|TURKEY BREAKS EU PROMISES: HADEP IS CLOSED|
Turkey flouted its promises to the EU yesterday, by permanently banning HADEP, the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party, and pushing to ban its successor DEHAP, the Democratic People's Party.
The Constitutional Court ruled that HADEP should be closed permanently for aiding the outlawed Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK) and carrying out activities challenging the state. Over forty HADEP members including its founders have been banned from becoming a member, founder, administrator or inspector of any political party for five years. The Court of Appeal's Chief Prosecutor then asked the Constitutional Court to ban its successor party, DEHAP, which largely mirrors HADEP's views.
Turkey is required to achieve the "stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and protection of minorities" in order to meet EU accession requirements. In May 2002, a European Parliament delegation warned that, "if HADEP is closed down, this would be a serious setback in relations between the European Union and Turkey".
Turkey has a longstanding record of banning a succession of pro-Kurdish political parties. The European Court of Human Rights has condemned Turkey's practice on numerous occasions, in cases brought by, among others, the United Communist Party of Turkey (TBKP), the Socialist Party, the Freedom and Democracy Party (OZDEP), the People's Labour Party (HEP) and the Democracy Party (DEP). A further challenge was brought to the Court by the Welfare Party, Refah Partisi. Last year, the Court ruled that such closures not only violated the rights of the party members to freedom of expression and association, but also the rights of voters to fair and free elections (Sadak v Turkey).
There are persistent reports of the harassment of HADEP members and supporters. The Human Rights Association of Turkey (IHD) reports that 41 HADEP offices were raided and 393 formal arrests of HADEP members were made in 2002. The European Commission has also noted the "continuing harassment" of HADEP members by the authorities.
Due to its expected closure, HADEP campaigned under DEHAP in the 2002 general election. The party obtained nearly 2-million votes, achieving 6.2 per cent of the national vote. It was the leading party in 12 provinces in the Kurdish regions, scoring an average of 47 per cent of votes in Diyarbakir, Batman, Sirnak, Hakkari and Van. However, the Turkish electoral system denies parties with under 10 per cent of the vote nationwide from securing parliamentary seats.Kerim Yildiz, Executive Director of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, said, "The decision to close HADEP effectively denies the Kurdish minority from taking part meaningfully in the democratic process. Turkey is clearly in violation of its human rights obligations, and of its promises to guarantee democracy in order to join the EU."