“Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, claims he will not abuse his state of emergency powers, but his crackdown on Turkish civil society indicates otherwise,” said Thor Halvorssen, president of HRF. “Erdogan’s administration has used the emergency regime as an excuse to crush dissenting voices and strengthen its dictatorial takeover.”
The Turkish parliament initially approved a three-month state of emergency following the failed coup in July 2016, and extended it on October 5, 2016, for an additional three months. Article 120 of the Turkish Constitution provides for a declaration of state of emergency when there are threats to the country’s democratic system, public order, or its citizens’ rights and freedoms — but it stipulates that emergency conditions cannot exceed six months. The new extension, which is set to start on January 19, ignores the Turkish Constitution’s six-month limit.
A prolonged state of emergency is "not always the best solution" to restore the rule of law, according to a December 2016 opinion by the European Commission for Democracy Through Law (known as the Venice Commission). Instead, it creates an ambiguous legal environment that could allow the Turkish government to expand its power past constitutional limits. And indeed, on December 10, 2016, President Erdogan’s party, the Justice and Development Party (AKP), introduced a constitutional reform bill that would expand the president’s executive power and extend his term limit.
“The AKP has used the state of emergency to persecute members of the Gulen movement, shut down civil society groups, arrest independent journalists, and dismiss thousands of judges and education workers,” said Halvorssen. “A three-month extension to the state of emergency in Turkey will only solidify Erdogan’s grip on power and allow him to eliminate any meaningful opposition to his rule,” he added.
Human Rights Foundation (HRF) is a nonpartisan nonprofit organization that promotes and protects human rights globally, with a focus on closed societies.