PACE reveals Turkey’s tactics in its first resolution on transnational repression

The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in its first resolution condemning all forms of transnational repression as a growing threat to the rule of law and human rights has revealed the tactics of countries including Turkey to suppress their critics abroad.

“The Council of Europe and its member and observer States should recognise that transnational repression is a global phenomenon attacking the foundations of democratic societies and the rule of law, and that strengthened and more co-ordinated action is needed to prevent and fight it,” the resolution said.

Approving a report on Friday by Sir Christopher Chope (United Kingdom, EC/DA), the assembly expressedconcern about Turkey’s use of some tools of transnational repression, particularly following a July 2016 coup attempt, and its relentless pursuit of anyone allegedly related to the Gülen movement. 

Turkish Vice President Cevdet Yılmaz and Justice Minister Yılmaz Tunç expressed their disapproval of the resolution on social media, stating that it undermines Turkey’s fight against terrorism.

Turkey accuses the faith-based movement, inspired by Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, of orchestrating a failed coup in July 2016 and designates it as a “terrorist” organization. The movement denies involvement in the coup or any terrorist activity.

According to the resolution, the Turkish government’s tactics rely on “renditions, abuse of extradition proceedings, Interpol Red Notices and anti-terror financing measures, and co-opting other States to deport or transfer persons unlawfully.”

An explanatory memorandum by the rapporteur, Chope, said Turkish officials openly claim credit for operations and praise the role of the Turkish intelligence agency (MIT), citing the abduction of businessman Uğur Demirok in Azerbaijan in September 2022. Demirok, 42, who went missing in Baku, turned out to be in police custody in Turkey when photos of him were made public.

Referring to reports earlier published by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF), Chope said, “The Turkish campaign was found to rely on renditions and abuse of Interpol Red Notices. … Türkiye was named not only for renditions, abusing extradition proceedings and Interpol Red Notices but also for co-opting other States to deport or transfer persons.” 

Since the coup attempt in July 2016 the government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has employed extralegal methods to secure the return of its critics after its official extradition requests were denied.

In a joint letter UN rapporteurs accused the Turkish government of engaging in the systematic practice of state-sponsored extraterritorial abductions and forcible returns to Turkey, with at least 100 Turkish nationals renditioned from multiple states to Turkey.

Most recently MİT confirmed in its annual report that it had conducted operations for the forcible return of more than 100 people with alleged links to the Gülen movement.

“… [M]ore than 100 members of the [Gülen movement] from different countries were brought to Turkey as a result of the [agency’s] increased operational capacity abroad,” MİT’s 2022 report said.

Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, inspired by Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following the abortive putsch in 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Former vice president Fuat Oktay earlier said in a speech in parliament that Turkish agents had conducted “diplomacy” with their counterparts in countries where Turkish nationals were abducted.

Turkey’s efforts at transnational repression against critics abroad do not seem to be winding down. Most recently, Mehmet Cintosun, who went missing in Erbil, Iraq, on January 29, turned out to be in police custody in Turkey when photos of him were made public by MİT on April 14. 

An SCF report, released in October, 2021 and titled “Turkey’s Transnational Repression: Abduction, Rendition and Forcible Return of Erdoğan Critics,” focused on how the Turkish government under President Erdoğan has used extrajudicial and illegal methods for the forcible transfer to Turkey of its citizens abroad.

Another SCF report, “Turkey’s Transnational Repression: Abuse of asset freezing mechanisms under the pretext of prevention of terrorist financing,” underlined that 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.

In its report released in August 2021, SCF shed light on the Turkish government’s abuse of INTERPOL to target political opponents who have done nothing more than criticize the government.

In several of these cases the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) concluded that the arrest, detention and forced transfer to Turkey of Turkish nationals were arbitrary and in violation of international human rights norms and standards.

Dr. Dana Moss, who developed the term “transnational repression,” in an interview with SCF called on the United Nations to appoint a special rapporteur to study the practice. “I would like to see the United Nations, the EU human rights arms, bringing more attention to this issue. Perhaps the UN could appoint a special rapporteur to study the issue,” she said.

Take a second to support Stockholm Center for Freedom on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!