Council of Europe’s Jagland says ‘justice must start working’ in Turkey
STRASBOURGCouncil of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland has stressed the importance of “justice starting to work” in Turkey, adding that he is concerned by the current situation regarding fundamental rights in the country.
Speaking to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) members on June 26, Jagland said he called Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ “immediately” after Amnesty International’s Turkey Chair Taner Kılıç was arrested for “being a member of a terrorist group.”
He said he made the call “to remind him that the Council of Europe always keeps a particularly close eye on the rights and treatment of human rights defenders.”
Jagland also commented on a commission formed to investigate the state of emergency procedures, saying “time had been saved for all those imprisoned or dismissed on suspicion of involvement in the attempted coup.”
Ankara declared a state of emergency after the failed July 15, 2016 coup attempt, widely believed to have been masterminded by the followers of the U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, and has been issuing emergency decree laws ever since.
Thousands have been suspended or dismissed from their posts with the aforementioned decrees.
The government had ruled the establishment of a State of Emergency Procedures Investigation Commission with a decree issued on Jan. 23, in order to receive applications regarding state of emergency rulings. The applications are expected to especially focus on removals or dismissals from public service and educational institutions, as well as the closure of organizations.
The formation of the commission was seen as a bid to ease criticism from European institutions, as decrees issued under state of emergency rules are closed to appeal and thus closed to any domestic remedies.
During his speech, Jagland said “the many instruments that the Council has available needed to be applied.”
He also said he hoped the report on the Committee for the Prevention of Torture’s visit from 2016 would be made public soon, insisting that the organization must continue to work with the Turkish authorities on judicial reforms, “where much had been achieved.”
When asked whether reintroduction of the death penalty in Turkey would be a red line for the Council of Europe, Jagland asserted that, along with derogations from other rights such as the right to life and the prohibition of torture, the death penalty could have no place in Europe.
Jagland also called for the release of two jailed Turkish educators who have been on a hunger strike for over 110 days. He urged Turkish authorities to release Nuriye Gülmen and Semih Özakça, reported to be in a critical condition, due to the length of the period they have been on a hunger strike.
Özakça, a former primary school teacher at the Mardin Mazıdağı Cumhuriyet Elementary School, and Gülmen, an academic at Selçuk University, were dismissed from their posts in state of emergency decrees.
They were arrested on terror charges late on May 23, the 75th day of their hunger strike.
Jagland said he would raise the case with Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım.
“I will call Prime Minister Yıldırım and ask for their release,” he said.