Tag Archive | "democracy"

Time to Rethink the Continuing State of Emergency in Turkey

Photo Credit: Daily Sabah

Photo Credit: Daily Sabah

After a failed military coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016, the Turkish government decided to declare a state of emergency to take required measures in the fight against the putschists, and return to normalcy as soon as possible. Considering the extension of the state of emergency to six months, and all measures taken in this period, this post brings up the controversial question of the legality of the continuing state of emergency and continuing accusations across the country.

 

Background and the Growing Process

On July 15, 2016, a group in Turkey’s armed forces attempted a military coup to seize control of the government. On July 21, 2016, after the coup failed, Turkish government declared a state of emergency for a period of ninety days pursuant to Article 120 of the Turkish Constitution of 1982, which provides:

“In the event of serious indications of widespread acts of violence aimed at the destruction of the free democratic order established by the Constitution or of fundamental rights and freedoms, or serious deterioration of public order because of acts of violence, the Council of Ministers, meeting under the chairpersonship of the President of the Republic, after consultation with the National Security Council, may declare a state of emergency in one or more regions or throughout the country for a period not exceeding six months”.

Following the failed coup, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan clarified that, “the state of emergency had been declared in Turkey … for a duration of [three] months with an aim to totally and swiftly eliminate the FETÖ/PDY (Gulenist Terrorist Organization/Parallel State Structure) terrorist organization, which attempted a coup, and all of its elements”. On October 19, 2016, Turkey’s parliament ratified a planned extension of the state of emergency for three additional months to crack down on everyone suspected to be followers of the putschists. On January 19 2017, the state of emergency was extended second time, and most recently extended a third time scheduled to end on July 19, 2017. According to Article 121 of the Constitution 1982:

“The [Grand National] Assembly [of Turkey] may alter the duration of the state of emergency, may extend the period for a maximum of four months each time at the request of the Council of Ministers, or may lift the state of emergency”.

With an emphasis on the necessity of a determinative and quick reaction to any acts of violence aimed at threatening or abolishing democracy in states, the contentious counter-measures taken by Turkish authorities after the failed coup require a discussion in the context of human rights considerations.

 

Assessing under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

After the failed military coup, the government started to arrest, imprison, and fire anyone connected with the putschists. However, detentions and firing of thousands of journalists and academics as a massive political purge under the state of emergency gave a different dimension to the government’s unbounded counter-measures.

Nonetheless, it’s incontrovertible that all enforcements of slander laws to members of opposing groups and critics, attacks on the independence of the judiciary, using media and other state resources in favor of the government, and censoring the internet websites, are employed as policies against putschists to return normalcy to the country cannot be conceded as justifications for fighting against putschists contrary to the international human rights considerations.

Relevantly, on September 23, 2003, Turkey ratified the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) as an attempt to ensure the protection of civil and political rights. With regard to the state of emergency, the ICCPR reads in Article 4(1):

“In time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation and the existence of which is officially proclaimed, the States Parties to the present Covenant may take measures derogating from their obligations under the present Covenant to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, provided that such measures are not inconsistent with their other obligations under international law and do not involve discrimination solely on the ground of race, colour, sex, language, religion or social origin”.

Clearly, a state of emergency is an extraordinary situation in which human rights and freedoms could be suspended temporarily. During the state of emergency, governments have the right to detain and hold suspects without charge. Nonetheless, there are some other fundamental rights and freedoms stated in Article 4(2) of the ICCPR which could not be suspended under any conditions including the right to freedom of thought, freedom from arbitrarily being deprived of liberties, and freedom from torture and inhuman treatment or punishment. From this point of view, holding a large population of the Turkish society, including pro-Kurdish and main opposition Republican People’s Party members of parliament, academics, journalists, and ordinary citizens just because of opposing and criticizing the government’s policies –especially, its quest for constitutional amendments that will be voted on in the referendum on April 2017 on switching to a presidential system– and also infringing media freedom in the country could be considered as violation of Article 4(2) of the ICCPR and that could not be justified under any condition even if done as counter-coup measures. Furthermore, using the failed coup attempt as a cover-up to eliminate and a crackdown on any government opponents and critics regardless of the scope and objective of the coup leaders is a violation of freedom of expression and thought which cannot be derogated under any distressed situations such as the state of emergency. During the continuing state of emergency in Turkey, dismissing about 7,316 academics by the first half of January 2017 from their professions who criticized the government’s national policies or signed peace declaration criticizing curfews declared in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish Southeastern districts in 2015 cannot be justified under any circumstances. In this sense, the mentioned counter-measures taken by the Turkish government against the society is clearly refusing the rule of law and fundamental rules of the ICCPR on a large scale.

 

Accusations Through the Broad Definition of Terrorism

According to the European Court of Human Rights, more than 5,000 cases were filed by Turkish nationals against Turkey relating to the post-coup purge. In the wake of the failed military coup in Turkey, the government launched a purge against alleged supporters of the coup leader Fethullah Gulen, including military officers, academics, and journalists.

As stated by Jonathan Cooper in his manual prepared for the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), “[A]n overly broad definition of terrorism can be used [only] to shut down non-violent dissent and undermine democratic society”. There is a similar tendency in Turkey. The counter-measures taken by Turkish authorities in the fight against putschists coup leaders, connected alleged suspects through a broad definition of terrorism.

The overly-broad definition of terrorism, and measures taken to fight against it, are very dangerous because it will impact a large layer of the society, especially ethnic and religious minority groups, peaceful critics, and opponents, by sabotaging their fundamental human rights and liberties, including the right to freedom of expression. Although the Turkish President has said that the main objective of the state of emergency is the total elimination of the “Gulenist Terrorist Organization” and its elements that attempted a military coup. thousands of Turkish scholars were arrested during the state of emergency on a charge related to supporting the terrorist organization, including statements that do not clearly provoke or incite any act of violence. Relevantly, interpretation and application of laws by sabotaging non-derogable fundamental human rights including freedom of expression, freedom of thought, and freedom from being arbitrarily deprived of liberties are all the steps taken to broaden the scope of terrorism.

To be clear, Turkish authorities do not consciously separate terrorist actions from general criticism, or political and ethnic dissents in the country. Therefore all measures were taken under the state of emergency, and within the limits of the international obligations have prepared the grounds to suppress the right to freedom of thought and expression in violation of the rule of law. In simple words, in order to prevent legitimate exercise of the fundamental and non-suspendable human rights, Turkish authorities criminalize not only the acts that are properly accepted as terrorist actions in nature, but also any lawful statements, criticism, demonstrations, meetings, and any other attitudes that do not fall within the scope of terrorism under any circumstances.

It is very clear that Turkish authorities, by defining “criticizing the government’s policies” and “clarification of the opposing views” as terrorist actions have moved away from the main objective of the continuing state of emergency in Turkey. By contrast, all of these attitudes of Turkish authorities towards a large number of the society, mainly academics and journalists, are the significant steps in the direction of restricting democracy and freedom of expression and thought.

 

Saeed Bagheri is a faculty member at Akdeniz University in Turkey with a Ph. D in Public law and a Master’s of Human Rights Law.

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Decision 2016: Oh the Places We Will Go

Photo Credit: The Telegraph

Photo Credit: The Telegraph

On November 8, 2016, the Unites States will elect a new President to lead. Polls have opened, and votes are being cast. But who will win, and what impact will it have on the national stage? As the rest of the world watches, American citizens need to realize we are wading into uncharted waters with the effect our election could have on our international relationships.

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee for President is no stranger to the international stage. A former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, Ms. Clinton has been the architect of both successes and failures, but is skilled at mingling with leaders on the world stage.  Ms. Clinton’s foreign policy goals are in line with many of the beliefs of our current administration, and she plans to continue with many of the programs currently in place. She believes the role of the U.S. is to lead on the world stage, and continue to impact the lives people around the world.

Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for President, similarly has made international concerns an issue in his campaign.  Immigration, both legal and illegal, is a central theme Mr. Trump has focused on from his initial campaign launch. His goal to both reform the legal immigration system, as well as various proposals regarding illegal immigration, have drawn both ire and praise from people of all political stripes. Further, while Mr. Trump may not have as extensive a pedigree on the world stage as Ms. Clinton, he has shown he is able adapt to ever evolving circumstances, and has illustrated his ability to make some noise on the world stage.

Both candidates have their positives and negatives, but are viewed in sharp contrast by the general public. Ms. Clinton’s expansive views on the broader international community and Mr. Trump’s more national and immigration focused views are in direct opposition, and have given voters nearly polar opposite foreign policy positions on which to vote this cycle. And while each have polled better or worse on various issues, in the end it will be up to the citizens of the 50 states to decide what direction the country will take with respect to foreign relations.

Taken as a whole, the United States’ standing and relationships on the world stage are about to change. Whether that is for better or for worse is left to others to debate, however all Americans must realize that the winds of change are coming. As we have already seen this past year, issues of foreign independence and immigration have already impacted elections across the ocean, and very well could have an impact here in the United States. As voters head to the polls, we should all be mindful of the old saying, “elections have consequences.”

Chris McGowne is a 3rd year night law student at University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a staff editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Critical Analysis: Turmoil in Turkish Politics Could Tip Syrian War

The Turkish government under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan remains in its worst political crisis since coming to power in 2003. On April 3, access to Twitter in the country was restored after the Constitutional Court ruled that a ban imposed by Erdogan on March 21 was illegal. The prime minister had announced he would “wipe out Twitter” after reports of corruption in the government were widely spread on the network. YouTube was also blocked after a recording was posted purportedly of top government officials discussing military intervention in Syria.

With recent reports of corruption and authoritarian tactics Turkish democracy may be eroding. Image Source: WorldPolicy.org

With recent reports of corruption and authoritarian tactics Turkish democracy may be eroding. Image Source: WorldPolicy.org

The bans follow a pattern of what critics consider increasing authoritarian tendencies displayed by Erdogan. In June 2013, police forcefully broke up protests in Istanbul after resistance to a park redevelopment escalated into a larger movement against Erdogan. Later in the year, the government removed police and prosecutors from their posts after more than 50 Erdogan allies were charged with corruption. Erdogan has portrayed the allegations as a conspiracy led by Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former supporter of the prime minister’s Justice and Development Party (“AK”). Gulen, who lives in the United States, leads the Hizmet movement, which fell out with the government after moves to shut down its network of private schools. Erdogan’s bombastic comments about foreign conspiracies are seen by critics as an indication that he will use further authoritarian tactics to suppress opposition.

So far, opposition parties in Turkey have not been able to capitalize on the government’s turmoil. Local elections on March 30 were handily won by the AK party. If Erdogan’s troubles and popular resistance to him increase, however, his days in power could be numbered. His own party’s rules currently prohibit him from running for a fourth term as prime minister in 2015, and his efforts to adopt a new constitution creating a more powerful presidency (which he would likely seek) have so far been unsuccessful. But if Erdogan’s departure would be a benefit to democracy in Turkey, it could have dangerous consequences across the border in Syria. Erdogan’s government has strongly supported the Syrian opposition throughout the war, though it has stopped short of direct intervention. Turkey’s main opposition, the Republican People’s Party (“CHP”), meanwhile, has openly sided with the Assad regime. CHP members of parliament have visited Syria to meet with Assad, while dismissing the regime’s crimes as “a lie just like…weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.” They have endorsed Assad’s war as “resistance…against imperialism.” Even Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul, an AK member, has made an ambiguous call for “re-calibrating” Turkey’s Syria policy

If the CHP were able to defeat the AK party in the next election, or Erdogan were forced out by his own party in favor of someone more inclined toward Gul’s view, it could have a decisive impact on the Syrian conflict, in favor of Assad. Ridding Turkey of a leader with an ego run amok might be positive, but would it be worth the cost of delivering victory to a regime involved in an internal conflict which has caused 150,000 deaths and refugees numbering in the millions?

Scott Petiya is a 3LE law student at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a staff editor for the Denver Journal of International Law & Policy.

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Critical Analysis: Egypt’s Pending Referendum: A step forward or back?

Egyptians headed to the polls on Tuesday to vote on a constitutional referendum for the first day of a two day voting period.  This will be the first vote in Egypt since the military disposed of President Mohamed Mursi, the only president to be voted into office through a democratic election.  It is also the third referendum for Egyptians in three years.  As a result of the unrest in Egypt since the removal of Mursi, this latest referendum has been eagerly anticipated.  Not only has the pending vote brought hope and unrest, but it also will have lasting impacts to the country’s stability and the rights of Egyptian citizens.

Egyptian voters headed to the polls this week in hopes of gaining a stable government. Image Source: alhayat.com/JerusalemWorldNews.com

Egyptian voters headed to the polls this week in hopes of gaining a stable government. Image Source: alhayat.com/JerusalemWorldNews.com

The anticipation of the vote brought both financial growth and death to the country.  The hope of a more stable government, after a potential Presidential election, if the referendum passes, brought the stock market to the highest levels since January 2011.  It is expected that if citizens vote to accept the agreement there will be a new Presidential election as early as April.  Not only is there expected to be an election, but one of the most promising candidates, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the general who was instrumental in bringing down Mursi, has indicated that he will rule if Egypt would support him.  Many citizens look at this referendum as a step in stabilizing the government by stopping the political upheaval and reinstating stability through el-Sisi’s impending election.

However, this referendum has brought unrest in addition to hope because the Muslim Brotherhood has fought the referendum.  The Brotherhood fought the referendum by trying to put up posters opposing the referendum, largely because they see the referendum as an attempt to legitimize the forced removal of Mursi. The Muslim Brotherhood, who support Mursi, has also vowed to boycott the vote and consequently clashed with the security forces instructed to protect the voters and the election process.  These clashes include security forces firing tear gas at Mursi supporters in Giza and bomb explosion in a poor neighborhood in Giza two hours before the balloting started.  Although no one died in that bombing, interior ministry officials have said that at least five civilians have been killed in clashes leading up to Tuesday, and an additional eleven people died on the Tuesday, the first day of voting.

Not only has the referendum created unrest through the voting process, but also has a significant impact on the rights of the Egyptian citizens.   One key effect of the referendum passing is the return of a president that is a member of the military, and accountable to both Egyptian citizens and the Egyptian military.  This effect conflicts the responses Egyptians made when polled by CNN about the type of government they would prefer; eighty percent of people believe democracy is a good political system whereas five percent believe that it is good to have a strong leader, indicating that citizens are willing to sacrifice their ideal government for immediate peace.  In addition to the probable reinstatement of a military leader, it also gives the military a special status to select their own candidates for positions and bring civilians before tribunals without oversight.  Other changes would include banning political parties based on their religion, giving women equal rights, and protecting Christians as a minority.

Ultimately this referendum, which does have some good provisions such as banning all forms of slavery and sex trade, is a flawed document which has brought about more unrest than usual in recent days.   The question that remains to be seen is whether the likely passage of the referendum improves conditions in Egypt.  Those voting for it hope that the killing and violence will stop and that the country will stabilize, but the price of reinstating a military leadership may ultimately be a high price to pay: giving up many of the rights earned during the Arab Spring.

Katelin Wheeler is 3L student and Sutton Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

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Critical Analysis: Egyptian Election

May 23 and 24 marked Egypt’s first free presidential election since the 2011 Arab Spring revolution ousted Hosni Mubarak from over 30 years as Egypt’s unchallenged leader.  The mood in Egypt was excited, as many waited hours to cast the first meaningful vote of their lives.  There were eleven challengers (two of the 13 candidates listed on the ballot had withdrawn).  No candidate, however, won a majority.  Because of this, there will be a runoff election June 16-17 between the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak’s last Prime Minister.  That race kicked off today.

Egypt Votes

This election is a monumental achievement for those who helped topple President Mubarak last spring.  But it is only one step in Egypt’s march toward democracy.  The transition from single party rule through the military’s transitional government to democracy will be difficult.  Some 30,000 volunteers fanned out to make sure the election was conducted fairly; few violations were reported.  There was, however, an underlying fear the military would try to hijack the election, even thought armored vehicles drove through the streets with loudspeakers broadcasting the military’s intention to hand over power to an elected civilian government.  Despite these assurances, some fear that the military will not withdraw completely from the political sphere.  One analyst predicted Egypt would go the way of Turkey and Pakistan: formal democracies where the military can nonetheless affect significant events.

As the results of the first round were announced on Monday, protesters stormed the headquarters of one of the two finalists.  Protests swept through Cairo and Alexandria.  The two contenders, Mohamed Morsi and Ahmed Shafiq, are the most polarizing figures in the race.  They are seen as extremist candidates – Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood does not have broad appeal with centrists and there is much distrust of those, like Shafiq, who served in President Mubarak’s regime.  These protests signal the challenges each candidate faces in the coming weeks.  Before the June 16th election, each candidate must amass a broad coalition of support, using only three weeks and the equivalent of $333,000.  On one hand, Mr. Morsi’s party is well established across the country.  Mr. Shafiq, on the other hand, has the vast network of Mubarak’s outlawed National Democratic party and the security forces behind him.  The candidates, however, must paint themselves as appealing to centrists to win the top spot.

The ultimate results of the election spells uncertainty for Egypt’s relations with Israel and the United States.  Both candidates, however, seem more inclined to “play the Egyptian street” than Mubarak.  This means a foreign policy less inclined to friendly relations with both the US and Israel.  Public opinion, under either candidate, will play a larger role.  And the public are not as pro-US or pro-Israel as the Mubarak regime generally had been.  For example, the Camp David Accords are likely to be reviewed.  Already, the transitional military government ended shipments of natural gas to Israel.  “Mubarak was dependable” on the international front; the new regime is likely to be less so.  The United States and Israel may have to put up with more hostile rhetoric, at least in the interim, from an emboldened public and an Egyptian parliament playing to a different crowd.

Regardless, the true effects will be seen when the results of the run-off election are announced in late June and the military hands over control of the government on July 1.  Egyptians have yet to draft and approve a new Constitution, so the president’s powers are not yet determined.  Whichever candidate wins will face the challenge of uniting a disgruntled country.  But, he will have a strong voice in shaping the Constitution and in driving the relationship with the West.  All eyes are on Egypt as it dives into the waters of democracy.

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