Parliamentary immunity crisis seen as setback

A move to lift BDP deputies' immunity hurts prospects for a negotiated settlement of the Kurdish conflict, observers say.

By Fréderike Geerdink for SES Türkiye in Diyarbakir -- 04/12/12

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A government proposal to strip immunity from several deputies with ties to the BDP opposition party could force the Kurdish representatives from Turkey's political process, observers said.

  • Deputies affiliated with the BDP address the media recently outside of the parliament building in Ankara. [AFP]

    Deputies affiliated with the BDP address the media recently outside of the parliament building in Ankara. [AFP]

The prime minister office's recently submitted to parliament of a motion seeking to strip the immunity of 10 deputies tied to the BDP. Cengiz Aktar, a political science professor at Istanbul's Bahcesehir University, said that the proposal would be "disastrous" for Turkish democracy and paves the way for the government to give courts authority to prosecute the parliamentarians for "links with a terrorist organisation."

"If their immunity is lifted, the government is basically telling them to go to the mountains," he told SES Türkiye.

"There are people in the [BDP] group who are discussing the new constitution that will define how Turks and Kurds will co-exist in this land, and now you take action to exclude them," he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag moved to downplay concerns, saying deputies won't automatically be removed from parliament or prosecuted if their immunity is lifted.

"Deputies whose immunity is stripped will continue their work as parliamentarians, it is just that the ban on prosecuting and investigating [them] will be removed," he said in a statement posted on the ruling party's website.

This most recent dispute over immunity was triggered by the so-called "hugging incident" in August, when BDP deputies were filmed embracing and chatting with PKK members after the militants stopped the parliamentarians' convoy during an identity check on a road in rural Hakkari.

The reaction from other parties in parliament was fierce. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in September that "the pictures in the media already amount to very serious criminal complaints."

He added: "I believe the justice system will do what is necessary. And then we will do what is necessary, if the job falls to us," according to Turkish media reports.

Following the end of Kurdish political prisoners' hunger strike last month, government officials signaled that negotiations with the Kurdish movement, including the BDP and PKK, could resume, creating hope that there would be positive developments toward a solution.

Journalist Necmiye Alpay of the Peace Assembly, an initiative of intellectuals to reach peace in Turkey through democratic means, viewed the situation as test for democracy in the country.

"The parliamentary way is the only way to solve the Kurdish issue," she told SES Türkiye. "If their immunity is lifted, it means Turkey is taking another step towards being a dictatorial … country instead of a European one respecting democratic values."

Referring to the immunity issue, President Abdullah Gul said Turkey should beware of going down a "dead-end street," according to media reports.

Gul added that "there are also examples from our own recent political history of what we tried in the past." He was referring to 1994, when four Kurdish deputies from one of the BDP's forerunner parties were stripped of immunity. They were jailed for supporting the PKK, leading to international criticism of democracy in Turkey.

It is not clear if parliament will actually debate the motion submitted by the prime minister's office. There are 757 files concerning parliamentary immunity pending discussion, but they have all been postponed.

If there is a vote, the AKP and MHP together hold 377 seats in parliament, 10 more than the two-thirds of members required to lift immunity. MHP members have voiced support for the motion.

Aktar said postponing the debate would be positive for democracy.

"But I don't know if that's going to happen. The government is so keen on carrying out its own policies that it doesn't seem to see the consequences of this," he told SES Türkiye. "It will be an invitation for the elected officials of the Kurdish political movement to quit the political arena."

BDP Mersin deputy Ertugrul Kurkcu, whose immunity could be lifted, told SES Türkiye it is not clear what his parliamentary group will do if any of their members are stripped of immunity.

"We have not taken a decision about that yet," he said when asked if they would consider leaving the assembly.


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  • Anonymous over 2 years

    Let’s strip deputies from their parliamentary immunity first to see which ones really love their country and which ones don’t. What is immunity anyway? People see deputies only during election periods, that’s all. Those, who deserve immunity the most, are the soldiers who work day and night to maintain security in the country. They are facing with the risk of death at their twenties. I am asking the members of the parliament “You’ve come to your fifties,but you are still afraid of dying?”

  • Anonymous over 2 years

    Well, nice job! You’ll ignore the soldiers we lost in the last 30 years and hand over the country silently to the ones, who burn and destroy it, in the name of democracy. How nice! Then let us each set up an organization and destroy, ruin and racketeer and call it “Turkish rights and democracy”. Such kind of behaviors have already been called freedom and democracy anyway. When I take the gun in my hand, and hi-jack and kill people, on what charges will I be put on trial?

  • Anonymous over 2 years

    Get out!

  • Anonymous over 2 years

    The mistakes, which the parliament and thus the government have recurrently made especially regarding the ‘Kurdish problem’, should not be repeated. I believe that our country can achieve a permanent peace by ensuring freedom of thought, respecting democratic rights and putting an end to assertive attacks before the existing conflicts escalates into a civil war. A.Vahap Omuzlar.

  • Anonymous over 2 years

    Everybody who reads your pages must have understood that your reports are low quality and one-sided. May God save Turks. May our homeland be safe.

  • Anonymous over 2 years

    I am asking Mr. Prime Minister: Who are you going to solve the Kurdish issue with if not with the PKK, Ocalan or BDP?

  • Anonymous over 2 years

    Dead ends should be avoided.

  • Anonymous over 2 years

    Cheap, miserable people!

  • Anonymous over 2 years

    There is a misunderstanding here. When Mr. Prime Minister said it was 2012, he meant that they were inexperienced back in 1994, that they first removed parliamentary immunity and the PKK made a great fuss. Now, they will first contain the PKK and then will remove parliamentary immunity. Since provocators and will not be around this time, they will not have the same problems again. Did I make it clear?

  • Anonymous over 2 years

    Woe to us if we strip elected deputies of their parliamentary immunity! That would take us to 40 years ago. They have done it before – did it deliver any results? Kill all Kurds if you think that is the solution!

  • Anonymous over 2 years

    Hey, you third-class guy, what are you talking about?

  • Anonymous over 2 years

    Only virtuous people can be brothers. Small (selfish, insufficient and fascist) people can’t.

  • Anonymous over 2 years

    Do not mistake lifting of parliamentary immunity for annulment of deputyship. Deputyship can be annulled by trial. Everybody, including deputies are accountable and responsible for their actions. Parliamentary immunity must be lifted altogether, except chair immunity.

  • Anonymous over 2 years

    Hey guest, the ones, who indeed divide this country, are the dishonest traitors with their nationalistic rhetoric. Those racists have forgotten about how to be a human. They have an ill mentality. We all can live in brotherhood together, it’s not difficult if we come to terms with the past.

  • Anonymous over 2 years

    My opinion about parliamentary immunity is based on 2 things: 1. If immunities are lifted, death penalties can be brought back on the agenda, and 2. Deputies, who commits a crime, can be stripped off their immunity so that they can be put on trial, which is indeed how it should be. I believe this would facilitate the solution of Kurdish problems. Regards, Kürşat

  • Anonymous about 2 years

    Whoever commits a crime should be prosecuted. Everyone has the same rights. What is the Kurdish issue supposed to mean? What a shame!

Name: Anonymous - Have your comments posted immediately!

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