Europe’s top rights court on Tuesday condemned Turkey for dissolving a moderate pro-Kurdish political party in 2009 for alleged ties to PKK rebels, saying the party did not promote violence nor warrant such a severe sanction.
The judges ruled that Turkey had violated the right to freedom of assembly and association by ordering the dissolution of the Party for a Democratic Society (DTP), part of the pro-Kurdish left-wing movement, which lost its seats in parliament, the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) said in a statement.
The Turkish government’s reasons for dissolving DPT stem from its decades-long battle with rebels of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) who initially sought independence for the Kurdish-majority southeast, but over the years have narrowed their demands to greater autonomy and cultural rights.
But the ECHR said the reasons for “the DTP’s dissolution, one of the main political actors which had argued in favour of a peaceful solution to the Kurdish problem, could not be regarded as sufficient to justify the interference in its right to freedom of association,” the statement said.
It added that none of DTP’s political projects were “incompatible with the concept of a democratic society.”
The judges also ruled that Turkey was in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights in denying the party’s two co-presidents — Ahmet Turk and Aysek Tugluck — their parliamentary mandates guaranteed under the right to free elections.
The court noted that the leaders’ speeches did not encourage “the use of violence, armed resistence or insurrection.”
The judges’ unanimous decision found that while Turkey criticised the DTP for not openly distancing itself from some members’ “indirect support of terrorism”, the failure to act was not a reason to justify “a sanction of such severity as the dissolution of an entire party”.
In March 2009, the DTP had garnered 5.7 percent of the vote in local elections, becoming a Kurdish political force in Turkey and the first in the southeast.
Turkey has three months to contest the ruling and request a new review of the case.