Turkey’s Constitutional Court cancels article on 'committing crime on behalf of terrorist organization'

Turkey’s Constitutional Court canceled the provision in the Turkish Penal Code requiring punishment for "a person who commits a crime on behalf of a (terrorist) organization without being a member of it" as unconstitutional. The Court stated that the law had a strong deterring effect on fundamental rights such as freedom of expression.

Duvar English

The Constitutional Court (AYM) canceled the provision "committing a crime on behalf of a (terrorist) organization without being a member of the organization" in paragraph 220/6 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) on the grounds that it is unconstitutional.

The Parliament in 2013 added the provision to TCK under the "Law on Amendments to Certain Laws in the Context of Human Rights and Freedom of Expression.” 

According to the law, “The person committing a crime on behalf of an organization shall also be sentenced for the offense of being a member of an organization.” The provision stated that this paragraph applied only to armed organizations.

The top court evaluated the applications of the local courts and justified its decision by stating that "those who were sentenced for this crime were sentenced to more imprisonment than those who were members of the organization, although it could not be proven that they were members,” according to online news outlet T24.

AYM gave the Parliament four months and decided that the cancellation would enter into force at the end of this period. However, even if the Parliament makes a new regulation, the cases of many defendants who were charged with this offense will be reconsidered.

Those who have received a definite sentence for this crime may also be able to appeal when the cancellation decision comes into force.

"In principle, in order to punish a person for membership of an armed organization, the continuity, diversity, and intensity of their actions, or -even without these characteristics-, the nature of the crime and whether it can only be committed by the members of the organization in terms of achieving the aim of the organization must be considered," the Constitutional Court said.

The top court added that it must be shown with sufficient justification that the person has an organic connection with the organization and acts knowingly and willingly within the hierarchical structure of the organization.

The AYM criticized the broad interpretations arising from the ambiguity of the concept of "on behalf of the organization" and stated that this rule created a strong deterrent effect on fundamental rights such as freedom of expression, the right to organize meetings and demonstrations, freedom of association, or freedom of religion and conscience.

“It has been concluded that the rule is not specific and foreseeable in a way to prevent arbitrary practices of public authorities and does not fulfill the requirement of legality in this respect,” the top court concluded.