Turkey: Emergency Decree Laws are obstructing local democracy

Venice 06/10/2017
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© Council of Europe

© Council of Europe

In an opinion adopted today, the European Commission for Democracy through Law (the “Venice Commission”) assessed the extent to which Turkey’s Emergency Decree Laws – passed in the wake of the failed 2016 coup attempt – include measures that go beyond what is permitted by international standards and the Turkish constitution.

As stated in previous opinions regarding these laws, the Venice Commission again acknowledges the need for certain extraordinary steps taken by Turkish authorities to face a dangerous armed conspiracy.

However, as highlighted in previous opinions – the Turkish authorities have interpreted these extraordinary powers too extensively.

The opinion was requested by the Council of Europe’s Congress of Local and Regional Authorities, which earlier this year determined that the Emergency Decree no. 674 is incompatible with Turkey’s commitments as a Party to the European Charter of Local Self-Government.

The Venice Commission echoes such criticism, finding “particularly worrying” that emergency legislation permits central authorities to appoint unelected mayors, vice-mayors and members of local councils, and exercise – without judicial oversight – discretionary control over the functioning of the concerned municipalities.

Furthermore, the new rules under the law introduce changes of a structural nature, not limited to the duration of the state of emergency.

Local authorities are one of the main foundations of a democratic society, the legal experts stress. Their election by the local population is key to ensuring the people’s participation in the political process.

As a result of these critical assessments, the Venice Commission calls on Turkish authorities to take the following steps:

  • To repeal provisions introduced by the Decree Law N° 674 which are not strictly necessitated by the state of emergency, in particular concerning the rules enabling the filling of vacancies in the positions of mayor, vice-mayor, local council member, by the way of appointments;`
  • To ensure that the application of the rules introduced by the Decree Law N° 674 is limited to the duration of the state of emergency, and that any permanent measures affecting local democracy are taken following the ordinary laws and procedures, after proper parliamentary debate;
  • To introduce provisions for adequate judicial review of the measures taken by the governorship in municipalities where special powers are instituted in their respect in the context of the fight against terrorism;
  • To provide adequate rules and framework for the reinstatement of suspended/dismissed local representatives in case the terrorism-related charges do not lead to a criminal conviction.

The text of the full opinion as adopted today by the Venice Commission will be made available on the Venice Commission website on Monday 9 October. 

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