Salman Taş, 57, a teacher who was fired from his job by a government decree without due process, has been reinstated two years after his death on April 28, 2019, sparking outrage among human rights activists and union members.
According to the Turkish media, Taş was fired in February 2017 for alleged links to a terrorist organization. He experienced psychological problems after his dismissal, and nearly one year later was diagnosed with cancer. According to his wife, Taş was in great emotional pain due to the allegations and losing his job and succumbed to cancer after a year of treatment.
Taş was one of more than 130,000 civil servants who were removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny. He was a member of the left-wing Education and Science Workers’ Union (Eğitim-Sen) and applied to the State of Emergency Procedures Investigation Commission (OHAL Commission) demanding to be reinstated.
Mahmut Sümbül, of the Mersin branch of Eğitim-Sen, said Taş was a devoted teacher and that his dismissal was an unjust decision with no legal basis. “This is obvious since he was recently reinstated,” said Sümbül. “We cannot really be happy about justice that has come so late. We are in pain.”
Sümbül emphasized that although Taş and many other public servants had been dismissed, the prosecutor’s office had not brought legal action against most of them. “The prosecutor decided that there were no grounds for legal action, but our friends were dismissed nevertheless. This indicates very clearly that the dismissals were unlawful,” he said.
According to OHAL Commission regulations, if dismissed public servants are reinstated, they have the right to receive their previous salaries and compensation for the time they were unable to work. The Taş family has not yet been granted their compensation.
Following a coup attempt in July 15, 2016, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions against its political opponents under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. In addition to firing more than 130,000 civil servants as well as 29,444 members of the armed forces, the government also shut down 164 media organizations, 1,058 educational institutions and 1,769 NGOs with emergency decree-laws without any due process. The victims were not allowed to contest the decisions in court.
The OHAL Commission was established as an appeals body under pressure from the Council of Europe in order to relieve the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) of a huge workload emanating from tens of thousands of Turkish applicants who couldn’t take their cases to Turkish courts.
According to critics, the commission’s role is simply to delay or prevent possible ECtHR decisions against Turkey. The commission is also accused of bias as it is led by former Justice Ministry deputy undersecretary Selahaddin Menteş, who had been openly supportive of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
As of December 31, 2020 the commission had made decisions on 112,310 of a total of 126,630 applications. It ruled in favor of the applicants in only 13,170 of the cases.
In its Turkey 2020 report, the European Commission (EC) raised serious concerns about the ability of the commission to provide an effective remedy against dismissals. The report criticized the lengthy review procedures and underlined that the applicants did not have a proper means of defense as the commission does not hold hearings. The EC also said the commission did not have sufficiently individualized criteria to evaluate the applications.