Police officer forced to work in construction after post-coup purge dies in occupational accident

Yurdal Gökçe, 41, a former police officer who was dismissed by an emergency decree after a coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016, died on Monday after falling from the roof of a building under construction where was working as a laborer.

Gökçe’s death was announced on Twitter by human rights defender and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu. “Yurdal Gökçe died today after falling from the roof of a building under construction,” he said. “His case was with the appeals commission for five years, and he was waiting to be reinstated.”

The State of Emergency Procedures Investigation Commission (OHAL Commission) was established in January 2017 for appeals against measures taken by the Turkish government during a two-year state of emergency declared in the aftermath of the abortive putsch.

Gergerlioğlu said he would continue to demand justice for Gökçe even after his death. “The OHAL Commission is the real oppressor,” he said.

Following the coup attempt, 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 24,253 members of the armed forces, not including the gendarmerie or the coast guard, 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.

The OHAL Commission was set up 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 couldn’t 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 President Erdoğan.

As of October 28, 2021 the commission had made decisions on 118,415 of a total of 126,758 applications. It ruled in favor of the applicants in only 15,050 of the cases.

In its Turkey 2020 report, the European Commission raised serious concerns about the ability of the OHAL Commission to provide an effective remedy against 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 European Commission also said the OHAL Commission did not have sufficiently individualized criteria to evaluate the applications.

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