“I hope that 2021 will be the year of democratic and economic reforms, as we have promised our nation. We will present the project for this to Parliament as soon as possible, ”said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a speech last Friday.
It is part of the narrative of the Turkish government in order to improve its battered external image – which has led to changes in the country’s economic direction – and thus attract the foreign investment necessary to overcome a very fragile economic situation.
But no matter how well you paint the score, the music that the orchestra continues to play is very different. In its last act before the New Year’s break, the Turkish Grand Assembly on Sunday approved a law that has alarmed human rights defenders and the opposition, as it will facilitate the intervention of civil society organizations critical of the Executive, including international ones with a presence in Turkey.
The new law aims to “equate” Turkish legislation to combat the financing of terrorist organizations and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction to “international standards”, explains by telephone Cahit Özkan, head of the AKP parliamentary group, the Islamist formation of President Erdogan.
It is about complying with the UN Security Council resolutions on counterterrorism and with a 2019 report from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) that pointed out certain “deficiencies” of Turkey in the fields of the fight against money laundering. of capital and the freezing of assets of suspected terrorists.
However, the NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) points out that only six of the 43 articles of the new Turkish law are aimed at solving these issues. “Its provisions exceed the objective of preventing the financing of terrorism.
They will allow the Ministry of the Interior to intimidate the legal and legitimate activities of non-governmental organizations and go against the right of association of their members, ”HRW denounces in a statement.
This legislation allows the Ministry of the Interior to intervene temporarily and replace directors of associations and foundations that are being investigated for crimes related to terrorism, as well as ordering them to stop their activities until the judicial process is concluded.
“This means that associations and foundations dedicated to human rights, women, refugees, children or the LGTBI + collective, associations and foundations of migrants, lawyers, sports and of diverse religious beliefs face, in practice , at the risk of closing with a simple signature, while the trials drag on for years ”, criticizes a manifesto against the law already signed by some 700 organizations.
In addition, inspections of all civil society organizations -including foreign ones with a presence in Turkey- will be increased and donations will be severely regulated by the ministry, and the fines for initiating campaigning campaigns will increase from less than 100 to more than 20,000 euros. donation that it considers irregular, which, in practice, will make it difficult to finance it.
The deputy Özkan defends the text and ensures that the intervention of associations will have to be justified in “concrete evidence” and, in order to become permanent, it must be validated by a court (although the Ministry of the Interior will have the power to temporarily take control ).
“The same type of regulations exist in the UK, France or Spain. But they are only controversial when we approve them ”, he complains.
The problem is perhaps not so much the text as its effective application: the Turkish courts and Prosecutor’s Office – strongly influenced by the Executive branch – use charges related to terrorism lightly, criticizing international institutions such as the Council of Europe.
The evidence: a former Kurdish MP and a prominent journalist were sentenced to more than 20 years in prison each on terrorism charges in two separate trials.
Another court decreed the permanence in prison of businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala despite the fact that the European Court of Human Rights demands his release from prison, and, following the request made last Tuesday by the same court in Strasbourg thatKurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas be “immediately released”, President Erdogan rejected it accusing European judges of defending “terrorists”.
All of this happened the same week as the voting on the controversial law; and while Erdogan promised a 2021 of democratic reforms.