European Interest

Turkey: lifting of state of emergency a welcome start, now restore rule of law, says the ICJ

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The International Commission of Jurists welcomed today the lapse of Turkey’s nearly two-year state of emergency, which is expected to be effective as of midnight, but said that the authorities needed now to take a range of measures to repair the rupture to the rule of law in the country.

The ICJ’s comments came as it released its report Justice Suspended – Access to Justice and State of Emergency in Turkey, outlining how measures undertaken pursuant to a state of emergency, including the mass dismissal of judges and arbitrary arrests and prosecutions of lawyers and human rights defenders had eroded the justice institutions and mechanisms in the country.

The report recommends a number of measures including the repeal of measures enacted under the state of emergency, the restoral of the independence of the judiciary and the reform of the country’s anti-terrorism legislation.

“With the end of the state of emergency we call for the immediate withdrawal of the notifications of derogations to the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights,” said Massimo Frigo, ICJ Senior Legal Adviser for the Europe and Central Asia Programme.

“We remain concerned that many of the emergency measures have been given permanent effect in Turkish law and will have pernicious and lasting consequences for the enjoyment of human rights and for the rule of law in Turkey,” he added.

These measures include the dismissals of hundred of thousands of people from their job, including judges and prosecutors.

Constitutional amendments, introduced during the state of emergency, permanently enshrine executive and legislative control of the governing institutions of the judiciary, contrary to international standards on judicial independence, the ICJ says.

Many of those charged with vaguely-defined offences under the state of emergency face trial before courts that are not independent and cannot guarantee the right to a fair trial, the Geneva-based organization adds.

Crucially, most of the people affected by emergency measures, including summary dismissals, have not yet had the opportunity to obtain a remedy before an effective and independent court or tribunal.

The ICJ report illustrates how the mechanisms which should address and remedy human rights violations in Turkey lack effectiveness and independence and that these deficiencies extend both to the courts and the state of emergency complaints commission.

It further finds that the ordinary functions of lawyers and activities civil society, key actors in ensuring access to justice, have been considerably curtailed.

“The Turkish Government says that they want their actions to respect the rule of law. Effective and independent remedies and reparations for human rights violations must be available to all if this principle is to have any reality in practice,” said Massimo Frigo.

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