UN experts to Turkey: No carte blanche to ignore all human rights obligations
Emine Kart - ANKARA/GENEVAA group of U.N. human rights experts have urged Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to uphold its obligations under international human rights law, even under the current state of emergency following last month’s thwarted attempted coup.
The experts’ call released in Geneva on Aug. 19 comes as Turkey’s invocation of Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) enters into effect, following the government’s proclamation of a state of emergency. The derogation provision in Article 4 allows states to temporarily relax some of their obligations under the covenant under certain narrow conditions. Turkey signed the ICCPR in 2000 and ratified it in 2003.
“The derogation provision under Article 4 does not give carte blanche to ignore all obligations under the ICCPR,” the experts said. “Even where derogation is permitted, the government has a legal obligation to limit such measures to those that are strictly required by the needs of the situation.”
There was no voting number or record, because it is not a resolution or decision of a political body that states get the opportunity to vote on, but is just a statement from the U.N. independent experts.
“Nevertheless, the states create the positions and mandates of these independent experts, so their views are quite authoritative. I imagine the statement will get a formal response from the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, possibly publicly,” a legal officer from London-based free speech and human rights organization Article 19 told the Hürriyet Daily News on Aug. 19.
“In June, Turkey announced that David Kaye [the U.N. Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression] will visit Turkey officially in November,” stated the legal officer, who wished to remain anonymous.
“It would be interesting to see if this is still the plan, and what the current circumstances mean for his visit. I’m sure the High Commissioner, and probably other states, will raise concerns on the situation in Turkey when the HRC next convenes in September,” they added.
Elsewhere, a policy analyst at the Geneva-based Universal Rights Group think tank told the Hürriyet Daily News that she had “actually been wondering how long it would take them to put out a statement on this.”
“It definitely seems like a high number of signatures from a wide range of rapporteurs - I guess because it covers such a broad range of issues. I guess they generally tend to address quite specific issues,” said Hilary Power, policy analyst at the Universal Rights Group.
In their statement, the U.N.’s experts said “the invocation of Article 4 is lawful only if there is a threat to the life of the nation, a condition that arguably is not met in this case.”
“Even in situations that meet this high threshold, Article 4 establishes limits how much a state may deviate from its obligations under the covenant,” they added.