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On Paper, Emergency Rule Ends; In Reality, Turkey Makes It Permanent

This week, Turkey’s notorious emergency rule comes to an end two years after it was first imposed following a bloody coup attempt. But in reality, new measures introduced on Monday ensure that the emergency regime indeed remains in place, albeit in a different form.

While Turkey’s authorities prepare to lift the state of emergency this Wednesday, a new package of 25 articles the cabinet proposed in Parliament on Monday makes sure that core pillars of the emergency regime stay intact, in both form and substance with all draconian measures to cripple liberties for the sake of national security.

For the next three years, the Turkish government will be able to sack or dismiss any public worker whenever it deems necessary on the grounds of “terrorism” threat. The revocation of passports will continue, so are the limitations on the right to assembly. 

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan honored his election promise on ending the emergency rule imposed five days after the botched coup in July 2016. But the equivocal nature of the new set of regulations hardly dispels the kernel of doubt that prevails even after the official end of the emergency rule, which is called “OHAL” in Turkish. 

The opposition Cumhuriyet daily captured the irony in a headline. “From now on, every day is OHAL: purges to be continued.”

The government rules the country with decrees, which have the full force of laws, during the state of emergency. Once it ends, the decrees issued during OHAL are deemed to be invalid and lose their relevance in normal times.

But, when the Justice and Development Party (AKP) moved to lift OHAL, its new ally the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) came up with new demands that at least some of the decrees would remain in place.

On Monday, Erdogan’s cabinet proposed a new draft bill envisioning overhaul and amendment of certain laws within the Turkish Criminal Code and other relevant laws regulating the affairs of the Turkish military, gendarmerie — the military police, and other bureaucratic departments to retain some of the emergency powers after the OHAL.

With the new draft bill, governors, gendarmerie forces, Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization (MIT) and the president will possess vast powers at their disposals. Some of the new powers even surpass the ones enjoyed by the government during OHAL.

According to the bill, governors will be able to limit or suspend entries and exits to a city in cases of incidents threatening the law and order for not more than 15 days. The proposal resembles partial and local curfews in a place, neighborhood or a city with vast restraints over people’s mobility in the city life.

The bill also gives powers to governors to regulate, organize or limit people’s right to assembly, demonstrations or people’s gathering at certain places and certain times whenever they deem necessary.

Inspection of Military Zones, Residential Areas

The bill also envisages broad control of military zones, neighborhoods and residential areas where military officers live with their families. Upon an order from a judge at a criminal court of peace or a military commander of the base or unit in a given zone, military personnel or civilians would be subjected to a body search in those areas. The search would also include the suspected targets’ properties, their cars, personal stuff and their writings in an unlimited fashion.

If someone found “guilty or suspicious,” then they will be subjected to the laws of the Criminal Penal Code.

The bill also brings a controversial regulation to residential areas of the military personnel and military zones. It introduces the construction of new doors decorated with metal detectors and sensors in the entrance and exit of the residential areas and military sites. Everyone, including military personnel, high-ranking commanders, will have to go through those doors. If metal detectors detect something, then the suspected people would be subjected to detailed search at the scene.

Privates and conscripted soldiers also would face body searches in military barracks if a commander or a judge orders to do so.

Another regulation proposes that legal investigation against military commanders would take place after permission from the Chief of General Staff. To investigate vice president, the president’s approval is needed, while Parliament is granted the authority to launch probe against lawmakers. The military chief is designated as the authority to grant permission for investigation against general or admirals, while ministers’ approval is needed to prosecute deputy ministers. The prosecution of governors and district governors would be possible only with the green light of the Interior Ministry.

If the new bill passes, members of the judiciary would be dismissed for three more years. Ministers of the president’s cabinet are also granted powers to dismiss personnel or their staff whenever they deem necessary. For dismissals, cabinet ministers will be able to make their decisions individually without the need for a cabinet decision or presidential decree.

The public workers who had been previously sacked but later restored to their posts would not seek compensation to redress their losses, the new bill proposes.

According to the new bill, the detention period for individuals with links to terrorist organizations or organized entities will be up to 12 days with two extensions.

The new draft bill provides a secrecy shield to the intelligence organization. Its activities fall outside the area of Parliament inquiries and other civilian inspection mechanisms.

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