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Objectives and Activities

United Communist Party of Turkey and Others v Turkey, 30 January 1998 [ECtHR]

Case no 19392/92

55.  The second submission accepted by the Constitutional Court was that the TBKP sought to promote separatism and the division of the Turkish nation. By drawing a distinction in its constitution and programme between the Kurdish and Turkish nations, the TBKP had revealed its intention of working to achieve the creation of minorities which – with the exception of those referred to in the Treaty of Lausanne and the treaty with Bulgaria – posed a threat to the State’s territorial integrity. It was for that reason that self-determination and regional autonomy were both proscribed by the Constitution (see paragraph 10 above).

56.  The Court notes that although the TBKP refers in its programme (see paragraph 9 above) to the Kurdish “people” and “nation” and Kurdish “citizens”, it neither describes them as a “minority” nor makes any claim – other than for recognition of their existence – for them to enjoy special treatment or rights, still less a right to secede from the rest of the Turkish population. On the contrary, the programme states: “The TBKP will strive for a peaceful, democratic and fair solution of the Kurdish problem, so that the Kurdish and Turkish peoples may live together of their free will within the borders of the Turkish Republic, on the basis of equal rights and with a view to democratic restructuring founded on their common interests.” With regard to the right to self-determination, the TBKP does no more in its programme than deplore the fact that because of the use of violence, it was not “exercised jointly, but separately and unilaterally”, adding that “the remedy for this problem is political” and that “[i]f the oppression of the Kurdish people and discrimination against them are to end, Turks and Kurds must unite”.

The TBKP also said in its programme: “A solution to the Kurdish problem will only be found if the parties concerned are able to express their opinions freely, if they agree not to resort to violence in any form in order to resolve the problem and if they are able to take part in politics with their own national identity.”

57  The Court considers one of the principal characteristics of democracy to be the possibility it offers of resolving a country’s problems through dialogue, without recourse to violence, even when they are irksome. Democracy thrives on freedom of expression. From that point of view, there can be no justification for hindering a political group solely because it seeks to debate in public the situation of part of the State’s population and to take part in the nation’s political life in order to find, according to democratic rules, solutions capable of satisfying everyone concerned. To judge by its programme, that was indeed the TBKP’s objective in this area. That distinguishes the present case from those referred to by the Government (see paragraph 49 above).

58.  Admittedly, it cannot be ruled out that a party’s political programme may conceal objectives and intentions different from the ones it proclaims. To verify that it does not, the content of the programme must be compared with the party’s actions and the positions it defends. In the present case, the TBKP’s programme could hardly have been belied by any practical action it 

took, since it was dissolved immediately after being formed and accordingly did not even have time to take any action. It was thus penalised for conduct relating solely to the exercise of freedom of expression.

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