Turkey’s OHAL Commission decides to reinstate 310 out of 12,000 applicants dismissed by gov’t decrees

The State of Emergency Procedures Investigation Commission (OHAL Commission) has examined the cases of 12,000 applicants who were dismissed by government decrees under a state of emergency declared in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016, and thus far has decided to reinstate only 310 of them to their former jobs.

According to a report by online news outlet TR724, the OHAL Commission released a written statement and said that 108,660 applications have been received by the commission, which was established by Decree No. 685 to assess the applications of civil servants, students on scholarship, retired security personnel purged from their jobs by the government.

The statement also said that while 9,700 of the applications were directly rejected by the commission, 1,990 cases were decided by the commission to undergo preliminary examination. A total of 96,660 applications filed by purged public servants are still being investigated by the commission.

After victims started to apply to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan decided to set up the OHAL Commission, on January 23, 2017, as an interim mechanism allegedly to reduce grievances arising out of the dismissal process.

In an attempt to dampen outcry from domestic and international organizations over rights violations and arbitrariness, the OHAL Commission began accepting applications on July 17, 2017 from former public employees suspended from their jobs. The application period ended on September 14, 2017. However, the commission led by the openly Erdoğanist deputy undersecretary of the Justice Ministry, Selahaddin Menteş, has been widely criticised for being biased.

It was previously reported in the pro-government media that officials from the commission said that as of Jan. 10, 2018, over 104,398 people have applied to the commission, while 108,736 were dismissed from their jobs. According to the reports, the investigative process has been carried out under a barcode system.

The commission has seven members, three of whom were appointed by the prime minister, one by the Justice Ministry, one by the Interior Ministry and two by the Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK). A total of 190 personnel, 28 judges, 30 inspectors and 40 experts are working for the commission.

The commission can demand any information and documents from public institutions and judicial authorities except for documents subject to confidentiality as part of ongoing investigations or otherwise classified state secrets. Public institutions and judicial authorities are obliged to immediately provide the requested information to the commission and facilitate any inquiries.

Critics say the OHAL Commission is solely aimed at reducing the number of applications to the ECtHR. However, 22,000 teachers from private schools whose licenses have been canceled by the statutory decree are not eligible to apply to the commission. Likewise, judges and prosecutors have not been suspended by the lists attached to the government decrees but were dismissed in decisions taken by the relevant authorities responsible for the institutions in which they served.

The ECtHR’s requirement of the “exhaustion of domestic remedies” in order to accept applications forced the Turkish government to form the OHAL Commission as a kind of formality. With the establishment of the OHAL Commission, ECtHR decisions for compensation and such have been prevented. According to complaints, the government structured the commission to work as slowly as possible, in the process blunting the reactions of victims.

Moreover, under a regulation governing the return of dismissed personnel, vested rights have not been reinstated. The government’s placement of victims in institutions can be considered exile rather than reinstatement to their jobs. It is very likely that the OHAL Commission will make a positive decision about mistakenly dismissed government supporters and that only they will be returned to their jobs.

In the aftermath of the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, 26 decree laws (KHK) have been issued under the emergency rule declared on July 20, 2016. So far 114, 961 public servants have been dismissed from their jobs under these KHKs, while 32,180 officials were “struck off.”

To date, 47 private health institutions, 881 private educational institutions, 108 private student dormitories, 104 foundations, 1,409 associations, 19 trade unions, 15 private universities, five news agencies, 17 TV channels, 22 radio stations, 46 newspapers, 20 journal sand 29 publishing houses/distribution companies have been closed down.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the AKP government along with President 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. Turkey’s interior minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665  people have been arrested. 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.

A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over alleged links to the Gülen movement, said Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Dec. 2, 2018. “The number of detentions is nearly three times higher,” Soylu told a security meeting in İstanbul and claimed that “even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.”

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