Immunity decree is taking us back to 'primitive state' - former ECHR judge

The Turkish government’s latest decree granting legal immunity to civilians means the abolishment of the rule of law in Turkey, Rıza Türmen a former European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) judge said.

“This regulation takes us back to a primitive state - a state of nature where one may kill another without legal consequences,” Türmen was quoted as saying by leftist newspaper Evrensel.

Decree Law no. 696 was entered into force on Sunday after being published on the Official Gazette. Article 121 of the decree reads as follows:

Notwithstanding whether individuals hold a formal title or whether they have fulfilled a formal duty, those who have acted in the scope of suppressing the coup attempt and acts of terror on July 15, 2016, and actions that were extensions of these events will be exempt from being put on trial for their actions.

“This is terrifying” Türmen said of the clause. “An earlier decree granted immunity regarding state officials’ acts. This was already wrong. Now, granting the same immunity to civilians can have grave consequences, an official policy of immunity can lead to chaos in the country.”

Türmen noted that the decree laws issued during Turkey’s state of emergency should remain limited to the period of emergency and be lifted when the state of emergency ends.

“But these regulations amend laws permanently,” highlighted Türmen.

The legal definition of an “act of terror” is very vague in Turkey, Kerem Altıparmak, a legal scholar, said on social media, pointing to another problem inherent in the decree.

“While prosecutors and courts take years to try journalists, academics on ‘terror crimes,’ politicians are being charged with ‘terror offences’ for their speeches; what will stop mobs from attacking dissidents?” Altıparmak asked.