Turkey’s Transnational Repression: Abuse of asset freezing mechanisms under the pretext of prevention of terrorist financing

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This report focuses on how the Turkish government’s decisions to freeze assets based on the pretext of preventing the financing of terrorism have been weaponized to suppress critics abroad as a further means of Turkey’s transnational repression.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s long arm has reached tens of thousands of Turkish citizens abroad while Turkey has been experiencing a deepening human rights crisis since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016. The Turkish government has been carrying out an extraordinary campaign of transnational repression against its critics overseas since the failed coup. The methods used in the government’s continuing transnational repression against dissidents have been well documented by SCF.

“The real intention behind the publication of the asset freezing lists is to target and suppress dissent rather than to prevent the financing of terrorism,” said Dr. Merve R. Kayıkcı, research director at SCF. “Most of individuals are not aware that their personal data as an alleged terrorism financer have been compiled and shared with other private and financial institutions.”

People whose names appear on the published lists have faced various repercussions including the freezing or closure of their accounts, negative credit scores and various other personal and financial difficulties in Western countries. The individuals living in the West are labelled as “terrorists” and “persons financing terrorism” by the financial risk intelligence databases that provide financial intelligence services to banks and financial institutions merely because their names appear on an arbitrary list published by their own government, even without going through judicial process.

The report discusses the legal framework of asset freezing under the guise of the prevention of financing terrorism and demonstrates how this legal framework has been abused by Turkey. The report further explores the rights violations caused by the publication of the asset freezing decisions and their impact on Turkish individuals living abroad. Finally, the report concludes with a brief account of legal and practical remedies available to those affected by the publication of the asset freezing decisions.

Turkey’s efforts at transnational repression against critics abroad do not seem to be winding down. On the contrary, Erdoğan’s government is inventing new tools and methods with a view to intimidating opponents and suppressing dissent. The most recent innovation was the publication of lists of Turkish citizens whose assets have been frozen under the pretext of the prevention of financing terrorism. The asset freezing decisions are administrative actions and are taken by the relevant ministries.

About the Stockholm Center for Freedom

SCF is a non-profit advocacy organization that promotes the rule of law, democracy and human rights with a special focus on Turkey.

Committed to serving as a reference source by providing a broad perspective on rights violations in Turkey, SCF monitors daily developments, documents individual cases of the infringement of fundamental rights and publishes comprehensive reports on human rights issues.

SCF is a member of the Alliance Against Genocide, an international coalition working to exert pressure on the UN, regional organizations and national governments to act on early warning signs and take action to prevent genocide.

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