Open Appeal to the German Government and to the Council of Europe, OSCE and NATO
In February 2016 the Turkish Constitutional Court revoked the pre-trial imprisonment imposed upon two journalists who had uncovered support provided by Turkish authorities to militant Islamists in Syria. In response, the Turkish President Erdogan threatened the judges: “I don’t need to accept [this decision], I want to make that clear. I don’t obey or respect the decision.”[i] Deeds have now followed these words.
The pretext came in the form of the failed coup attempt by parts of the Turkish military in the night from July 15 to July 16, 2016. Since that night, the executive has removed almost 3000 judges and state prosecutors from office, with the majority of them also detained. It seems apparent that lists of targets had already been drawn up before the event. The suspensions and repression have been extended to include thousands of journalists, teachers, professors, lawyers and employees in various educational establishments. Newspapers and radio/TV broadcasters have been shut down or brought into line. Invoking the Turkish constitution and Article 15 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the Turkish government has declared a “state of emergency” in order to free itself from further bothersome constitutional limitations.
To date, NATO has remained silent on these events. This in spite of the fact that all NATO member states are obliged to “safeguard the freedom, common heritage and civilisation of their peoples, founded on the principles of democracy, individual liberty and the rule of law.” (Preamble to NATO Treaty, sentence 2)
We determine that the approach taken by President Erdogan and his government does not accord with the obligations of international law that Turkey entered into by joining the Council of Europe and by ratifying the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The “derogation” from constitutional guarantees in a state of emergency, as regulated by Article 15 of the ECHR, only comes into consideration if “war or other public emergency [is] threatening the life of the nation”. This condition is not fulfilled in Turkey. The attempted military coup had already been defeated on July 16. Since it failed, it cannot be used as a justification for declaring a state of emergency. Turkey has no right at all to arbitrarily restrict the applicability of the ECHR and the independence of the judiciary.
It cannot be accepted that the freedoms of expression, information and assembly, as well as press freedom, are being restricted in Turkey, contravening Art. 9 and 10 of the ECHR, or that in violation of Art. 5 and 8, the right to liberty and security of person as well as the right to respect for one’s private and family life are not being guaranteed for those critical of the Erdogan government. Furthermore, it is a violation of the ECHR if the 50,000 suspended employees of the Turkish state and other detainees (as reported in the media) are not being guaranteed the rights secured in Art. 6 of the ECHR to a fair trial. According to e-mails sent to us by some affected judges, those affected by these measures are also not being “informed promptly, in a language which he understands and in detail, of the nature and cause of the accusation against him”, as per Art. 6 (3) of the ECHR. Those affected are not being presented with any verifiable evidence or even told about any evidence for the claims they were involved in the failed coup or for any other breaches of their official duties.
The suspensions and detentions of more than 500 administrative judges, several constitutional court judges, and more than 2000 judges from other courts all indicate the direction this is heading in: the measures being ordered by President Erdogan and his AKP government aim above all to neutralise the independent judiciary, to intimidate and repress any opposition, to bring the press and media into line, and to remove as many obstructions as possible to the establishment of an authoritarian presidential regime with an unbridled leadership cult.
The signatories to the ECHR and the institutions of the Council of Europe should no longer accept this without objections. The German Chancellor and the Minister of the Interior demanded that President Erdogan apply the “principle of proportionality”. With this demand they are not questioning the measures being taken by the government in principle, but rather assuming they are generally legitimate. It is very disconcerting to hear the German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier declare in Washington on July 21, 2016, that the state of emergency declared in Turkey has to be “limited to the absolutely necessary duration and then ended immediately”[ii]. This statement, too, legitimises the current “state of emergency”. So President Erdogan will be quite happy with it.
- We call on the Federal German government and the governments of all contracting states in the Council of Europe to file an inter-state case against Turkey at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg under Art. 33 of the ECHR[iii], in order to demand and enforce conduct in compliance with the ECHR. To prepare for this, an expert commission with a fact-finding mandate should be deployed without delay. This commission should ensure that Turkish citizens being pursued or detained can turn to it with a request for support.
- The OSCE needs to act, too. The “Human Dimension Committee” of the OSCE needs to concern itself with the human rights situation in Turkey as soon as possible. It needs to demand an immediate retraction of the blanket, list-based suspensions of judges and state prosecutors, the interference in the independence of the judiciary, and the violations of core human rights.
- The NATO Council, at the level of heads of state and government, has to arrange an extraordinary meeting as soon as possible to strongly remind Turkey of its democratic and constitutional obligations as a member of NATO. The 102 nuclear warheads currently stationed in Incirlik (Turkey) as part of NATO operations should be withdrawn immediately. All deliveries of weapons and armaments, as well as all financial transfers, to the Erdogan regime need to be suspended immediately.
- The Tornado squadron of the German air force should be withdrawn as soon as possible from its deployment in Incirlik.
Berlin, July 24/25 2016
[i] See, for example: (EN) http://www.reuters.com/article/us-turkey-media-erdogan-idUSKCN0W10E6 or (DE) http://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/ausland/europa/tuerkei-lange-haftstrafen-fuer-regierungskritische-journalisten-14219395.html
[iii] Art. 33 ECHR (Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms) – Inter-State cases: Any High Contracting Party may refer to the Court any alleged breach of the provisions of the Convention and the protocols thereto by another High Contracting Party.