

The Monitoring Committee is fully aware of the challenges posed to the country by the continuous terrorist attacks and the adverse geopolitical context. However, it urges Turkey to refrain from taking any initiatives that could erode the country’s fulfillment of its obligations toward the Council of Europe. The committee expects the state of emergency to be lifted at the earliest possible date, and demands the full application and respect of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The committee thus asks the PACE co-rapporteurs to closely follow the situation and visit Turkey at their earliest convenience.