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Turkey: Years of emergency decrees still impact rights and freedoms

Turkey is grappling with major restrictions on democracy and on fundamental rights and freedoms. In the aftermath of the coup attempt of 15 July 2016, the Turkish government declared a three-month State of Emergency, which was extended seven times, before being revoked on 18 July 2018. This regime of emergency decrees, also known as the ‘Regime of 20 July’, led to major human rights violations and its impact can still be felt today.

The emergency decrees and the constitutional amendments that followed radically changed the relations between State powers by undermining checks and balances and the rule of law. The many arbitrary decisions and measures introduced profoundly affected the lives of the Turkish people. They will have long-lasting implications for civil society, human rights and democracy in Turkey.

Measures intended to bring the perpetrators of the failed coup attempt before justice were instrumentalised to silence dissenting views and target civil society. This happened despite the fundamental rights and freedoms in times of emergency, enshrined in both the Turkish Constitution and international law.

Freedom of assembly and freedom of expression have also been denied, the main example being the blanket bans on LGBTI+ activities in Ankara and Istanbul.

Trade union executives and members actively participating in union activities were targeted and dismissed, without receiving their salaries or any redundancy pay.

Many media outlets, including television and radio stations, publishing houses and newspapers, were closed, with journalists arrested and detained on charges of ‘criminal speech or ‘membership in a terrorist organisation’. Attacks on the media further eroded the civic space by preventing dissenting voices from being heard and forcing media outlets to self-censor.

Some members of the Turkish parliament challenged the legality of the emergency decrees in the Turkish Constitutional Court, but their complaints were dismissed.

In protest of the curfews and rights violations occurring in Southeastern cities, Academics for Peace signed the We will not be a party to this crime! petition, calling for individual freedoms. Around 400 signatories of the petition were dismissed and roughly 150 were forced to retire or resign.

This briefing note sets out concerns about the human rights violations that followed the emergency decrees. It also challenges their legality and explores measures the Turkish government should take, in order to restore human rights and the rule of law.

See the briefing note in ENG and TUR.

The full report on Emergency Decree Laws and Their Impact on Human Rights in Turkey can be found here.

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