Top prosecutor demands reversal of Turkey’s Istanbul Convention withdrawal

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Aytaç Kurt, the chief public prosecutor of Turkey’s highest administrative court, the Council of State, has demanded the cancellation of a presidential decree that required the withdrawal of Turkey from an international treaty against domestic violence, describing the move as “unlawful,” local media reported on Thursday.

The Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention, is an international accord designed to protect women’s rights and prevent domestic violence in societies and was opened to signature by member countries of the Council of Europe in 2011.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sparked outrage in Turkey and the international community after he issued a decree in March 2021 that pulled the country out of the international treaty, which requires governments to adopt legislation prosecuting perpetrators of domestic violence and similar abuse as well as marital rape and female genital mutilation.

Kurt submitted his opinion to the 10th Chamber of the court during a hearing regarding 10 appeals requesting the cancellation of Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention.

According to Turkish media reports, the panel of five judges is expected to announce their decision in a written statement.

While the court was in session, police officers intervened in a protest by women’s rights activists who had gathered in front of the courtroom, preventing them from getting inside, with some of the protestors slightly injured amid the turmoil, the ANKA news agency reported.

According to ANKA, Yılmaz Akçil, the chief judge, allowed the women into the courtroom after some lawyers at the hearing objected to the police intervention on women’s rights activists who wanted to get inside, saying, “Either you stop this, or we’ll go out to [support] our friends.”

Amid calls from women’s rights organizations and world leaders, including US President Joe Biden, for reinstatement of the Istanbul Convention, the Council of State has so far rejected numerous appeals requesting the cancellation of Erdoğan’s executive decree withdrawing Turkey from the convention.

However, new appeals have recently been filed with the court demanding the cancellation of the relevant presidential decree by the Ankara Bar Association, the Diyarbakır Bar Association, the Future Party (GP) vice chairperson Serap Yazıcı and İYİ (Good) Party leader Meral Akşener, among others.

Femicides and violence against women are serious problems in Turkey, where women are killed, raped or beaten every day. Many critics say the main reason behind the situation is the policies of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which protects violent and abusive men by granting them impunity.

According to the We Will Stop Femicide Platform (Kadın Cinayetlerini Durduracağız Platformu), 280 women were murdered in Turkey in 2021.

A survey conducted by Metropoll revealed last year that 52.3 percent of Turks are against the withdrawal from the convention. While more than a majority of participants oppose it, 26.7 percent approve and 10.2 percent had no opinion.

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