Turkey’s OHAL commission makes first decisions on dismissed public sector staff

Turkey’s State of Emergency (OHAL) Procedures Investigation Commission made its first decisions on Friday on public sector staff who were dismissed by the government decrees under the rule of emergency declared in the aftermath of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

State-run Anadolu news agency reported that among the commission’s first decisions were provisions on both reinstating and rejection of applications by public sector personnel. The report, quoting an official, said that a total of 103,276 public sector staff have applied to be reinstated to their jobs since May 22, 2017 after being dismissed in the aftermath of the coup attempt. However, the report did not provide any information on the number of those who succeeded or failed in appealing their dismissals.

Those who have been cleared of accusations would be reinstated to their former positions within 15 days, the report said. In addition, those whose appeals were rejected will also be able to take their cases to the Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK).

Meanwhile, the assessment processes on other applications over the failed coup attempt has been ongoing in the commission. The commission was established with a decree law issued on Jan. 23, 2017 to allow civil servants to appeal legal action taken against them under the state of emergency imposed following the coup attempt.

As a solution to suppress outcry from Turkish public and international organizations over rights violations and arbitrariness, Turkish government had established the OHAL Commission which began receiving applications from former public employees suspended from their posts on July 17, 2017 has ended the period for applications on September 14, 2017.

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Şenal Sarıhan had assessed the aim and the work burden of the Commission by stating that “According to calculations, every file will have only 65 second-long investigation. Giving seconds to a file means that the files will not, in fact, be reviewed. That is why, I think the Commission is like a stillborn child. What is right is to make regular legal mechanisms to work. There is a deception for the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). The ECtHR thinks that OHAL Commission is a functioning domestic remedy. However, with this regulation, people were both prevented from getting a result from ECtHR and making individual applications at the Turkey’s Constitutional Court (AYM). ”

The observers underlined the fact that it will not be even a matter of discussion that the objections for OHAL or arising from the statutory decree. For example, 22,000 teachers whose licenses have been canceled by the statutory decrees in the private schools are not seen eligible to apply the Commission.

Likewise, judges and prosecutors have not been suspended due to the lists attached to the government decrees, but were dismissed with the decisions taken by the related authorities responsible for the institutions they have served.

Moreover, CHP deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu had pointed out that the victims of the last 1 year were not just those who worked in the public sector but also the people who used to work in other professional and educational spheres from military students to the ones whose licenses revoked with a much wider area. According to Tanrıkulu, limiting the scope of the OHAL Commission’s mandate and authority alone shows that this commission is not an effective remedy for rights violations.

ECtHR’s requirement of “run out of domestic jurisdictions” for application forced the Turkish government to form the OHAL Commission, as a kind of formality. With the establishment of OHAL Commission, the decision of ECtHR such as remitter or compensation has been prevented. According to complaints the government established the commission to take the process as slowly as possible, reducing reaction of victims and digesting them easily after dissemination of the solution over the years were aimed.

Moreover, with the return regulation for dismissed personnel, returning the vested rights has not been aimed. It is predicted that government’s placement of victims in institutions can be considered exile rather than the re-institution that the former ones was targeted. It is very likely that the OHAL Commission will make a positive decision about  mistakenly dismissed government supporters, and only they will be returned to their jobs.

The Commission shall be responsible for dismissal from public service, severance of ties with the student, closure of the institutions such as associations, foundations, trade unions, federations and confederations, private health institutions, private education institutions, higher education institutions, magazines, news agencies, publishing houses and distribution channels and so on. However the Commission will not be able to decide on military students who are suspended under the emergency rule, public officials who have been struck off by institutional decisions, and persons for whom Ministry of Education has canceled their teaching license.

In the aftermath of the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, 26 decree laws (KHK) have been issued under the rule of emergency (OHAL) declared on July 20, 2016. So far 111 thousand 240 public officials were dismissed from their duties with these KHKs, 32 thousand 180 officials were struck off. To date, there are 47 private health institutions, 881 private educational institutions, 108 private student dormitories, 104 foundations, 1,409 associations, 19 trade unions, 15 private universities, 5 news agencies, 17 TV channels, 22 radio channels, 46 newspapers, 20 journals, 29 publishing houses / distribution companies closed.

After victims have started to apply the ECtHR, the OHAL Commission was decided to be set up as an interim mechanism in January allegedly to reduce the grievances in the process of dismissal. However the commission led by openly Erdoğanist Deputy Undersecretary of the Justice Ministry, Selahaddin Menteş, has been criticized for being biased.

The commission consists of seven members along with a team of 200 people including inspectors, law officials, accountants, investigation judges and transcribers working in the commission. The commission consists of Mehmet Karagöz, Deputy Secretary General of the Supreme Court of Appeals; General Director of Prison and Detention Houses, Judge Esat Işık, Deputy Inspector Murat Aytaç, Deputy Chief Inspector Hasan Işıldak, Mustafa İkbal, Head of Appointment Department of MoNE and Salih Tanrıkulu, Member of State Audit Board. With 40 judges, 40 inspectors,  90 experts and clerks The Commission has about 200 personnels.

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 Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

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. Previously, 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.

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