Legal shield for Turkish soldiers in anti-terror ops becomes law

A proposal to provide legal protection to soldiers taking part in anti-terror operations and enable the participation of Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in operations in central provinces was made into law after being published in the Official Gazette on July 14. 

The law, which increases the authority of all soldiers participating in security operations against groups listed as terrorist organizations, also provides a legal shield to security officials by requiring permission to launch probes in case of wrongdoings.

According to the bill amending the TSK Personnel Law, which was approved by PresidentRecep Tayyip Erdoğan later on July 13, trying commanders or the chief of general staff will require permission from the prime minister.

The permission mechanism will depend on the rank of the personnel, it said, adding the permission of the local district governor would suffice for probes into public personnel or on-duty soldiers.

As part of the bill, temporary village guards and voluntary guards will also be granted a legal shield.

The law also controversially enables the participation of the TSK in operations in central provinces, in cases where the capabilities of the police forces are deemed insufficient, upon a proposal from the Interior Ministry and an approving decision from the cabinet.

Soldiers will be permitted to enter residences in order to provide safety of life and property or apprehend certain people with the written order of a commander. The decision of a unit’s commander will be presented for a judge’s approval within 24 hours.

Apprehension, detention or arrest will not be able to be carried out for military personnel due to an accusation until permission for an investigation is granted. Alleged crimes committed during operations will be regarded as military offences and a civil trial will not take place.

A similar judicial shield was also previously granted to National Intelligence Organization (MİT) personnel, with the Prime Ministry granted authority to halt all investigations into MİT officials.

MİT chief Hakan Fidan was among the names from the MİT who was shielded from investigation by the Prime Ministry.

The draft version of the law was presented to the Turkish parliament on June 7 and met with full support from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), saying it “always stands by” security forces against terror.

“Most particularly, I would like everyone to rest assured and be at ease that we will do our best to strengthen the Turkish soldier’s hand in fighting terrorism and further enlarge the legal assurance that they need,” MHP chair Devlet Bahçeli said on June 8.

Parliamentary debates over the controversial bill were inflammatory, as scuffles broke out between lawmakers from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which is focused on the Kurdish issue. The bill was approved by parliament late on June 23, despite fights between deputies.



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