The State of Emergency (SoE), which was declared in the aftermath of the controversial coup attempt of 15 July 2016, was lifted on 18 July 2018. But its end does not mark the return of the rule of law in Turkey. Legal amendments for the continuation/consoloditation of the one-man rule have already taken and put in place.
Following the presidential elections on June 24, parliamentary system has been replaced by a new ruling system, i.e. Turkish-style presidential system. Almost nothing has changed since then. The most important instrument of SoE, the decree-laws, which helped the executive organ to act at its will are still in place. The only difference is the name. The new name of these instruments are presidential decrees. Fundamental changes have been already introduced to the Turkish state apparatus with this new kind of decrees.
In addition, a new draft law, which is now being dealt with at the relevant parliamentary commissions, is a clear indicator of the plans of the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to prolong the SoE for the next three years. By allowing to intervene in the appointment system of judges and prosecutors, the draft law will enable the executive body to maintain and consolidate its control and influence over judiciary which has already losts it independene and impartiality. Moreover, it will pave the way for continuing the long detention-periods and limit the basic rights, such as right to assembly, which is the harbinger of hard times for the opponents of President Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP).
Although the new draft law is intended to protect fundamental rights at times of terrorist attacks, Human Rights Watch (HRW) has raised its concerns over the said draft law:
– Purge of officials can continue as the SoE is still in place. Purged officials can object their dismissal only before the authority they worked before. Other measures, such as confiscation of passports, can be implemented.
– The rights of movement and assembly can be restricted.
– Timely and wisely implementation of a preventive system can be useful for countering insurgency, but the draft law does not introduce any measures to prevent arbitrary acts from furthering harming the fundamental rights and freedoms.
– It enhances the role of police in detaining individuals, particularly in pre-trial detention cases. Moreover, continuation of SoE measures means the continuation of the risk of abuse for the suspects. HRW states that there is evidence of torture and ill-treatment in Turkish prisons and prosecutors do not take necessary measures.
– Review of detention will be in 30 days, but presence of the suspects will be required only once in every 90 days. This increases the risk of physical abuse in detention.
– Finally, Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia Director of HRW, said: “The powers to dismiss any judge, to ban any assembly by restricting peoples’ movement, and to arrest people over and over again for the same offense in this draft law are evidence that the state of emergency will continue in all but name.”.He added “The state of emergency may have ended but so has the rule of law.”