The Anti-Terrorism Law Package which was approved by the Parliament is criticized for its role in maintaining the State of Emergency regime. Turkey’s State of Emergency regime, especially due to the broad powers granted to governors and institutional executives, may be said to be gone into a more oppressive phase. While the State of Emergency was subject to the parliamentary control as a constitutional administration, this new law offers an uncontrolled state of emergency, left to governors’ initiative.
Sibel Hürtaş reports from Turkey.
The state of emergency regime, which was announced on July 21, 2016 to be effective for three months after the July 15 coup attempt, ended on July 18, 2018. But the Anti-Terrorism Package, which was soon approved by the Parliament, is criticized for further aggravating the conditions in the state of emergency. At the core of the criticism is the never ending dismissals from the public institutions throughout the state of emergency and the regulations relating to authorizing broad powers to governors.
By the law which will be effective after being published in the Official Gazette, the legislative powers of governors will expand considerably.
POWERS GIVEN TO GOVERNORS
Establishing security zones is the main one among the powers given to governors. According to the law, governors are now able to forbid entries and exits into and out of a zone for 15 days. Vacating or relocating settlements where deemed necessary is also among the powers granted. Governors will also be able to arrange street walks, meetings and vehicle movements at certain locations or hours.
The Justice and Development Party defends its own proposal including the authority given to governors by an analogy to the state of emergency in France. Besides, this power was enacted following the end of the state of emergency, which was among the state of emergency regulations announced after the terrorist events in Paris in 2015. There is a difference between the Justice and Development Party’s regulation and that in France. In France, the powers of governors are under Senate control; with the new regulation in Turkey, how to check this power of governors is questionable.
RESTRICTIONS ON DEMONSTRATIONS
Meetings and demonstration marches are also restricted. Governors will be allowed to ban meetings and demonstration marches on the grounds that “these make citizens’ daily lives extremely difficult and unbearable”. This regulation is also criticized because its statements are rather vague in terms of the law making techniques. The Deputy of the Republican People’s Party, Zeynel Emre, reacted “how can people’s rights to prepare meetings and demonstrations be prevented based on such ambiguous claims?” While the law ensures that governors have a broad initiative relating to the right to prepare meetings and demonstrations as a human right, it also disenables many important decisions that the Constitutional Court has made about this matter to this point.
The period of detention is extended to 48 hours and that of mass arrests to four days. The Justice and Development Party took an important step by reducing the detention period to 24 hours during the process of adaptation to the European Union. Now these achievements have been put aside.
NEVER ENDING DISMISSALS
The dismissals from the public institutions will continue according to the new regulation. At the end of the two-year state of emergency, 125,000 public laborers were thrown out of public institutions by saying that they are linked to some terrorist organizations. With the end of the state of emergency, it was expected that these dismissals were thought to end, but the new law offers broader powers about dismissals. According to the law, the Constitutional Court, the Court of Auditors, the Judges and Prosecutors’ Board, all ministries, higher education institutions and governors are given the power to dismiss people. According to above-mentioned provisional article, which will remain in force for three years, commissions that will be established in all public institutions will be able to dismiss people from these institutions. Moreover, no court orders will be needed for the dismissals.
THOSE RETURNING BACK TO THEIR JOBS AT PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS
Another arrangement in the law is about returning back to job. If the State of Emergency Commission decides that a dismissed public employee was unfairly dismissed, then these people will not be able to return to the same job. They will be employed in the Research Centers opened in the institutions. The law as it is also cancels the State of Emergency Commission, which the government has created by itself. Additionally, it is unclear what the Research Centers that the opposition parties criticized as “Exile Centers” would do.
MAINTAINING THE STATE OF EMERGENCY CONDITIONS
When the regulations introduced by the new law are taken into consideration together with the powers of the Presidential Government System, it brings with it the interpretations of “the permanence of the State of Emergency”. Together with the Presidential Government System, the President is given the authority to issue decrees about almost every subject.
When the authority of the President to issue decrees about economic and social rights, such as ignoring the right to strike, is taken into consideration, the approaching period in Turkey will involve many regulations very similar to those used in the State of Emergency, from banning strikes in public to dismissals in public institutions, and from restricting the right to congregate and demonstrate to declaring designated zones security zones.
‘MORE OPPRESSIVE STATE OF EMERGENCY’
Considering above-mentioned new authorities given, the Deputy of the Republican People’s Party, a constitutional law professor İbrahim Kaboğlu, points that Turkey is transiting into a worse period than the one in the State of Emergency. Kaboğlu interprets these authorities as “more oppressive State of Emergency”.
The Deputy of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, Ayşe Acar Başaran, interprets the same regulation as “an uncontrolled, unlimited State of Emergency left to governors’ initiative”.
The Republican People’s Party says that the law is completely contrary to the Constitution.
According to the Republican People’s Party, this package of law in all matters contrary to the Constitution, also throws aside the gains made over the years in Turkey, from the law on meetings and demonstrations to occupational safety.
AND A CONTROVERSIAL VOTING PRACTICE
It is stated that there has been a process of debate filled with contradictions to the Constitution and the legislation in form as well as the contents of this package of law. With the entry into force of the Presidential Government System, many revisions of the legislation were also not made. One of these is the Parliament’s Internal Regulations, which is regarded as the Parliamentary Constitution. When this package of law came to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey’s General Assembly, the government had to be in the Parliament according to the Internal Regulations; the government no longer has to participate in parliamentary work according to the new system. The opposition also objected to this and requested primarily legislating adjustment laws for a voting practice in accordance with the Internal Regulations. Since there was no such regulation in the Constitution anymore, the law was adopted by the Parliament with a voting practice against the Internal Regulations, despite all the objections of the opposition.
CONTINUITY OF THE STATE AND FREEDOMS DISCUSSION
That was the way the debates in Parliament were in form. When it comes to their content, the debates had a quality that would fully reveal the ideological/political polarity of the opposition and power. In the debates held both in the Commission and the General Assembly, the government paid most attention to the continuity of the state while defending the proposed law, and the opposition drew attention to “the Constitution together with the human rights and freedoms”.
Even though “the continuity of the state” is not a legal term, the members of the parliament now come across it, and it has been put in the legislative work as a term that is even above the law. Stating that there may be no justifications above the Constitution and considering that this regulation is completely contrary to the Constitution, the Republican People’s Party prepares to go to the Supreme Court.
TAKING IT TO THE CONSTITUTIONAL COURT
The Republican People’s Party stated that they will take the said law to the Constitutional Court. The Constitutional Court rejected the decrees issued during the period of State of Emergency, saying “we have no authority to control.” There are no excuses anymore for such rejections by the Constitutional Court because the State of Emergency ended. The Supreme Court will be obliged to examine this law.