Human Rights Watch says new draft law will end rule of law in Turkey

A draft law being rushed through Turkey’s parliament would, if passed, preserve many of the abusive powers granted to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan under the country’s recently canceled state of emergency, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday.

Turkey on Thursday lifted the controversial measure that had given security services increased powers of arrest and detention for the past two years. On the very same day, lawmakers began discussing the new bill.

“The end of Turkey’s state of emergency should have been a good sign for human rights, but the draft law makes clear that the government’s plan is to end it in name only,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at HRW in a statement released after the bill’s introduction.

The international human rights organization said it is worried that the proposed law will allow authorities under the presidency, for the next three years, to dismiss judges and all other public officials arbitrarily.

It also would allow authorities to restrict movement within Turkey, ban public assemblies and allow police to hold some suspects for up to 12 days without charge and repeatedly detain them in the same investigation.

The Erdoğan regime imposed the state of emergency in the wake of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has long argued that Erdoğan was using the state of emergency to cripple the opposition and institutions. Now the opposition fears the ruling party will continue to stifle dissent.

The new draft law would further normalize the emergency powers, according to HRW. It is expected to be submitted to Parliament’s general assembly and become law in the coming days, despite strong resistance from parliamentary opposition.

“The government should scrap this law and fully restore human rights and the rule of law in Turkey,” read the HRW statement. It continued by describing that the draft law gives the government authority for three years to dismiss from office any public official, judge, prosecutor, military personnel, or police officer “assessed to have been members of or acted in union with or been in contact with terrorist organizations or structures, entities or groups that the National Security Council has decided are engaged in activities against national security.”

“The powers to dismiss any judge, to ban any assembly by restricting peoples’ movement, and to arrest people over and over again for the same offense in this draft law are evidence that the state of emergency will continue in all but name,” Williamson said and added that “The state of emergency may have ended but so has the rule of law.”

Meanwhile, the German Foreign Ministry softened travel advice for its citizens in Turkey after the Turkish government ended the state of emergency. The travel advice no longer warns German nationals of the possibility of arbitrary arrest in all of Turkey, including in tourist areas, according to a report by Der Spiegel.

German officials had previously promised Turkey they would alter the wording if the security measure was lifted. However, it still warns German nationals that a risk of arrest remains, despite the lifting of the state of emergency and mentions a new bill the Turkish government is now considering.

Relations between Germany and Turkey worsened after the German Foreign Ministry warned that citizens could face arbitrary arrest, including in tourist areas, following a spate of arrests of German citizens in 2017.

The decision was a major blow to the Turkish tourist industry amidst worsening economic conditions and insecurity following the failed military coup in 2016. As a result, the number of German tourists visiting Turkey dropped sharply.

A 1,5 billion-euro limit on export guarantees to Turkey would not be renewed this year, Germany’s economy ministry told AFP, confirming an earlier report by the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper. The measure was imposed in July 2017 as a way to pressure Ankara after the detention of a German human rights campaigner and five other activists, including the head of Amnesty International, in Turkey.

Opposition parties in Germany have accused the 1,5 billion-euro limit of being too timid, given that the value of export guarantees increased from 1,1 billion euros in 2016 to 1,46 billion euros the following year.

When Turkey requested that the wording be softened, German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel told his Turkish counterpart, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, in March that his government was not prepared to reconsider its travel warning as long as Turkey continued to impose a state of emergency, Deutsche Welle (DW) reported.

Apart from the change to the travel warning, Germany will also partially lift economic sanctions for exports it imposed on Turkey in 2017, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung reported on Friday.

Moreover, Turkey and the Netherlands have also agreed to normalize relations between the two countries, the Turkish Foreign Ministry said on Friday. The decision was reached in a phone conversation between the Çavuşoğlu and his Dutch counterpart, Stef Blok, according to the ministry’s statement.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry also confirmed in a statement on Friday that both countries have decided to restore diplomatic ties.”During their phone conversation, the foreign ministers agreed to normalize diplomatic relations between the Netherlands and Turkey,” the Dutch ministry confirmed in a statement. The ministry also added that they have “agreed to reinstate ambassadors in Ankara and The Hague shortly.”

A diplomatic row between the NATO allies has been ongoing since March 2017, when the Netherlands prevented members of the Erdoğan regime from campaigning among the Turkish diaspora in the Netherlands at the same time the Netherlands was holding its national elections. Diplomatic ties had been conducted only through their chargés d’affaires since February.

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 Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah 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. 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.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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