Human Rights Foundation (HRF), a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, has urged Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government to reinstate the judges, who were removed after failed coup attempt, immediately until proper investigations are carried out.
HRF released a statement on Thursday, stating that the judges were unlawfully purged based on accusations of connection to the attempted coup.
“Due to the speed and magnitude of the dismissals, there is a strong indication that criminal investigations required by law were bypassed. Under Turkey’s constitution, President Erdoğan lacks the authority to fire judges. However, Erdoğan loyalists at the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors, the entity responsible for supervision of the legal system, dismissed the judges,” HRF said.
Emphasizing that Turkey was founded on the principles of parliamentary democracy, division of powers, and secularism, HRF president Thor Halvorssen added, “Unfortunately, President Erdoğan does not value these founding principles. Rule of law and political freedom have steadily declined under Erdogan’s rule. The dismissal of almost 3,000 judges without due process signifies the elimination of any vestiges of judicial independence in the country.”
“The judges’ alleged connection to the coup is merely an excuse to get rid of all independent judges and to establish a judicial branch that is subservient to the President. If Erdoğan and his loyalists at the High Council do not reinstate the judges, Turkey’s competitive-authoritarian regime will move one step closer to becoming a full-fledged dictatorship,” added Halvorssen.
There has been speculation that the judges were targeted according to an “enemies list” put together by the ruling AK Party founded by Erdoğan. The dismissed judges amounted to one-fifth of Turkey’s entire judicial branch, making an already government-controlled judiciary completely subservient to the executive.
Following the failed military coup earlier this month, Erdoğan announced a temporary suspension of the European Convention on Human Rights. Turkish authorities have detained and dismissed roughly 50,000 people, including more than 15,000 education workers, and have forced 1,577 university deans to resign.
A group of rebel soldiers, acting out of chain of command, attempted a military coup at around 10 p.m. on July 15, which left more than 200 people – including civilians – dead.
The Turkish government managed to suppress the coup attempt and launched a large-scale crackdown across the country on media, public servants, judges, prosecutors and teachers, along with rebels within the army. The detentions, arrests and massive purges that followed the crackdown widened and increased after a state of emergency was declared on July 20, concentrating power formally into the hands of Erdoğan by allowing him and his cabinet to make laws by fiat.
Erdoğan has accussed the Gülen movement of being behind the coup attempt and demanded extradition of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen from the US. Thousands of public servants, judges, prosecutors and journalists were detained by the Turkish police for allegedly having links to the Gülen movement.
Meanwhile, Gülen recently issued a statement condemning the failed military coup attempt in Turkey, calling the allegations of his involvement “demeaning.”
The Gülen movement is a grassroots social initiative inspired by Gülen and carries out charitable activities all around the world, including education, distributing humanitarian aid and providing drinking water especially in African countries.
The Gülen movement is not considered to have influence over the Turkish military, which is known for its Kemalist roots that is against the Gülen movement. The rebel military officials who attempted to stage a coup named themselves as “Council of Peace At Home,” in a declaration they forcibly had delivered via the state-run broadcaster TRT on Friday night. The name is a reference to “Peace at home, peace in the world,” which is a famous saying by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Republic of Turkey.
Since a corruption investigation erupted on Dec. 17, 2013 and led to the resignation of four Cabinet ministers, Erdoğan has launched a witch hunt targeting shop owners, teachers, members of the judiciary, journalists and police officers who are accused of being affiliated with the Gülen movement, which is also known as the Hizmet movement. The graft probe implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, members of his family and senior Justice and Development Party (AK Party) figures.
Erdoğan accused the Gülen movement of plotting to overthrow his government and said that sympathizers of the movement within the police department had fabricated the corruption scandal. Since then, hundreds of police officers have been detained and some arrested for alleged illegal activity in the course of the corruption investigation. Erdoğan openly said he would carry out a “witch hunt” against anyone with links to the movement. The Gülen movement strongly rejects the allegations brought against it.