PACE reopens monitoring process against Turkey

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has decided to reopen a monitoring process against Turkey on Tuesday over substantial backslide on the rule of law, democratic principles, fundamental rights and freedoms.

The co-rapporteurs of the monitoring committee have recommended that the assembly “re-open the monitoring procedure in respect to Turkey until its concerns are addressed in a satisfactory manner.” The assembly gathered Tuesday in Strasbourg in a session to discuss a report titled, “The functioning of democratic institutions in Turkey,” during which 113 voted in favor, 45 voted against the monitoring decision and and 12 abstentions.

As Turkey rapporteur Marianne Mikko says it is right to put Turkey under monitoring again, she defined the move as an act of friendship with Turkish people. She sait on her Twitter account after the voting that “I truely believe Turkish people deserve democracy and rule of law. Not to mention human rights. So monitoring is good supportive tool.”

Meanwhile, Member of the European Parliament S&D Group and Turkey Reporter Kati Piri stated in her twitter posts that “Turkey back under monitoring in CoE due to serious problems with fundamental rights! After clear decision by Council of Europe to put Turkey under monitoring, now suspension of EU accession talks big step closer.”

Speaking to Reuters on Tuesday, Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan reacted against the PACE’s decision, described it as “entirely political” and underlined that Ankara did not recognize the decision. Also, reacting to the European Union in his interview, Erdoğan said he was “ready to take the question of EU accession to a referendum” and that “Turkey cannot wait indefinitely after 54 years at the door.”

“The UK asked her people and they voted for Brexit … They have peace of mind, they are walking towards a new future, and the same thing was conducted by Norway … and the same thing can be applied to Turkey, too,” he saidç

“Turkey will take necessary steps regarding the PACE’s decision,” said also Turkey’s Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım and added that “PACE decision on Turkey is a political decision and is not compatible with reality.” Talking to reporters, Yıldırım claimed that “international institutions are unfortunately influenced by rising wave of racism in Europe” and stated that “the decision is a reflection of anti-Turkey sentiment.”

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry has severely criticized PACE’s decision and said that it had been made with political motives. The ministry claimed that Turkey has been hosting more than 3.2 million refugees and fighting against terrorist organizations all while contributing to EU’s security and stability. The ministry statement added that the European Union’s ill-intentioned circles had been exposed when certain PACE members, who came to observe the referendum in Turkey, were revealed to be sympathizers of the PKK terrorist organization.

Turkey’s EU Minister Ömer Çelik also condemned the decision, calling it “unfair” and “wrong”. “This is a historic mistake both for the Council of Europe, and PACE,” Çelik told state-run media. “Instead of producing any kind of solidarity, they, unfortunately, came up with an unfair approach towards Turkish democracy, which keeps the freedom-security balance under very difficult circumstances,” he said.

Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş also lashed out at the decision, urging the Council of Europe to take steps towards fixing it. “This, unfortunately, is seen as a result of a gradually growing racist, fascist, anti-Turkish, anti-Islam, and anti-Turkey campaign. It is a completely political decision. It does not fit any reality,” Kurtulmuş told at a press meeting.

In a statement posted on his Twitter account, Turkey’s autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s spokesperson İbrahim Kalın condemned criticized the decision and said “The decision by PACE is a political operation by anti-Turkey circles. We condemn this deliberate decision which is far from being just or fair” Kalın said.

In 2004, the EU said Ankara had to exit the monitoring process in order to meet the Copenhagen criteria. In the same year, the EU provided a date to begin accession negotiations after the monitoring status was lifted, ruling that Turkey had successfully met the Copenhagen criteria. The PACE’s new decision to start monitoring process against Turkey has confirmed that Ankara has derailed from path of the Copenhagen Criteria, which was the starting point for the accession negotiations. Therefore, the EU Council, which postponed the request to suspend negotiations with Turkey during a summit in December 2016, is going to review the request at the end of April following the PACE’s decision to downgrade Turkey’s status.

PACE met on Tuesday to discuss whether to degrade Turkey’s status and reopen a monitoring process against the country. PACE has called for monitoring of Turkey to be reinstated in order to strengthen its cooperation with Turkish authorities and all forces in the country and thus ensure respect for fundamental freedoms, the rule of law and democracy.

The PACE monitoring commission voted on a draft report titled “The functioning of democratic institutions in Turkey”  and approved. Several amendments to the content of the report have been proposed ahead of the April 25 vote by members of the assembly, while Turkey also submitted a number of amendment proposals ahead of the vote.

PACE has rejected a proposal given by Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputies to use a hoax term of “FETÖ” instead of the phrase of “Gülen movement” in the draft report. AKP lawmakers have also wanted to drop the word “purges” from highly critical PACE report, but they have also failed to do so. The language of the report has been toughened further by the new amendments that were approved against the wishes of Erdoğanist AKP deputies. At least four amendments by ruling AKP lawmakers have failed to pass as strong sentiments against Erdoğan regime at PACE were observed.

The co-rapporteurs of the monitoring committee have recommended in a draft resolution that the assembly “re-open the monitoring procedure in respect to Turkey until its concerns are addressed in a satisfactory manner.”  In a press release on early March, the monitoring committee had underlined that there has been a “serious deterioration of the functioning of democratic institutions in the country” during a state of emergency declared following a failed coup attempt on July 15 of last year.

In a recent report prepared by PACE rapporteurs Marianne Mikko and Ingebjørg Godskesen, PACE pointed out that the AKP government had adopted “disproportionate measures” that go beyond what is permitted by the Turkish Constitution and international law, and expressed concern about the extent of the purges conducted in public administration, the military, the judiciary and the teaching profession.

While acknowledging the trauma caused by the failed coup attempt of 15 July 2016 and multiple ongoing terrorist threats, the Monitoring Committee stated that they have concerned about the implementation of the state of emergency, the large-scale and disproportionate effect of the decree laws – including the massive dismissal of civil servants, judges, prosecutors and academics and the closing down of media and NGOs – as well as limited access to judicial remedies.

The Monitoring Committee is also worried about the detention of parliamentarians and journalists, repeated violations of the freedom of expression and of the media and the situation in south-east Turkey, leading to a serious deterioration of the functioning of democratic institutions. The committee has moreover expressed concern about the constitutional amendments (in particular respect for the separation of powers, checks and balances and independence of the judiciary) to secure a presidential system and the conditions of the organisation of the referendum of 16 April 2017.

In the light of these developments, the Monitoring Committee urged Turkey to take urgent measures (including the lifting of the state of emergency and the release of MPs and journalists) and proposed that the Parliamentary Assembly reopen the monitoring procedure so as to intensify its co-operation with the Turkish authorities and all forces in the country.

The PACE report stated that one-quarter of judges and prosecutors, one-tenth of the police force, 30 percent of the staff in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and 5,000 academics have been dismissed as part of post-coup purges in Turkey.

The committee also expressed alarm at the repeated violations of freedom of the media by the Turkish government and described the situation as “unacceptable in a democratic society” while adding that a large number of journalists currently under arrest and critical journalists were silenced due to government pressure.

On the imprisonment of Kurdish politicians, PACE said the lifting of the immunity of 154 deputies in May 2016 has undermined the functioning of Turkey’s Parliament and affected the opposition parties, in particular the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), 93 percent of whose MPs have been stripped of their immunity from prosecution.

In light of the established violations of human rights under the state of emergency, the Monitoring Committee has called on Turkish authorities to take urgent measures and in particular to lift the state of emergency as soon as possible, halt the publication of decree-laws which bypass parliamentary procedure and to release all detained parliamentarians and journalists pending trial, unless convicted.

April 25, 2017

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