İHD 2019 Report on Human Rights Violations in Turkey

5 May 2020

The last five years of Turkey has been a period during which the regime has become more and more authoritarian while the official ideology has been exceptionally implemented. Particularly, armed conflict that broke out on 24 July 2015 and the coup d’état attempt of 15 July 2016 have both assumed a determinant role in bringing forth these consequences.

Although the failed coup d’état attempt was quenched merely a day after while  the armed conflict was ongoing, the authorities declared a state of emergency (SoE) turning the situation into a monumental opportunity for the construction of an authoritarian regime. The SoE that was launched on 21 July 2016 was lifted on 19 July 2018.

Constitutional amendments were sustained by the Higher Board of Elections by the referendum of 16 April 2017, which was held under SoE conditions, and these amendments transitioned the country to a “Presidential Government System or Turkish-Type Presidential Model” which allowed for a political party leader to act as the president. This model went into force with the presidential and general elections of 24 June 2018 again held under SoE conditions. The SoE was lifted right after the elections on 19 July 2018.

Yet Law No. 7145, which went into force on 31 July 2018, virtually extended the SoE for another three years. The year 2019, thus, was one that maintained the SoE rule at the same time.

The electoral victory of opposition parties specifically in metropolitans in the local elections of 2019 can as well be regarded as an objection raised against the authoritarian regime. Particularly the fact that the opposition acted together during the re-run of İstanbul Greater Municipality elections of 24 June 2019 can be considered a significant development in terms of deliverance of pro-democracy advancements.

Despite the failure to bring about a solution to the Kurdish issue and the ongoing armed conflict, the policy to assign state trustees to replace the elected co-mayors of pre-dominantly Kurdish metropolitans like Diyarbakır, Van and Mardin following the local elections on 19 August 2019 proved to be the starkest characteristic of the authoritarian regime that resulted in the invalidation of voters’ will and, therefore, the election results. This policy of assigning state trustees has been maintained during 2019 and 2020 so as to cover not only municipalities won by HDP but by CHP as well.

The process which was initiated by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s (PACE) re-initiated the political monitoring procedure against Turkey on 25 April 2017 has been sustained in 2019 as well. The Council of Europe, however, has not been able to deliberate its monitoring report in 2019 either. The European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR) attitude towards the substantiality of democracy and human rights problems in Turkey has also proven to be a noteworthy case in point. The court’s violation judgments limited to the cases of Selahattin Demirtaş and Osman Kavala have not even been implemented as was due. The fact that the ECtHR, which has been moving away from the principle of rule of law, has been constantly pointing to the Constitutional Court in order to avoid deliberating applications from Turkey has laid bare the corrosion in the protection of human rights values. It has been observed that the Constitutional Court, moreover, has been failing to rule in favor of human rights and engaged in a negative attitude especially when “the national security policies of the state” were at stake. The court’s negative conduct, specifically towards the SoE decree laws and laws, revealed the fact that it has not been an effective domestic remedy to protect human rights. Yet some partial annulment judgments by the Constitutional Court about SoE decree laws which were passed into laws following the end of SoE and the maintenance of this conduct can be regarded as hopeful.

2019 has been a year which witnessed the emergence of a novel type autocratic regime of liberalism creating profound uncertainties within the permanent state of emergency with immense limitation on and prohibition of the most fundamental rights including freedom of expression, association, assembly and protest. The most prominent instrument of repression in this context was the judiciary itself.

Despite the problems brought about by the failure of democratic powers to act together against the construction of an authoritarian regime conception, the fact that the people of Turkey hit home a message of democracy and peace specifically through the ballot boxes in the local elections is very significant and meaningful. İHD would like to underline the requirement that democratic powers perceive the message of democracy and peace sent by the people in 31 March 2019 elections by coming together and establish a democratic alliance.

İHD, hereby, presents its findings and assessments on violation allegations under separate headings.

To read to full report click: İHD 2019 VIOLATIONS REPORT

For the 2019 Violations Balance Sheet click: 2019 SUMMARY TABLE OF HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN TURKEY