Jul 10 2018

Emergency rule to live on under presidential system – legal experts

The Turkish government has vowed not to extend the state of emergency, in place since after the failed coup attempt in Jul. 2016, for an eighth time when it expires on Jul. 18, but it will in effect live on in the newly enshrined executive presidential system, legal experts have told German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

One hundred thousand people have been imprisoned or fired under the state of emergency by executive decrees, which have also been used to pass laws without a vote in parliament on wide-ranging issues including even traffic regulations.

Yet even once executive decrees under the state of emergency are history, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will retain the same authority to pass laws without parliamentary approval under the new presidential system.

The formalisation of rule by decree is an extremely dangerous indicator of the restriction of individual freedoms, said Sami Selçuk, one of Turkey’s leading jurists and the honorary president of the country’s court of cassation.

“It’s sad, but the idea that Turkish society is without an independent judiciary grows gains strength every day. Speaking as a jurist, the situation in Turkey has left me deeply saddened,” DW quoted Selçuk saying.

For Selçuk, the new system, which formally commenced on Monday with Erdoğan’s swearing-in ceremony, is not legitimate due to serious irregularities during the April 2017 referendum in which it was voted in.

Like this year’s presidential and parliamentary elections, the 2017 referendum was held under a state of emergency during which the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) was effectively barred from campaigning and opposition parties were allowed a miniscule amount of time on television and radio compared to the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

The vote itself was highly contentious due to the Supreme Electoral Council (YSK)’s decision, halfway through the count, to accept unstamped ballot papers.

The pressure on journalists is also likely to continue unabated after the state of emergency formally ends, said Faruk Eren, the president of a press union linked to one of the country’s largest union groups, the Confederation of Progressive Trade Unions of Turkey, (DİSK).

“There has always been repression of the press in Turkey, but this rose greatly under the state of emergency and became sustained,” said Eren. “Under the new system, with Erdoğan’s executive decrees, critical journalists and media foundations will continue to be punished.”

With over a hundred journalists in jail, Turkey is the world’s largest jailer of journalists. The vast majority of media organisations in the country are under the control of businesses with links to the Turkish government.