In a letter addressed to Turkey’s interior and justice ministers made public today, Council of Europe (CoE) Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović called on Turkish authorities to refrain from further implementing new terrorism financing legislation pending the outcome of a Venice Commission review expected in June 2021.
Commissioner Mijatović stressed in her letter, dated February 25, that some aspects of Law No. 7262 on Preventing Financing of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, which entered into force on December 31, threatens the very existence of human rights NGOs.
The terrorism financing legislation amends seven domestic laws and enables the interior ministry to target nongovernmental groups’ legitimate and lawful activities and the right to association of their members.
The new law has been criticized by international organizations and human rights groups due to its provisions exceeding the scope of the law and targeting freedom of association in the country. The Venice Commission will prepare an opinion on the legislation, which it expects to adopt in June 2021.
“… the Law has been rushed through parliament without any involvement of human rights NGOs epitomises the long standing problem of lack of consultation of these organisations on a systematic and institutional basis,” Mijatović said.
She underlined that any measures states take to counter terrorism must comply with all their obligations under international law, in particular international human rights law.
In February UN special rapporteurs sent a joint letter to the Turkish government to express serious concern about the new terrorism financing legislation.
The UN letter was authored by Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism; Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; and Mary Lawyer, special rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.
With reference to Articles 4, 7, 10, 12, 13 and 15 of the law, the UN rapporteurs emphasized that the use of legislation to create undue and complex burdens on non-profit organizations (NPO) has the effect of limiting, restricting and controlling civil society.
The UN officials asked the Turkish government to reconsider certain aspects of this legislation to ensure its compliance with international human rights regulations and to provide information on how the process of implementation of this law is compatible with the obligations for fair trial and due process stipulated in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Nearly 680 civil society groups signed a declaration against the law before the vote in the Turkish parliament, saying it would limit their ability to raise funds and organize while putting them under ministry pressure. They said the law violates the Turkish Constitution, which guarantees freedom of association.
Human Rights Watch said in a statement, “Turkish prosecutors regularly open terrorism investigations into people for peacefully exercising rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association.”
Following a failed coup in Turkey in July 2016, the Turkish government ruled the country under a state of emergency that was in force until 2018, during which a total of 1,748 associations and foundations were shut down by decree-laws.