Turkey’s 2-year-long state of emergency ends, to be replaced by new anti-terror laws

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A two-year-long state of emergency in Turkey came to an end on Wednesday amid the introduction of a bill proposing new anti-terror laws by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government led by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The state of emergency was declared in Turkey on July 20, 2016 by the AKP government in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. It was extended seven times, the last time being in April.

The state of emergency granted Erdoğan and his government extraordinary powers. Under it, the government pressed ahead with many controversial decrees that had the force of law and were not required to be approved by Parliament. In line with these decrees, more than 150,000 people were purged from state bodies on coup charges.

Following the termination of the state of emergency, new anti-terrorism laws, which the government says will prevent an “interruption in the fight against terrorism,” will be debated in Parliament on Thursday. Turkish opposition groups say the proposed laws are as oppressive as the state of emergency.

“Although the government is trying to disguise the new laws as an end to the state of emergency, what’s really going on is that the state of emergency is being made permanent,” Ayhan Bilgen, spokesman for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said.

A few days before the end of the state of emergency, the AKP sent the bill to the relevant parliamentary commission, proposing amendments to several laws related to security regulations.

The draft envisages boosting the powers of Turkish authorities in detaining suspects, imposing security measures that even fall outside the state of emergency and proposing to keep some state of emergency measures in effect for three more years.

With the draft, the maximum detention period for keeping the suspect of a collective crime in custody was set at four days, with an option to renew it two more times, making the detention limit 12 days.

The draft also grants authorities to governors to limit entry and exit to their cities, to ban public events and declare extraordinary security measures.

The International Commission of Jurists, a group of judges, lawyers and legal scholars who campaign for human rights, welcomed the end of the state of emergency but said Turkey must repair a rupture to the rule of law, reported Reuters.

“We remain concerned that many of the emergency measures have been given permanent effect in Turkish law and will have pernicious and lasting consequences for the enjoyment of human rights and for the rule of law in Turkey,” said Massimo Frigo, a legal adviser to the ICJ.

However, the Council of Europe (CoE) on Wednesday welcomed the decision to lift the state of emergency in Turkey.

Speaking to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, Daniel Holtgen, spokesman for the secretary-general of the CoE, said, “It’s a good thing that it has not been extended again and that it is finally coming to an end.”

Also stating that the CoE was aware of the new proposals on anti-terror measures in Turkey, he said, “CoE Secretary-General Thorbjorn Jagland emphasizes that all such legislation should be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights,” adding that the CoE was ready to assist Turkey in this regard.

The Turkish government led by Erdoğan has detained 228,137 and dismissed 134,144 people from their jobs under the state of emergency, according to data compiled by Bianet on Tuesday.

According to the Bianet report, 32 state of emergency decrees, known as KHKs, were issued during those two years that also reinstated 3,981 people to their jobs.

As reported by the state-run Anadolu news agency, 283 criminal cases were filed in connection with the coup attempt, 106 of which had been concluded as of March 23, 2018. Eight hundred five defendants were sentenced to prison, 592 of whom received life in prison.

A total of 45,415 social media accounts were investigated, and legal action was taken against 17,089 social media users on charges including propagandizing for and praising a terrorist organization; openly declaring relations with terrorist organizations; inciting the public to enmity and hatred; insulting state officials; targeting the indivisible integrity of the state and people’s safety; and engaging in hate speech.

According to the Ministry of Interior, 845 people who criticized Operation Olive Branch launched in Afrin, northern Syria, were taken into custody.

A total of 2,271 private educational institutions were closed under the state of emergency. The licenses of 21,860 executives, educators, teachers, specialized instructors and other personnel were also cancelled, and regulations were introduced to prevent the people in question from obtaining licenses to work at private educational institutions.

Forty-seven private medical centers, 174 media organizations, 1,414 nongovernmental organizations and associations, 145 foundation 15 universities and 19 unions, which were members of two confederations, were closed.

Trustees were appointed to 99 municipalities, 94 of which were of governed by the Democratic Regions Party (DBP), four were run by the AKP and one by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

According to Bianet’s Media Monitoring Report, 100 journalists were sent to prison in the wake of the July 15 coup attempt in 2017 alone. The figure was 31 in 2016. The number of imprisoned journalists reached 131 on Jan. 1, 2018. At the moment, 127 journalists are still in prison.

Turkey was ranked 155th among 180 countries in 2017, falling four places compared to the previous year in the World Press Freedom Index prepared by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). In its report, RSF stated that Turkey had dropped 57 places in the last 12 years during the AKP government’s time in power.

In the “Rule of Law Index” prepared since 2008 by the World Justice Platform, Turkey was ranked 99th among 113 countries in 2016; according to data announced in February 2018, Turkey fell two places and was ranked 101st.

Turkey was ranked 149th among 163 countries in the Global Peace Index released annually by the Australia-based Institute of Economy and Peace. Turkey was ranked 146th in 2016 and 138th in 2015.

Immediately after the putsch, the AKP government along with Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

(Turkish Minute with Stockholm Center for Freedom

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