Two government decrees that were issued by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government on Saturday have attracted widespread criticism for including measures that violate international law and agreements to which Turkey is a party.
Saturday’s decrees, which have the force of law, were the latest of dozens of such controversial decrees issued by the government in the aftermath of a failed military coup on July 15. They went into force after being published in the Official Gazette on Saturday.
A state of emergency declared on July 20 in the wake of the coup attempt has made it possible for the government to press ahead with such decrees, which are also known as KHKs, in a bid to punish coup supporters. These decrees are not required to be approved by Parliament to go into force.
Immediately after the putsch, the government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame for it on the Gülen movement, while the movement and Fethullah Gülen, whose views inspired the movement, strongly deny having any involvement in the failed coup.
According to the two new decrees, numbered 675 and 676, the Turkish government will be able to cancel the passports of all those who are facing administrative or judicial investigations or prosecution as well as those of their spouses.
The decrees also effectively eliminates attorney-client privilege, empowering officials to monitor all their conversations and ban access.
As part of the new decrees, the Turkish government will from now on protect the identity of prison guards in official documents, in a move that is apparently aimed to save them from legal action over torture claims.
Allegations of torture and other maltreatment of Turkey’s post-coup detainees have substantially increased. A report released by the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Oct. 25 said Turkish police have tortured and otherwise ill-treated individuals in their custody after emergency decrees removed crucial safeguards in the wake of the failed coup attempt in July.
According to the new decrees, there is no need to read the entire indictment during court proceedings, a clear violation of the practices of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
Another controversial measure, violating ECtHR rules, taken by the government in the latest decrees empowers judges to rule on detentions without having the defendant appear in the court.
The new decrees also declare 68 exchange students studying in the US, the UK and Canada as “Gülenists,” cut off their scholarships and say their degrees will not be recognized by Turkey.
One measure concerns foreigners in Turkey. Changing Law No. 6458 on Foreigners, it waives the requirement of a court decision in the deportation of foreigners.
The 2013 Law on Foreigners and International Protection stated a foreigner cannot be deported until judicial proceedings were completed.
With this change, foreigners whom the Turkish government considers to be terrorists or their supporters, or pose a public security threat will be deported. Those who are believed to be linked to terror groups as defined by international organizations face deportation as well.
Another measure in the latest decrees says all carriers transporting passengers to and from Turkey may be required to share passenger and crew list with authorities before, after, or during their trips.
The new requirement of sharing the passenger and crew manifest also covers carriers that transport passengers within Turkey.
The original law stipulated that Turkish immigration authorities could only request passenger lists from carriers before their departure for Turkey.
Apart from these controversial measures, a total 10,158 staff members have been purged from state institutions with the new decrees for allegedly “being members of terrorist organizations or organizations, groups that were listed by the National Security Council as acting against the security of the state.”
The Turkish government has already dismissed more than 100,000 people from state bodies on the grounds that they have links to the Gülen movement.
According to the two new decrees, two news agencies — Dicle Haber Ajansı and Jin Haber Ajansı; 10 newspapers — Azadiya Welat, Yüksekova Haber, Batman Çağdaş Gazetesi, Cizre Postası, İdil Haber, Güney Expres, Prestij Haber, Urfanatik Gazetesi, Kızıltepe’nin Sesi and Özgür Gündem; and three magazines — Tiroji, Evrensel Kültür, Özgürlük Düyası — were closed down.
The Turkish government has already shut down 55 newspapers, 36 TV stations, 23 radio stations, 18 magazines and 29 publishing houses since the state of emergency was declared on July 20, five days after a failed coup attempt on July 15.
More than 130 journalists, most of them jailed after the coup attempt, are now behind bars in Turkey.
In addition, with the new decrees university rectors will no longer be elected through intra-university elections; they will be appointed by the president.