CoE congress urges strengthening of local democracy in Turkey

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The Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe (CoE) on Wednesday adopted a recommendation and resolution on the situation of mayors and councilors in Turkey, and, in particular, on the detention of elected mayors and their replacement by mayors appointed by the central authorities.

Co-rapporteurs Anders Knape of Sweden and Leen Verbeek of the Netherlands presented the report following two fact-finding missions to Turkey in 2016.

In its texts the congress asks the Committee of Ministers of the CoE to urge Turkish authorities to rescind the legislative measures on “mayors appointed by the central authorities” and restore the ability of municipal councils to choose a replacement mayor.

It also points out that the arrest of a local elected official must be duly substantiated in domestic law, taken in conformity with the standards of the CoE and, in particular, with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The congress also calls for the revision of Turkish legislation to align its definition of terrorism with European standards, in particular the case law of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).

The congress in addition requests revision of ministerial instructions from November with a view towards decriminalization of the appointment of co-mayors and agreed to review the situation of Nurhayat Altun, member of the Turkish delegation of the congress and co-mayor of Tunceli who was arrested on Nov. 17, 2016 and is currently incarcerated.

The congress says it is ready to work with Turkish authorities to strengthen local democracy and to combat terrorism and violent extremism and proposes that the human rights commissioner in visits to Turkey pay particular attention to the situation of elected mayors. It also recommends that the Venice Commission draft an opinion on the constitutionality of the measures contained in Decree No. 674 that concern the exercise of local democracy in Turkey.

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