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050524 - Amnesty demands changes in the new Turkish Penal Code
Date: 21/05/05 16:49
RE: code penal turc
Amnesty demands changes in the new Turkish Penal Code
Kurdish Media
May 16 2005
16/05/2005 Info-Turk
A new version of the Turkish Penal Code (TPC)
currently before the Turkish parliament for approval may be used
to unnecessarily restrict the right to freedom of expression and
couldresult in people being jailed as prisoners of conscience. It also
leaves open the possibility of discrimination on grounds of sexual
orientation within the law, and retains obstacles to prosecutions
for torture.

The new TPC has been presented as a reforming measure designed to
improve human rights protection in Turkey, as it attempts to bring its
laws into line with the requirements for membership of the European
Union. While the new TPC does propose many positive changes - for
example, it increases the punishment for those convicted of torture -
it contains numerous restrictions on fundamental rights. Provisions
covering freedom of expression, which have been used in the past to
prosecute people or imprison them as prisoners of conscience, remain.

Article 159 of the old TPC, which criminalized acts that "insult or
belittle" various state institutions, is one that Amnesty International
has repeatedly called on the authorities to abolish. It reappears as
Article 301 of the new TPC in the section entitled "Crimes against
symbols of the state's sovereignty and the honour of its organs"
(Articles 299 - 301). Amnesty International is concerned that this
section could be used to criminalize legitimate expression of dissent
and opinion.

New articles have been introduced which appear to introduce further
restrictions to fundamental rights. Article 305 of the new TPC
criminalizes "acts against the fundamental national interest". The
explanation attached to the draft, when the law was first presented to
Parliament, provided as examples of such crimes, "making propaganda for
the withdrawal of Turkish soldiers from Cyprus or for the acceptance
of a settlement in this issue detrimental to Turkey... or, contrary
to historical truths, that the Armenians suffered a genocide after the
First World War." Amnesty International considers that the imposition
of a criminal penalty for any such statements - unless intended or
likely to incite violence - would be a clear breach of international
standards safeguarding freedom of expression.

The law was supposed to enter into force on 1 April 2005. However, in
the face of forceful objections by Turkish journalists that the TPC
could be used to greatly restrict their activitiesand even imprison
them, the government agreed to delay this until 1 June 2005 in order
to make amendments.

On 3 May, the ruling Justice and Development [AK] party submitted its
proposed changes to the draft TPC. While some small changes have been
made - mainly the removal of provisions that allowed for increased
sentences when breaches of the code took place in the media - most of
the restrictive articles remain and have not been changed. In at least
one instance, the ruling party is apparently trying to introduce even
greater restrictions: for example, the proposal suggests that Article
305 should be altered to explicitly allow for the prosecution of
"foreigners" as well as Turkish citizens

Article 122 of the draft, which forbids discrimination on the basis
of "language, race, colour, gender, political thought, philosophical
belief, religion, denomination and other reasons" originally listed
"sexual orientation", but this was removed from the draft at the
last moment. Amnesty International is therefore concerned that
discrimination on the basis of sexuality is not criminalized in the
new law.

In addition, Amnesty International is concerned that the statute
of limitations (the time limit) still applies in trials of people
accused of torture. While the new law has extended this time limit
from seven-and-a-half years to 10 years, it is common for trials
of alleged torturers to be deliberately protracted and ultimately
abandoned because of this provision, thereby contributing to a
climate of impunity. Given the frequency with which this happens,
Amnesty International considers that there should be no statute of
limitations for the crime of torture.

RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send appeals to arrive as quickly as
possible, in English or your own language:

- expressing concerns about the draft new TPC, much of which may be
used to unnecessarily restrict fundamental human rights and which may
lead to people being imprisoned for the peaceful exercise of their
right to freedom of expression;

- welcoming the amendments tabled by the ruling AK party but stating
that these seem to be insufficient to guarantee the right to freedom
of expression in Turkey;

- urging the authorities to listen to the concerns of press and human
rights groups, and take further steps to amend or abolish problematic
articles of the TPC, such as Articles 305 and 301;

- expressing concern that the statute of limitations remains for
crimes of torture and ill-treatment;

- asking the authorities to take steps to ensure that discrimination on
the basis of sexual orientation is prohibited. (AI Index, 13 May 2005)


Prime Minister Mr Recep Tayyip Erdogan Office of the Prime Minister
Basbakanlik 06573 Ankara Turkey Salutation: Dear Prime Minister Fax:
+ 90 312 417 0476
Leader of the Republican People's Party Mr Deniz Baykal Leader of the Republican People's Party Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi Cevre sokak No:38
Cankaya, Ankara Turkey Salutation: Dear Sir Fax: +90 312 467 0996


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