The co-chair of the Foreign Relations Committee of the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) spoke to Medya News about the report of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), that recently held its latest assembly in Indonesia.
Özsoy started by explaining why the IPU is a unique and important international organisation, saying:
“The IPU is the largest parliamentary assembly in the world. It consists of MPs from 178 UN member countries. In its assemblies, the MPs discuss the problems they face during their service and make various resolutions. These may be about imprisoned MPs, about those forced out of the political arena, those in exile or those stripped of their parliamentary status. The IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians examines all these cases, and is unique in the world in this respect.”
Noting that the HDP has been in dialogue with the IPU since 2017, when many HDP MPs had their parliamentary immunity lifted by the Turkish parliament itself, and that the Committee had intervened in support of Selahattin Demirtaş, the imprisoned former co-chair of HDP, as a third party in his case before the European Commission of Human Rights (ECHR), Özsoy said that the Committee had decided, during the latest IPU assembly, to examine two new cases:
The case of HDP MP Semra Güven, whose immunity was lifted on 1 March by reason of accusations relating to an eight-year-old photograph showing her with her fiancée, allegedly a PKK fighter who was later killed in clashes, and that of Gültan Kışanak, the discharged mayor of Diyarbakır and former MP, indicted over some of her public statements.
Six hundred charges brought against HDP MPs
The report by the IPU says:
“Over 600 criminal and terrorism charges have been brought against the members of parliament of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) since 20 May 2016, when the Constitution was amended to authorise the wholesale lifting of parliamentary immunity. As a result, hundreds of trial proceedings are ongoing throughout the country against HDP parliamentarians and former parliamentarians.”
“Since 4 November 2016, scores of parliamentarians have been detained and others have gone into exile. Eleven parliamentarians are currently in prison, namely the former HDP co-chairs, Mr. Selahattin Demirtaş and Ms. Figen Yüksekdağ, as well as Ms. Gülser Yildirim, Mr. Idris Baluken, Ms. Leyla Güven, Mr. Musa Farisoğulları, Ms. Gültan Kışanak, Mr. Sebahat Tuncel, Ms. Aysel Tuğluk, Ms. Ayla Akat Ata and Mr. Nazmi Gür. Some of them were arrested in September 2020, although the accusations against them relate to the events in the distant past that unfolded soon after the siege of Kobane in Syria in 2014. Thirteen HDP members of parliament have lost their parliamentary mandates in recent years, largely due to the fact that their prison sentences became final, most recently in the cases of Ms. Leyla Güven and Mr. Musa Farisoğulları in June 2020. If their sentence is confirmed by the Supreme Court, the same fate is said to await Ms. Remziye Tosun and Mr. Kemal Bulbul.”
Indicating that although the IPU did not have sanctioning powers, Özsoy said that it was still an influential institution whose opinion on Turkey helped shape the international public.
‘IPU deeply alarmed at the prospect of the dissolution of the HDP’
He noted that the report emphasised that the IPU “remains deeply alarmed at the prospect of the dissolution of the HDP, also bearing in mind that its predecessors were dissolved by court order; considers that this step shows once again that the authorities continue to view, wrongly, the PKK [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] and the HDP as one and the same entity; recalls in this regard that, while recognizing that the two organisations rely largely on the same support base and pursue similar objectives, the HDP is a legal political party that does not in any way advocate violence to achieve its goals; is concerned that its dissolution will deprive not only HDP parliamentarians of their right to participate in public life, but also their electorate of their right to representation in the Turkish parliament.”
Özsoy also compared the violations of rights against MPs in Turkey with those in other countries:
“There are some interesting cases. Some parliaments are not properly functioning, for instance in Libya. There are resolutions regarding more than 130 MPs in Venezuela. The largest number of cases is now in Venezuela. Turkey is now the second or the third place with 66 MPs. It was ranked the first [worst] country earlier, and it’s been always ranked among the first three. There are attacks against MPs and against parliamentary democracy almost everywhere where there is an authoritarian regime. However the figures for Turkey are very high even by Middle East standards. They have a map that shows the number of cases of MPs in each country. Turkey is marked red. It attracts attention as a country with intense pressure on MPs both in the Middle East and in Europe.”