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Resolution adopted unanimously by the IPU Council
at its 171st session (Geneva, 27 September 2002)

The Council of the Inter-Parliamentary Union,

Having before it the case of Ms. Merve Safa Kavakçi of Turkey, which has been the subject of a study and report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians in accordance with the "Procedure for the examination and treatment, by the Inter-Parliamentary Union, of communications concerning violations of human rights of parliamentarians",

Taking note of the report of the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians (CL/171/12(a)-R.1), which contains a detailed outline of the case,

Considering that Ms. Merve Kavakçi was elected on 18 April 1999 on a Virtue Party ticket as a member of the Turkish Grand National Assembly (TGNA) and was issued the credentials validating her membership in the TGNA; however, during the swearing-in ceremony on 4 May 1999, she was prevented from taking the oath because of her wearing of a headscarf and forced out of the assembly hall; on 13 May 1999, the Government revoked her Turkish citizenship on the grounds that she also possessed US citizenship, which, in violation of Turkish citizenship law, she had accepted without permission from the Government; that decision was upheld on appeal by the Council of State (latest decision on 1 December 2000) although in the meantime Ms. Kavakçi had regained Turkish citizenship through her marriage to a Turk on 28 October 1999; on 20 May 1999, by decision N° 1585, the Supreme Election Council (YSK), seized by the Government, confirmed that Ms. Kavakçi had been duly elected and was a member of the TGNA and ruled that a decision to terminate her mandate for loss of eligibility after election belonged solely to the TGNA,

Considering that, on 14 March 2001, the Speaker of the TGNA submitted a letter to the Assembly notifying it that Ms. Kavakçi's deprivation of Turkish citizenship was "lawful and final", for which reason Ms. Kavakçi "has lost her eligibility under Articles 66 and 76 of the Turkish Constitution and Citizenship Law … and does not have parliamentary status"; recalling that, on 17 January 2001, the President of the Turkish IPU Group stated that Ms. Kavakçi's "parliamentary status was lifted" subsequent to the revocation of her nationality on the grounds that "Turkish nationality is a precondition for being a parliamentarian",

Considering that, at the hearing held in Havana (April 2001), the Turkish delegation, emphasising the secular character of the Turkish State, stated that Ms. Kavakçi's aim was to show that a woman wearing a religious symbol could enter Parliament and should therefore also be able to enter the Government and be admitted to public office in general,

Noting that the Turkish Parliamentary Dress Code in force at the time requires women to wear a suit and that, in wearing a headscarf, Ms. Kavakçi did not violate that Code; noting also that Article 76 of the Constitution, governing eligibility, neither excludes persons with dual nationality from standing for election nor requires that dual nationality be disclosed; according to Ms. Kavakçi, several members of the Turkish Parliament indeed enjoy dual citizenship, including US citizenship; recalling in this respect that the decision to revoke Ms. Kavakçi's Turkish nationality prompted many Turkish citizens with dual nationality to consult Turkish consulates fearing that they too would be deprived of their nationality; however, they were informed that the decision had been directed against Ms. Kavakçi only because of her "exceptional status",

Considering further that, although duly elected, Ms. Kavakçi was denied all rights as an MP, including salary, accommodation and office; neither her name nor her picture was included in the Album of the Parliament and all information concerning her election was deleted from Parliament's data systems,

Considering moreover that in June 2001 the Court dissolved the party to which Ms. Kavakçi belonged for "activities against the secularism principle of the Turkish Republic", basing that decision inter alia on speeches made by Ms. Kavakçi; it debarred her for five years from political activity; as a consequence of Article 84 of the Constitution in force at the time, she would at that point have forfeited her mandate,

Noting finally that Ms. Kavakçi is currently living in the United States of America; knowing that charges of "insulting the Republic, the Parliament and the State" have been levelled at her, she fears that she may be arrested and prosecuted should she return to Turkey; she feels that she has been the target of discriminatory measures contrary to the principles enshrined in the Constitution and laws of Turkey and in international human rights standards, in particular the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Turkey is party,

  1. Observes that it is undisputed that Ms. Kavakçi was duly elected a member of the Turkish Parliament and validated as such by the Supreme Election Council, which that body reconfirmed in its decision N° 1585, adopted by it subsequent to the revocation of Ms. Kavakçi's Turkish nationality;

  2. Affirms, in line with that decision, that in no way can loss of eligibility after the election invalidate an election, and is therefore led to consider that Ms. Kavakçi was arbitrarily prevented from taking her oath and from assuming the parliamentary mandate entrusted to her by her constituents, with the result that they were deprived of their right to be represented by a person of their choice;

  3. Stresses that the revocation of a parliamentarian's mandate is a serious measure which irrevocably deprives such a member of the possibility of carrying out the mandate entrusted to him/her and that it must therefore be taken in full accordance with the law and only on serious grounds;

  4. Notes that: (i) in Turkish law there is no provision either for automatic loss of membership in the TGNA in the event of loss of eligibility after election or for the President of the TGNA to make a declaration to that end; (ii) according to the Supreme Election Council, which is the competent body, only the TGNA itself can revoke Ms. Kavakçi's parliamentary mandate; (iii) in conformity with Article 84 of the Turkish Constitution, loss of membership of the Turkish Parliament must be decided by an absolute majority of the Assembly; (iv) Ms. Kavakçi had regained her nationality while the Council of State ruled at last instance that she had lost her nationality owing to Council of Minister decision N° 99/12827 of 13 May 1999;

  5. Fails therefore to understand on what legal basis the President of the Turkish Grand National Assembly declared that Ms. Kavakçi was no longer a member of the Assembly without the latter having taken a decision to that effect; also fails to understand on what grounds the Council of State declared, as late as December 2000, that Ms. Kavakçi had lost her Turkish nationality when she had regained it in October 1999, as certified by the competent authorities;

  6. Fears, in view of the information on file, that Ms. Kavakçi was not only arbitrarily prevented from assuming her mandate and duties as an elected representative of the Turkish people but may also have been deprived of her membership without any valid legal basis and according to a procedure not provided for under Turkish law;

  7. Considers that the Constitutional Court judgment dissolving Ms. Kavakçi's party can in no way alter its opinion;

  8. Requests the Secretary General to inform the parliamentary authorities of this resolution, inviting them to provide their comments, in particular with respect to any means of redress which Ms. Kavakçi may be granted;

  9. Requests the Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians to continue examining this case and report to it at its next session (April 2003).
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