New İHD Report: Emergency Decree Laws and Their Impact on Human Rights in Turkey

The Republic of Turkey has often been governed under the state of emergency (SoE) regimes since its proclamation in 1923. SoE government procedures have been implemented for a total of 43 years in Turkey, including a total of 41 years covering 26 years of martial law regime at various times between 1923 and 1987 and a 15-year-long state of emergency between 1987 and 2002 in addition to a 2-year-long SoE between 2016 and 2018.[1]

During these emergency periods, amendments were usually introduced to many laws, most notably to constitutions; either new constitutions were drafted as was the case in military coup periods in 1961, 1971 and 1980 or legislative amendments that restricted fundamental rights and freedoms were introduced in individual laws.

The latest SoE regime was declared in the aftermath of the coup d’état attempt of 15 July 2016. The government, exercising the power granted by Article 120 of the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey, declared a 3-month SoE all over the country starting on 21 July 2016 within the scope of Article 3(1)(b) of Law No. 2935 on State of Emergency. Following the first three months, SoE was extended 7 times and was finally lifted on 18 July 2018.[2]

The government started issuing decree laws [kanun hükmünde kararname] that restricted fundamental rights and freedoms in the aftermath of the declaration of SoE following the failed coup attempt staged against the government on 15 July 2016. These decree laws are necessarily exempt from judicial review. The Constitutional Court recanted its “previous” case-law in its judgment on emergency decree laws in 2016 holding that emergency decree laws were not subjected to constitutionality review.[3] Although the SoE was lifted, these decree laws were enacted into laws to be implemented in states/conditions of non-emergency through Law No. 7145 and Law No. 7333.

SoE decree laws have two implications on the human rights field in Turkey with regards to their content and practice. Firstly, they resulted in the corrosion of the principle of rule of law and in the unlawful governance of the field of fundamental rights and freedoms in Turkey as per procedure. Secondly, they led to the shrinking of the activity field of current human rights struggle in many ways in their practice. Therefore, the first part of this report will address the standards in restricting rights and freedoms in major national and supranational human rights documents while discussing the legality of declaration of SoE and its successive extensions, and the second part will focus on interferences with human rights and freedoms in the unlawful environment brought about through and by decree laws themselves with regards to human rights and freedoms beginning with 15 July 2016 extending today as well as their impact on a diverse set of human rights and fundamental freedoms. Certain prominent cases will be offered as samples in order for us to comprehend these implications on the human rights struggle in everyday life. The final part will offer recommendations with an eye to the elimination of problems brought about by the SoE and emergency decree laws and the consequences of the violations they led to.

[1] For documents and assessment of the period up to 1991, see. M. Semih Gemalmaz. Olağanüstü Rejim Standartları. 1994.

[2] For a detailed analysis of the SoE period and emergency decree laws, see Human Rights Joint Platform’s (HRJP) “Updated Situation Report: State of Emergency in Turkey 21 July 2016-20 March 2018”

[3] For a comprehensive analysis of emergency decree laws, see the information note entitled “Atipik KHK’LER ve Daimi Hukuksuzluk: OHAL KHK’si ile erkeği kadın, kadını erkek yapamazsınız!” co-authored by Kerem Altıparmak, Dinçer Demirkent and Murat Sevinç.


For the full report in English, click: EmergencyDecreeLawsReport