A provision in the Turkish Penal Code that punishes individuals for “committing crimes on behalf of an organisation without being a member” has been declared unconstitutional and annulled by the Turkish Constitutional Court (AYM). The court’s decision, which will take effect in four months’ time, cited concerns about the provision’s lack of clarity and potential for arbitrary enforcement by the authorities.
The unanimous decision follows a legal challenge from lower courts and highlights the need for legislative changes to bring the law into line with constitutional principles and international human rights standards. The court highlighted the vague interpretation of the provision and its potential impact on fundamental rights such as the right to express, assemble and organise.
The ruling echoes a 2017 decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), which found that the article did not meet the requirement of legality. In the ECHR case, Murat Işıkırık was sentenced to six years and three months in prison for allegedly committing crimes on behalf of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), even though he was not a member of the organisation.
In its ruling, the ECHR stressed that such a broad wording and interpretation of the article, and such a broad application by the courts, did not provide sufficient protection against arbitrary interference by the authorities.
As a result of the AYM ruling, the Turkish Grand National Assembly now has four months to enact legislation to address the court’s concerns, or the provision will be unenforceable, with implications for ongoing cases.