Turkey has made significant progress in amending its judicial legislation to fulfill required standards of the European Union, including the ensuring of free and non-violent expressions of opinion. However, Turkey’s legislative reforms do not guarantee respect for freedom of expression as the Turkish Penal Code still includes more than 30 provisions violating the right of freedom of expression. In addition the anti-terror law and provisions in other codes continue to limit the free exchange of ideas.

The continuing investigation and prosecution of Kurdish politicians for statements made in relation to the Kurdish issue and the rights of the Kurdish people in Turkey is another method to suppress the pro-Kurdish party (DTP) and to criminalize their political activities. This is also part of the state’s efforts to remove the parliamentary immunity of DTP MPs in order to reduce the number of DTP MPs in parliament, to limit their influence and prevent the peaceful solution of the Kurdish question.

The decision of the Court is not in line with Turkey’s international obligations under the ECHR, ICCPR and ICERD as Aysel Tugluk did not advocate the use of violence, armed resistance or an uprising in her speech – all of which are essential factors to be taken into consideration by the courts in Turkey. The courts in Turkey should also bear in mind that the right of freedom of expression as it is established in the case law of the European Court Human Rights also covers speech and opinions that may offend, shock or disturb the State.

The court’s decision also makes clear that changing the laws alone is not an effective way to guarantee free expression. The interpretation of the laws by judicial mechanisms in Turkey is a major barrier to peaceful expression. Judicial approach or implementation of the law has often supported the official ideology of the state and any statements that do not conform to official ideology can easily be investigated as propaganda or bring charges of supporting a terrorist organization under the Turkish criminal legislation."

Opinions expressed in JURIST’s Hotline are the sole responsibility of their authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST’s editors, staff, or the University of Pittsburgh.
Friday, February 13, 2009