30 June 2015

ARTICLE 34 of the Turkish Constitution

« Everyone has the right to hold unarmed and peaceful meetings and demonstration marches without prior permission. The right to hold meetings and demonstration marches shall be restricted only by law on the grounds of national security, public order, prevention of commission of crime, protection of public health and public morals or the rights and freedoms of others.

The formalities, conditions, and procedures to be applied in the exercise of the right to hold meetings and demonstration marches shall be prescribed by law. »

The 13th edition of the LGBTI Istanbul Parade has been marked by unlawful and disproportionate use of force by police officers against the participants to the rally. The events occurred on June, 28th , could represent an u-turn in the relationships among the LGBTI community and the Turkish Government. After the last elections of June 7th , in which several LGBTI exponents run for a parliamentarian chair, showing a more than welcome opening of Turkish society, the harsh police crackdown on the PRIDE MARCH has created huge disappointment and concern within national and international human rights defenders.

The declarations released on June, 29th , by the Istanbul Governor’s office , are creating much more worry, if possible. In the official statements could be read that the demonstrators were prevented to gather and march do to a possible and undefined risk “to be open to provocation”. The Governor’s office also asserted that the participants were dispersed according to the principle of proportionality and within the boundaries of the law.

The Human Rights Agenda Association is concerned about the use of vague terms such as “open to provocation” and the respect of the principle of proportionality while dispersing the crowd. If a march could be targeted from external provocations, the role of the police is to prevent the external provocations itself and not dispersing people attending a peaceful walk using water cannons, tear gas and bullet pellets. Moreover, the Human Rights Agenda Association is asking the Istanbul’s Governor to which acts the police officers involved in the Istanbul Pride were supposedly responding according by the principle of proportionality. For this reason, the Human Rights Agenda Association is asking the Istanbul Governor to clarify the meaning of “a demonstration eventually open to provocation” and the legal guidelines followed by police officers when they were supposedly complying with legal provisions, respecting the principle of proportionality.

As stated in the Art.34 of the Turkish Constitution, and remarked in international human rights conventions to which Turkey is party, including the European Convention of Human Rights (art.11) and the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (art.21), the authorities have a responsibility to protect and facilitate the right of peaceful assembly. The significance of this right is underlined also by the UN Human Rights Council resolution 15/21 in which is remarked:

  • Reaffirm[ed] that everyone has the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association and that no one may be compelled to belong to an association;

  • Recognizi[ed] the importance of the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association to the full enjoyment of civil and political rights, and economic, social and cultural rights;

  • Recogniz[ed] also that the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association are essential components of democracy, providing individuals with invaluable opportunities to, inter alia, express their political opinions, engage in literary and artistic pursuits; and

  • Recogniz[ed] further that exercising the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association free of restrictions, subject only to the limitations permitted by international law, in particular international human rights law, is indispensable to the full enjoyment of these rights, particularly where individuals may espouse minority or dissenting religious or political beliefs”

    HRAA Board