Top court finds civil servant dismissals by decree after coup attempt unconstitutional

Turkey's Constitutional Court

Turkey’s Constitutional Court has ruled to cancel an article included in a government decree issued in the aftermath of a failed coup in 2016 allowing the firing of civil servants due to alleged terrorist links, Turkish Minute reported, citing the Cumhuriyet daily.

The ruling, which was issued on Sept. 22, 2021, published in the Official Gazette on Wednesday and is expected to enter into force in nine months, concerns more than 130,000 people who were removed from public service in the aftermath of the coup attempt on July 15, 2016, under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. However, it is not expected to help with their reinstatement to their jobs because the top court’s cancellation decisions are not retroactive.

Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency, which remained in force for two years, and carried out a massive purge of state institutions, summarily dismissing more than 130,000 public servants including academics, teachers, diplomats and police officers with emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations.”

The top court made its ruling on an application filed at the court by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) demanding the cancellation of some articles of a government decree that went into force after approval by parliament in February 2018.

According to Cumhuriyet, the CHP underlined in its application that the measure regarding dismissal from public service failed to include a specific period of time during which the civil servants allegedly had links to terrorist groups; that objective, impartial and transparent investigations into the individuals weren’t carried out; and that they weren’t allowed to defend themselves against their termination from their jobs.

The court canceled the reference to “membership” in an article that said, “Persons who have membership in terrorist organizations, or groups or structures determined by the MGK to act against the national security of the state, have been dismissed from public office without the need for any other action,” referring to the presumption of innocence, Cumhuriyet said.

Local media reported in late January that the Constitutional Court also ruled that the cancelation of passports of people who were expelled from public service based on government decrees issued in the aftermath of the failed coup was unconstitutional.

The court had said revoking the passports of public servants who were expelled from their jobs imposed restrictions on their freedom of movement, guaranteed in Article 15 of the Turkish Constitution, at a far greater level than required by the circumstances of the state of emergency.

Former civil servants were not only fired from their jobs; they were also prohibited from working again in the public sector and getting a passport. The government also made it difficult for them to work formally in the private sector.

The post-coup crackdown mainly targeted followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom the Turkish government accuses of orchestrating the abortive putsch.

The crackdown also targeted political opponents of the government, Kurdish activists, and human rights defenders, among others. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

Some purge victims who wanted to flee the country to avoid the post-coup crackdown and took dangerous journeys across the Evros River in northwestern Turkey or the Aegean Sea perished on their way to Greece. They had to leave the country illegally due to the lack of valid passports.

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