Parliamentary Immunity and the Issues Encountered in Turkey

Parliamentary Immunity and the Issues Encountered in Turkey

Omur Aydin (Istanbul University, Turkey)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 28
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-8094-2.ch002

Abstract

Parliamentary immunity is the totality of the assurances provided to members of parliament (MPs) for the purpose of public interest. It originates from British parliamentary law. Parliamentary immunity aims to ensure that MPs can perform their legislative duty independently, without being pressurised. In Turkey, parliamentary immunity has been under constitutional protection since 1876, when the constitutional order began. It can be said that Turkey has two fundamental chronic problems when it comes to this matter. First, inviolability is misused to protect MPs against allegations of corruption. Second, there are no objective criteria regarding the lifting of inviolability. This situation provides ruling parties having parliamentary majority with a wide discretionary power and creates a tool for putting political pressure on the deputies of opposition parties. Besides this, the constitutional amendment made in 2016 has brought about many problems and caused the political sphere and freedom of speech to be diminished.
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Terminology

Broadly defined, parliamentary immunity is a legal instrument which temporarily or permanently inhibits legal action, measures of investigation, and/or measures of law enforcement in criminal and/or civil matters against MPs (Hardt, 2015, p. 6). Immunity, with a different theoretical conception according to country, is designed to safeguard the people’s representatives against arbitrary power. Consequently, it protects the legislature against interference from the executive or sometimes even from the judiciary. Parliamentary immunity ensures thus collective protection for parliament as a body, its operation and its acts, as well as individual protection for its constituent members (Venice Commission, 1996, p. 4). Its purpose is to ensure the proper functioning of parliament and to guarantee its independence (Hardt, 2015, p. 6).

Most national legal systems provide for dual protection of MPs: non-liability for votes cast and opinions expressed in the performance of their duties and, as regards all other acts, prohibition of detention or legal proceedings without the authorisation of the chamber of which they are members (Allen, 1999, p. 7). Most constitutional texts dealing with this area limit themselves to prohibiting MPs from being subject to legal proceedings or from being held liable (Allen, 1999, p. 143). There is general consensus that parliamentary immunity is not a personal privilege of parliamentarians, but an institutional privilege that accrues to parliaments as corporate bodies (Hardt, 2015, p. 7).

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