'Secularism cannot be applied to political parties': PACE

Leaders of political groups at PACE made harsh remarks concerning the ongoing political turmoil in Turkey as they delivered speeches during the debate.

'Secularism cannot be applied to political parties': PACE
Europe's human rights watchdog bluntly warned Ankara yesterday, indicating that European Union candidate Turkey might return to the class of low-democracy countries in the near future due to a malfunctioning of state institutions vis-à-vis democratic principles.

Members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) adopted a report yesterday that says the council should consider re-imposing the monitoring of Turkey's human rights and democratic practices if necessary in the face of a closure case launched against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party).

The report, drafted by Belgian PACE deputy Luc Van den Brande, was voted on during an urgent debate held yesterday on the closure case and the political situation in Turkey. Parliamentarians also approved an amendment that says the criteria of secularism cannot be applied to political parties since "political parties animated by the moral values of a religion are widely spread in most of Council of Europe member countries." AK Party faces closure on charges of anti-secular activities.

"The Monitoring Committee is concerned that, regardless of their outcome, the ongoing judicial proceedings to dissolve the ruling AK Party in Turkey and to ban from politics 71 of its members, including the prime minister, the president of the republic and 39 deputies, are seriously affecting political stability in the country as well as the democratic functioning of state institutions and delay urgent economic and political reforms. They also spark a renewed debate about political party closure in Turkey, in relation to which the Strasbourg court has found several violations of the European Convention of Human Rights in the past," Van den Brande, who was also the rapporteur of the urgent debate during the spring plenary session which will end today, said in his report.

"The Monitoring Committee takes note of the government's initiative to draft a new, civilian constitution and considers that this opens a window of opportunity for a broad national debate involving all actors of society. It encourages the government to finalize this process in close cooperation with the Venice Commission. The new constitution should in particular guarantee an appropriate system of checks and balances and grant a center place to the protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms, in line with European standards, in order to fully ensure the democratic functioning of Turkey's institutions and the consolidation of its modernization and reform process," it said.

"The Monitoring Committee proposes to the assembly to intensify its post-monitoring dialogue with Turkey, closely follow the development of the democratic functioning of its state institutions and, in particular, the constitutional drafting process and, if need be, seriously consider the possibility of reopening the monitoring procedure for Turkey."

Leaders of political groups at PACE made harsh remarks concerning the ongoing political turmoil in Turkey as they delivered speeches during the debate, with left-wing deputies who are members of the Socialist International defending the AK Party.

Swiss deputy Andreas Gross, who is head of the socialist group at PACE, defined what Turkey has currently been going through as "a judicial coup d'état" and warned that this might turn into "a military coup d'état." He underlined that the Constitutional Court could never replace Parliament.

René van der Linden, head of the right-wing European People's Party group and the former president of PACE, said the closure of the AK Party would spell "a coup" and added that in such a case, it would be impossible for the EU to continue membership negotiations with Turkey.

Members of the Turkish delegation to PACE who are from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), meanwhile, suggested that the report's content "went far beyond values and standards defended by the Council of Europe."

"Attempts aimed at influencing the Turkish judiciary are against international law and the principle of the independence of the judiciary," the CHP deputies and MHP deputies said in a written statement.

As for his part, Van der Brande, in a speech during voting, said his report "should not be considered an intervention in the Constitutional Court's decision." By discussing this report, the Council of Europe wants to give a clear message to Turkey and other countries, the rapporteur said.

"We hope that a decision in line with standards of the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission will be made," he said.

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Last Mod: 27 Haziran 2008, 08:05
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