Bar associations of Turkey’s east and southeast provinces say gov’t decrees ‘unconstitutional’

The latest government decrees issued on Sunday by Turkish government under the autocratic rule of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have continued to receive a backlash from an array of individuals and organizations concerned about their repercussions, Gazete Duvar said.

Sunday’s regulations published in the Official Gazette are a continuation of a steady stream of decrees that have been passed since a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Turkey’s bar associations have spoken up about the potential consequences of decrees decrees no. 695 and no. 696, which grant legal immunity and impunity to pro-government civilians who took to the streets during the coup attempt or “assisted with suppressing terror” and implement uniforms for prisoners.

According to a report by online news portal Ahval, the bar associations in the provinces of Adıyaman, Ağrı, Batman, Bingöl, Diyarbakır, Dersim, Hakkari, Kars, Ardahan, Muş, Şanlıurfa, Şırnak and Van have issued a joint statement on decree No. 696, voicing their concerns about unconstitutional practices.

In their statement, the associations said that “It is evident that the (prison) uniform practice is contrary to human dignity, and the ban against the undignified treatment of the detained and arrested will be violated.”

The decree that stipulates all convicts and suspects under arrest for alleged crimes against the constitutional order in Turkey wear jumpsuits identifying their supposed crime will cover about 60,000 people in prisons, the pro-government Yeni Şafak daily reported.

According to the report, about 60,000 of all 229,000 people currently in jail are being tried on terrorism or coup attempt charges. Some 53,500 who are accused of terrorism will wear gray jumpsuits, while 6,500 accused of involvement in a coup attempt will be required to put on brown jumpsuits.

Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on Dec. 12 that 55,665 people have been arrested since a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 on suspicion of ties to the faith-based Gülen movement.

According to decree No. 969, pregnant prisoners and children will be exempt from the regulation, while rules for female inmates in general will be decided later. The prison jumpsuit decision fueled reactions from opposition parties and human right organizations.

The bar associations’ joint statement went on to note that the granting of legal immunity to those who acted “in suppressing the July 15 coup attempt” and “the actions that were extensions of it” was also unconstitutional.

The Article 121 of Decree Law No. 696, which has been interpreted as a “licence to kill” for radical Islamist and neo-nationalist pro-government circles, reads: “Regardless of their official duties, or appointments, any individuals who took part in suppressing the attempted coup d’état on July 15, 2016, terror acts, and other acts which are considered to be a continuation of these, will be subjected to the first clause [on immunity].”

The statement underpinned that the concerned decree bears the quality of a legal pardon – and the authority for such a decision lies in a ‘three fourth majority’ in parliament. As such, the statement underlined that the decree contains violations of clauses 2, 10, 13, 15, 17, 36, 38 and  87 of the Turkish constitution.

“With this regulation the principle of the rule of law has received a heavy blow,” the statement stressed.

The statement concluded by asking for the 17-month state of emergency rule to end and for Turkey to return to norm of ordinary law, thereby granting individuals the right to fair trial and defence.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

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.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. Turkey’s Interior Minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665  people have been arrested. Previously, on December 13, 2017, The Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

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