Turkey: Right to political representation and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP)

Adem Altan via AFP

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the undersigned organisations active in the field of democracy and human rights protection and promotion, are deeply concerned about the ongoing case before the Constitutional Court in Turkey regarding closure of the opposition party Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). HDP was founded on October 15, 2012 and has since been a vital part of political life in Turkey. Our organisations urge the authorities to uphold the right to political representation in Turkey, and to ensure that any proceedings against political parties and their representatives fully comply with international standards for a fair trial, including the right to an independent and impartial tribunal established by law and defence rights.

Dissolution of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and Right to political representation

Following Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP)’s final round of written and oral defences, the Constitutional Court is expected to announce its decision in the coming months. Should the Constitutional Court endorse the Chief Public Prosecutor’s request and rule in favour of its demand to close the HDP permanently or partially, or to completely deprive it of treasury aid, HDP will cease to exist. Its representatives who are allegedly responsible for the facts that –in the Chief Public Prosecutor’s opinion– would warrant the party’s dissolution will also be banned from political activity for five years.

The Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Supreme Court of Appeals referred its indictment to the Constitutional Court on June 7, 2021. The indictment requested the dissolution of HDP and banning of 451 party members, including HDP Co-Chairs Mithat Sancar and PervinBuldan, from politics for 5 years. The words and actions of 69 party members are stated to be the main ground of the demand for closure of the political party. No concrete or reliable evidence attributable to the HDP as an institution was presented in the indictment, and no justification was given for the request for the party’s dissolution, which would violate the right to political representation of over 10% of the voters in the last elections.

Following the preliminary defence presented by the HDP in November 2021, the Chief Public Prosecutor presented its views on the merits to the Constitutional Court, which were notified to the HDP on January 20, 2022. The views on the merits repeat the claims and demands contained in the indictment, without any indication that the Prosecutor’s office took notice of the detailed defence presented by the HDP.

The proceeding takes place against the backdrop of severe democratic and rule of law backsliding in Turkey.

Despite constitutional amendments introduced as part of the European Union accession process in the 2000s that made party closures –common in the 1990s– more difficult, the Constitutional Court shut down the Party for a Democratic Society (DTP), a political party preceding the HDP, in 2009. Turkey has been repeatedly condemned in recent years by the European Court of Human Rights for violating the convention. This includes cases regarding the DTP’s closure, HDP and its members, where the Court found the procedures initiated against them to be in violation of the complainants’ rights under the Convention.

The Turkish government has consistently failed to comply with ECtHR judgements, which warranted the launch of an infringement procedure against Turkey by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers on February 2, 2022. Repeated statements by ruling party AKP and its ally MHP’s spokespersons, calling for HDP’s closure and for its members to be banned from politics also point to an attempt by the government to undermine the ECtHR’s authority and interfere in proceedings before national courts, including the Constitutional Court, in breach of the principle of judicial independence from other State powers.

Our organisations are deeply concerned about the impact that the Constitutional Court’s decision could have on the defendants’ rights and on political democracy in Turkey.

We call on the Constitutional Court to ensure that judicial proceedings take place in full compliance with domestic and international fair trial standards, including the principle of judicial independence and impartiality and the rights of the defence. We also urge the Turkish government to respect the independence and impartiality of the judiciary by refraining from directly or indirectly influencing the Court’s decision, and to uphold the rights to political representation and democratic participation, which are a pre-condition for the respect of democracy, the rule of law and human rights in Turkey.

Read more

  • Co-signatories

    Asociación Americana de Juristas (AAJ)
    AssociacióCatalana per a la DefensadelsDrets Humans (ACDDH) - Catalonia
    Asociación Libre de Abogadas y Abogados, (ALA), Madrid
    Association for Monitoring Equal Rights
    Association of Lawyers for Freedom (ÖHD)
    Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU)
    Campaign Against Criminalising Communities (CAMPACC)
    Center of research and elaboration on democracy/Group for international legal intervention (CRED/GIGI)
    Civic Space Studies Association
    Confederation of Lawyers of Asia and the Pacific (COLAP)
    CoordinamentoItalianoSostegno Donne Afghane (CISDA)
    Democratic Lawyers Association of Bangladesh (DLAB)
    Demokratische Juristinnen und Juristen Schweiz (DJS)
    Eskubideak, Basque Country
    European Association of Lawyers for Democracy and World Human Rights (ELDH)
    European Democratic Lawyers (AED)
    General Federation of Trade Unions (UK)
    Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers
    Human Rights Agenda Association
    Human Rights Association
    Human Rights Foundation of Turkey
    International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI)
    Italian Democratic Lawyers / GiuristiDemocratici
    International Association of Democratic Lawyers (IADL)
    International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)
    KulturForumTürkeiDeutschland e.V.
    Legal Team, Italy
    Life-Memory-Freedom Association (YaşamBellekÖzgürlük)
    MAF-DAD e.V (Association for Democracy and International Law )
    National Lawyers Guild International (USA)
    National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers, Philippines (NUPL)
    People’s Law Office / International
    Progressive Lawyers’ Association (ÇHD)
    Republikanischer Anwältinnen - und Anwälteverein e.V. (RAV), Germany
    Rete Jin Italia (Jin Net)
    Rights Initiative Association
    Rosa Women’s Association
    Social Policy, Gender Identity, and Sexual Orientation Studies Association (SPoD)
    Syndicat des Avocats de France (SAF)
    Syndicat des Avocats pour la Démocratie, Belgium (le SAD)
    The Indian Association of lawyers
    The National Association of Democratic Lawyers, (NADEL), South Africa
    Transport SalariedStaffsAssociation
    Ukrainian Association of Democratic Lawyers
    Vereinigung Demokratischer Juristinnen und Juristen (VDJ)

  • Member organisations - Turkey
    vignette contact
    vignette contact

Take action