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Turkey: Immunity for Soldiers Involved in Counterterrorism Operations

(July 5, 2016) On June 24, 2016, the Grand National Assembly (Turkey’s parliament) adopted a law amending the Turkish Armed Forces Personnel Law, along with some other laws, to provide for immunity from prosecution, in some cases, of armed forces personnel engaged in counterterrorism operations; prosecution of soldiers will require the permission of “the military or political leadership,” according to news sources. (Turkey Grants Immunity to Security Forces Fighting Militants, REUTERS (June 24, 2016); Türk Silahli Kuvvetleri Personel Kanunu [Turkish Armed Forces Personnel Law] (July 27, 1967, as last amended effective Jan. 27, 2016), MEVZUAT.) The amendment law also accords protection from prosecution to civil servants who are involved in counterterrorism work. (Turkey Grants Immunity to Security Forces Fighting Militants, supra.)

Nevertheless, at least in the draft version of the amendment law published on June 7, it appears that imprisonment cannot be “postponed” if, for example, the sentence imposed as the result of a trial is three months or more of imprisonment, an act is in serious breach of discipline, or an act endangers the safety or combat readiness of the troops. (Türk Silahlu Kuvvetleri Personel Kanunu ile Bazi Kanunlarda Degisiklik Yapilmasina dair Kanun Tasarisi [Draft Law Amending the Turkish Armed Forces Personnel Law and Some Other Laws] (Draft Law), No. 31853594-101-1262-2458 [Bill No. 1/725], art. 9 (June 7, 2016), Grand National Assembly of Turkey website; Askeri Ceza Kanunu [Military Penal Code] (May 22, 1930, as last amended effective Oct. 10, 2013), MEVZUAT.)

In addition, the law expands the jurisdiction of military courts to handle the prosecution of members of the security forces who are charged with criminal conduct during their service and gives military commanders the authority to issue search warrants. (Turkey Grants Immunity to Security Forces Fighting Militants, supra.)  The Council of Ministers may decide, in order to support the counterterrorism actions of the Turkish Armed Forces, to allow temporary recruitment, and the General Staff, in accordance with the decision, would have the authority to make the necessary appointments and meet requirements for the number of troops to be deployed, the organization of the forces, where they will be deployed, command relationships, shifts in authority, and any other matters deemed necessary. (Draft Law, supra.)

The law has retroactive application, and so it will cover operations of the Armed Forces that were carried out over the past year. (Turkey Grants Immunity to Security Forces Fighting Militants, supra.)