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Amnesty International warns Turkey of human rights violations in HDP closure case

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Amnesty International expressed serious concern over a closure case against Turkey’s pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and its potential impact on the human rights situation in the country in a comprehensive statement released on Tuesday.

Since March 2021, the HDP has been accused by the country’s top prosecutor of having links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has been waging a bloody war in Turkey’s southeast since 1984 and is listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey and much of the international community, an accusation the party denies.

Amnesty called on the chief public prosecutor of Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals to withdraw the case against the HDP, which was set to present its defense at a hearing the same day.

According to local media, the HDP did not present an oral defense at closure proceedings heard by the country’s Constitutional Court on Tuesday. The court drew up a document to establish the HDP’s waiver of its right to present a defense and delivered it to the court rapporteur for the drafting of a final report that will include an opinion on the potential closure of the party.

The pro-Kurdish party had requested a delay in the proceedings until after the parliamentary and presidential elections on May 14, but the court denied the request. Subsequently, the HDP has declined to present its defense statement, saying that it would be an intervention in a free and fair election.

The party is seen as the potential kingmaker in the upcoming election, which could end President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s two-decade rule.

According to Amnesty International, the closure of the HDP, Turkey’s second-largest opposition party, would result in multiple violations of the rights to freedom of expression and association. The statement underscored that such a closure would significantly affect the ability of Turkish citizens to participate in public affairs and emphasizes the obligation of the Turkish state, including its judiciary, to uphold international human rights law.

Amnesty International believes that the Turkish authorities have not provided sufficient evidence to substantiate allegations of links to the outlawed PKK.

The statement noted that the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has repeatedly found violations of Article 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights in applications following the closure of political parties with Kurdish roots, primarily because the authorities have been unable to reasonably demonstrate a “pressing social need” for such closures.

Amnesty International’s statement highlighted the importance of protecting the rights to freedom of expression and association in Turkey and calls on the authorities to comply with their international obligations in the HDP closure case. The organization also called on the Constitutional Court to take into account the numerous binding rulings of the ECtHR that are relevant to the current case and should guide the upcoming ruling.

The statement highlighted the prosecution’s request for a five-year political ban on 451 former and current HDP members and the suspension of the party’s bank accounts, and said both of them are based on “meritless or weak evidence. “Amnesty International claimed that such measures constitute an attack on the right to freedom of expression and assembly and violate Turkey’s international obligations.

The organization’s statement also provided historical context by pointing out that since 1993, eight Kurdish-rooted left-wing political parties in Turkey have been on trial for alleged constitutional violations. Five of these parties were shut down for alleged links to the outlawed PKK, while two others dissolved voluntarily.

Amnesty International emphasized that Turkey has consistently failed to implement ECtHR rulings finding human rights violations due to the closure of political parties or other restrictions on individuals associated with them.

The HDP announced its decision last month to run in the elections under the banner of another party, the Green Left Party (YSP), to circumvent the risks that could emerge from its possible closure ahead of the elections.

In the past when pro-Kurdish parties faced similar threats, they either fielded independent candidates or ran under the umbrella of other parties.

Amnesty International also called on the Turkish state as a whole to guarantee the right to freedom of association for all people in the country so that citizens can exercise their right to freedom of expression and association without fear of reprisal.

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