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Turkey: Constitutional Court upholds state officials’ impunity

Turkey’s Constitutional Court (AYM) has upheld provisions which protect public servants and civilians who committed crimes while attempting to prevent a military coup, enacted under the State of Emergency following the failed coup in July, 2016.

According to the Arrested Lawyers Initiative, impunity granted in the emergency decrees covers “any acts committed with the aim of suppressing the coup attempt and the terrorist activities that took place on July 15, 2016 and actions that can be deemed as the continuation of these.” The Arrested Lawyers Initiative is a volunteer organisation advocating on behalf of imprisoned or exiled legal professionals as a result of the Turkish government’s post-coup purges.

They strongly criticised the judgements of the AYM, arguing that,

“In two separate judgments, (the AYM) upheld these provisions which have resulted in a de facto derogation of the right to life, and to the prohibition of torture, which is clearly illegal under the Constitution, the ICCPR and the ECHR.”

The AYM had said that the impunity clauses were “necessary to encourage the public servants so they could perform their duties effectively to overcome the threats (which) arose out of the state of emergency.”

Following the coup attempt on 15 July 2016, Turkey was in a legal state of emergency until 2018. Emergency decree laws issued after the coup were criticised by human rights groups for their vagueness and application not only to actions taken to prevent the military coup, but also to “actions that can be deemed as the continuation of these.”

In September 2020, The Turkey Tribunal released a report on Impunity in Turkey today. The report concludes that “the impunity in Turkey has virtually become the norm, as far as the human rights violations committed against individuals state officials are concerned.”

There is “a pervasive culture and overwhelming legacy of impunity for serious human rights violations” which has lasted since the 1980s, and reached “unprecedented levels” since the 2016 coup attempt.

Formal investigations are rare as prosecutions “continue to create a strong perception of impunity for acts of torture and other forms of ill-treatment”, ignoring human rights abuses particularly of Kurdish people. These include systematic torture, kidnappings or enforced disappearances, and extra-judicial killings.

In collaboration with The Turkey Tribunal, IOHR will be hosting a webinar on 25 November 2020 to discuss the Tribunal’s latest report on the State of Torture in Turkey today. Speakers include the authors of the report, as well as real witness, legal and human rights experts. The webinar will take place at 1:00 pm (London) / 2:00 pm (Brussels).

Sign up to the webinar below:

See IOHR’s Turkey Tribunal campaign and the Impunity report here:

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