“The stripping of Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu’s mandate from the opposition Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) is another and repeated blow which undermines parliamentary rights and immunity in Turkey,” according to the PACE co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of the country, Thomas Hammarberg (Sweden, SOC) and John Howell (United Kingdom, EC/DA).
Mr Gergerlioğlu, elected as an MP in 2018, was prosecuted and sentenced to two and a half years in prison on terror-related charges for a non-violent post on social media published in 2016. His conviction was upheld by the Supreme Court of Cassation in February 2021, and the execution of his sentence was not suspended until the end of his parliamentary mandate. This paved the way for the termination of Mr Gergerlioğlu’s mandate by parliament, despite an individual application still pending before the Constitutional Court.
“As a human rights activist and later as a deputy, Mr Gergerlioğlu has continuously fought for the protection of fundamental freedoms in Turkey and raised crucial human rights issues, including in the parliament. Stripping him of his parliamentary immunity further restricts the rights of opposition parliamentarians to express critical views and perform their oversight function. This further weakens the functioning of parliament,” said the co-rapporteurs.
“The recent legal steps taken by the Supreme Court of Cassation, at the initiative of the Nationalist Party (MHP), requesting the Constitutional Court to close down the HDP Party altogether is another worrying development that adds to the crackdown on political opposition and civil dissent which was denounced by the Parliamentary Assembly last October.”
“We are extremely concerned that dozens of parliamentarians – and many other citizens – continue to be prosecuted for their statements on the basis of an anti-terror arsenal which is too widely used and interpreted. As a result, the Turkish judicial system, which suffers from ‘pervasive problems regarding [its] independence and impartiality’, as noted by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers last week, continues to deliver sentences which are not compatible with the case-law of the Turkish Constitutional Court or the European Court of Human Rights. This leads to the termination of parliamentary mandates, which slowly but steadily erodes parliamentary democracy.”
“In light of these problems with freedom of expression in Turkey, which is essential in a democracy, the Venice Commission, in its Opinion No. 858 / 2016, called on the Turkish authorities to strengthen, not weaken, parliamentary immunity. We reiterate this call and urge the Turkish authorities to take meaningful and concrete steps, without further delay, to safeguard the functioning of its parliament. Turkey needs a functioning opposition, and must stop silencing critical voices, even if this is annoying for the authorities.”
“We also hope that the Constitutional Court will swiftly examine the individual application lodged by Mr Gergerlioğlu. Fundamental rights must be protected by deeds, not words. We again ask the Turkish authorities to cease policies and acts that undermine democracy and the rule of law, to abide by the rulings of the Strasbourg Court, to release former HDP leader Mr Demirtas and philanthropist Mr Kavala, and to ensure the conditions for political pluralism and respect for fundamental rights,” the co-rapporteurs concluded.