Membership in Human Rights Association grounds for dismissal from public service, OHAL commission says

The State of Emergency Procedures Investigation Commission (OHAL Commission) said membership in Turkey’s Human Rights Association (İHD) is a sign of ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), in its ruling in the case of Selahattin Barınç, a healthcare worker who was fired from his civil service job.

According to the Mezopotamya news agency, the commission said the İHD is an association supportive of the PKK. Barınç was also a member of the Association to Improve Language and Culture, which was shut down by an emergency decree-law in the aftermath of a coup attempt on July 15, 2016 due to its alleged links to the PKK.

The İHD is the largest and most well-known human rights organization in Turkey.

Following the abortive putsch, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency 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 29,444 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.

Barınç was in fact acquitted of the charge of membership in a terrorist organization, which was brought against him for attending the funeral of healthcare worker Aziz Yural, who was killed in 2015 during a curfew in the city of Şırnak.

“This decision is unIawful … I will continue my legal fight,” Barınç said. “The İHD is one of the most respected organizations in Turkey.”

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 were unable to 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 to 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.

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