Dismissal from public service based on labor union membership is legitimate, Turkish court rules

Source: Evrensel

An administrative court in Turkey’s eastern province of Malatya has ruled that membership in a labor union is a legitimate reason for dismissal from the civil service, the Evrensel daily reported.

A commission set up by the Turkish government to look into complaints from individuals who were adversely affected by government decrees during a state of emergency (OHAL) in Turkey earlier approved the dismissal of Şerif Demirel, a former teacher and head of the left-wing Education and Science Workers Union (Eğitim-Sen) branch in Malatya, from his job after a coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Following the abortive putsch, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency (OHAL) and carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. More than 130,000 public servants, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, as well as 24,706 members of the armed forces, were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.

Fired by an emergency decree after the coup attempt, Demirel had applied to the OHAL Commission to return to his job but was rejected after a six-year procedure that was supposed to last a maximum of two years. Following this decision by the OHAL Commission, Demirel turned to the administrative court in Malatya.

However, the administrative court denied Demirel’s request. In its decision the court said Demirel and his wife had participated in Eğitim-Sen activities and that his brother was among the signatories of a January 11, 2016, statement issued by the Academics for Peace calling on the Turkish government to halt military operations in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast region.

Demirel said he had already submitted the decision to an appeals court through his lawyer.

“We were dismissed without having the opportunity to defend ourselves,” he said, adding he and other fired civil servants had suffered a lot in the last seven years.

The OHAL Commission, which has received 127,130 applications, has concluded 124,235 of them and has ruled in favor of only 17,265 petitioners so far. The commission is still examining 2,895 applications.

Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government declared a state of emergency in the aftermath of the failed coup on July 15, 2016 that remained in effect until July 19, 2018.

During the state of emergency, the AKP issued a number of government decrees, known as KHKs, through which 130,000 civil servants were purged from their jobs due to their real or alleged connections to “terrorist organizations.”

Individuals whose applications have been rejected by the OHAL Commission have the right, within 60 days, to file a petition at the Ankara 19th or 20th administrative courts for cancellation of the decisions of the OHAL Commission.

Purge victims say the OHAL Commission provides no remedy for them and that they only lose time with their applications pending for years at the commission. They think the commission was established to prevent them from directly applying to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) as they are first supposed to exhaust all domestic remedies.

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