Turkey’s 2-year-old state of emergency ends, to be replaced by new anti-terror law

Turkey’s two-year-long state of emergency came to an end at 1 a.m. local Turkish time on July 19, 2018 amid the introduction by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government led by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of a draft bill that seeks to institute new anti-terror laws.

The new laws, which the government says will prevent an “interruption in the fight against terrorism,” will be discussed in parliament on Thursday. Turkish opposition groups say the proposed laws are as oppressive as the state of emergency.

“Although the government is trying to disguise the new laws as an end to the state of emergency, what’s really going on is that the state of emergency is being made permanent,” Ayhan Bilgen, spokesman for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said.

First declared on July 20, 2016, days after a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, the three-month state of emergency has been extended seven times since then with the approval of cabinet members.

A few days before the end of the state of emergency, the AKP sent the bill to the relevant parliamentary commission, proposing to make amendments in several laws related to security regulations.

The draft envisages boosting the powers of Turkish authorities in detaining suspects, imposing security measures even outside the state of emergency and proposing to keep some measures of the state of emergency in effect for three more years.

With the draft, the maximum detention period for a suspect of a collective crime was changed to four days, with an option to renew it two more times, making the limit of detention 12 days.

The draft also grants authorities to governors to limit entry and exit to their cities, ban public events and declare extraordinary security measures.

The International Commission of Jurists, a group of judges, lawyers and legal scholars who campaign for human rights, welcomed the end of the state of emergency but said Turkey must repair a rupture to the rule of law, Reuters reported.

“We remain concerned that many of the emergency measures have been given permanent effect in Turkish law and will have pernicious and lasting consequences for the enjoyment of human rights and for the rule of law in Turkey,” said Massimo Frigo, a legal adviser to the ICJ.

However, the Council of Europe (CoE) on Wednesday welcomed the decision to lift state of emergency in Turkey.

Speaking to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, Daniel Holtgen, spokesman for the secretary-general of the CoE, said, “It is a good thing that it has not been extended again and finally it has coming to an end.”

Also stating that the CoE was aware of the new proposals on anti-terror measures in Turkey, he said, “The CoE secretary-general Thorbjorn Jagland emphasize that all such legislation should be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights,” adding that the CoE was ready to assist Turkey in this regard.

The Turkish government led by Erdoğan detained 228,137 and dismissed 134,144 people from their jobs under the state of emergency according to data compiled by Bianet on Tuesday.

According to the Bianet report, 32 state of emergency decrees, known as KHKs, were issued during those two years that also reinstated 3,981 people to their jobs.

As reported by the state-run Anadolu news agency, 283 criminal cases were filed in connection with the coup attempt, 106 of which had been concluded as of March 23, 2018. Eight hundred five defendants were sentenced to prison, 592 of whom received life in prison.

A total of 45,415 social media accounts were investigated, and legal action was taken against 17,089 social media users on charges including propagandizing for and praising a terrorist organization; openly declaring relations with terrorist organizations; inciting the public to enmity and hatred; insulting state officials; targeting the indivisible integrity of the state and people’s safety; and engaging in hate speech.

According to the Ministry of Interior, 845 people who criticized Operation Olive Branch launched in Afrin, northern Syria, were taken into custody.

A total of 2,271 private educational institutions were closed under state of emergency. The licenses of 21,860 executives, educators, teachers, specialized instructors and other personnel were also cancelled, and regulations were introduced to prevent the people in question from obtaining licenses to work at private educational institutions.

Forty-seven private medical centers, 174 media organizations, 1,414 nongovernmental organizations and associations, 145 foundation 15 universities and 19 unions, which were members of two confederations, were closed.

Trustees were appointed to 99 municipalities, 94 of which were of governed by the Democratic Regions Party (DBP), four were run by the AKP and one by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).

According to Bianet’s Media Monitoring Report, 100 journalists were sent to prison in the wake of the July 15 coup attempt in 2017 alone. The figure was 31 in 2016. The number of imprisoned journalists reached 131 on Jan. 1, 2018. At the moment, 127 journalists are still in prison.

Turkey was ranked 155th among 180 countries in 2017, falling four places compared to the previous year in the World Press Freedom Index prepared by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). In its report, RSF stated that Turkey had dropped 57 places in the last 12 years during the AKP government’s time in power.

In the Rule of Law Index published since 2008 by the World Justice Platform, Turkey was ranked 99th among 113 countries in 2016; according to data announced in February 2018, Turkey fell two places and was ranked 101st.

Turkey was ranked 149th among 163 countries in the Global Peace Index released annually by the Australia-based Institute of Economy and Peace. Turkey was ranked 146th in 2016 and 138th in 2015.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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