Turkey withdraws as main contributor in CoE, cites monitoring process and awarding jailed judge Aslan

Turkish government under the rule of autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has decided to withdraw from its “main contributor” status in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), a move it had previously threatened to make in wake of the PACE reintroduced a monitoring process against Turkey on April 25, 2017 and awarding jailed judge Murat Arslan, president of the now dissolved Association for the Union of Judges and Prosecutors (YARSAV), with the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize 2017.

According to a report by Daily Sabah, a mouthpiece of Erdoğan regime, Thorbjorn Jagland, the secretary general of the Council of Europe, said on Wednesday that Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu had sent a letter confirming Turkey’s intention of withdrawing from its main contributor status. “I received a letter from Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu that Turkey intends to withdraw from its main contributor position [in the PACE]. … I don’t know what kind of a process will take place,” said Jangland.

Amid allegations that Turkey has violated fundamental rights, PACE gathered on April 25 to discuss a report titled “The functioning of democratic institutions in Turkey.” A total of 113 voted in favor, while 45 voted against the monitoring decision, urging Turkey to take measures in the fields of freedom of expression and its state of emergency.

Drawing attention to the fact that Turkey is one of the main countries providing monetary assistance to the council, Jagland said, “The Council of Europe, and particularly the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), is in need of any monetary assistance that can be procured.”

Jagland has also said he does not perceive the decision as a “let down” in relation to Turkey’s pledges to the council, adding that the negotiations will be conducted concerning Turkey’s decision.

Turkey was placed under a monitoring process between 1996 and 2004 by PACE. Following the enactment of structural changes and updating regulations, the monitoring status was lifted. Turkey is the first European country to be removed from the monitoring process only to be reintroduced later.

The relations between Turkey and the CoE were further strained over PACE honoring a senior judiciary member, YARSAV President Murat Arslan, with a human rights award on October 9. The selection panel of the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize 2017 has been bestowed to independent figures known for their expertise in the field of human rights.

Arslan, who was detained in Ankara on Oct. 19, 2016 as part of an investigation into the faith-based Gülen movement, was referred to a court by the Ankara Public Prosecutor’s Office and was arrested on Oct. 26, 2016. Arslan was dismissed from his post at the Court of Accounts in July, 2016 as a result of the probe into the movement. “I will continue to say ‘Justice for all.’ One day, the rule of law will come to this country,” said Arslan when the prosecutor referred him to court for arrest.

YARSAV was among the thousands of institutions closed down by the government in the first decree issued in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt on July 15.

Arslan was presented as a candidate for the Václav Havel Human Rights Prize by the European-based organization Magistrats Européens pour la Démocratie et les Libertés (MEDEL) in May. The Václav Havel Human Rights Prize, created in 2013, is awarded each year by PACE, in partnership with the Václav Havel Library and the Charta 77 Foundation, with the support of the Czech government. The prize consists of a sum of €60 000, a trophy and a diploma.

The budget of the council is mainly funded by member states’ contributions. Turkey was one of the main contributors, also known as main contributors along with France, Germany, Italy, the Russian Federation and the United Kingdom, providing nearly 65 percent of the total budget. Therefore, Turkey’s monetary assistance to the council constitutes an important aspect of its operations

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