The Monitoring Committee calls for the monitoring procedure in respect of Turkey to be re-opened

The Monitoring Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has today called for the monitoring procedure in respect of Turkey to be re-opened in order to strengthen its co-operation with the Turkish authorities and all forces in the country and thus ensure respect for fundamental freedoms, the rule of law and democracy.

Eight months after the failed coup in Turkey and the declaration of a state of emergency, the Monitoring Committee is concerned to note that there has been a “serious deterioration of the functioning of democratic institutions in the country”. In their report, adopted by the committee, Marianne Mikko (Estonia, SOC) and Ingebjørg Godskesen (Norway, EC) point out that the government has adopted “disproportionate measures” that go beyond what is permitted by the Turkish Constitution and international law, and express concern about the extent of the purges conducted in the public administration (150,000 civil servants dismissed), the army, the judiciary and the teaching profession. The report states that one quarter of judges and prosecutors, one tenth of the police force, 30 per cent of the staff in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and 5,000 academics have been dismissed.

The committee also expresses alarm at the repeated violations of freedom of the media, the number of journalists currently detained and the pressure exerted on critical journalists, practices which are “unacceptable in a democratic society”. The committee also notes that the lifting of the immunity of 154 MPs in May 2016 has undermined the functioning of Turkey’s parliament and affected the opposition parties (in particular the pro-Kurdish party HDP, 93 per cent of whose MPs have been stripped of their immunity). According to the committee, this measure has led to serious restrictions to democratic debate in the run-up to the constitutional referendum on 16 April 2017, when the Assembly will act as an observer.

As regards the constitutional amendments to be put to referendum and which, if approved, will mean a shift from a parliamentary to a presidential system, the committee expressed its concern about “the envisaged system of checks and balances, the separation of powers, and the independence of the judiciary.”

In the light of the established violations of human rights under the state of emergency, the Monitoring Committee has called on the Turkish authorities to take urgent measures, and in particular to lift the state of emergency as soon as possible, halt the publication of decree-laws which bypass parliamentary procedure and to release all the detained parliamentarians and journalists pending trial, unless convicted.

A dissenting opinion by Talip Küçükcan (Turkey, EC), Chairperson of the Turkish delegation to PACE, is appended to the report.

The report is due to be debated during the April 2017 part-session. In the meantime, at the request of the Monitoring Committee, the Venice Commission is expected to adopt, on 10 March 2017, an opinion on the constitutional amendments put to referendum, together with an opinion on the measures provided for in the recent emergency decree-laws in Turkey with respect to freedom of the media.