Objectives and Activities

Freedom and Democracy Party (ÖZDEP) v Turkey, 8 December 1999 [ECtHR]

Case no 23885/94

41.  The Constitutional Court also criticised ÖZDEP for having distinguished two nations in its programme – the Kurds and the Turks – and for having referred to the existence of minorities and to their right to self-determination, to the detriment of the unity of the Turkish nation and the territorial integrity of the Turkish State.

The Court notes that, taken together, the passages in issue present a political project whose aim is in essence the establishment – in accordance with democratic rules – of “a social order encompassing the Turkish and Kurdish peoples”. It is stated elsewhere in the programme that “[t]he Freedom and Democracy Party is campaigning for the voluntary unification of the Kurdish and Turkish peoples, who participated in the foundation of the country”. It is true that in its programme ÖZDEP also refers to the right to self-determination of the “national or religious minorities”; however, taken in context, those words do not encourage people to seek separation from Turkey but are intended instead to emphasise that the proposed political project must be underpinned by the freely given, democratically expressed, consent of the Kurds.

In the Court’s view, the fact that such a political project is considered incompatible with the current principles and structures of the Turkish State does not mean that it infringes democratic rules. It is of the essence of democracy to allow diverse political projects to be proposed and debated, even those that call into question the way a State is currently organised, provided that they do not harm democracy itself (see the Socialist Party and Others judgment cited above, p. 1257, § 47). The same applies, too, to ÖZDEP’s proposals for the abolition of the Religious Affairs Department. 

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