Terror financing bill not exactly in line with FATF recommendations

Terror financing bill not exactly in line with FATF recommendations

The Turkish Parliament has just passed a law for the prevention of terrorism financing. It is not exactly the law that the infamous Financial Action Task Force (FATF), has requested of Turkey.

Not enough, why? There won’t be an automatic freeze in the Turkish case - as asked for by the U.S. and the FATF - as there is a cumbersome domestic decision-making process to freeze assets. Turkey wants to evaluate the FATF claims thoroughly, by scrutinizing the hard evidence. In other words, if an organization is claimed to have ties with terrorism, Turkey wants to see the hard evidence. Turks seem to be “cautious on harming civil liberties by extensive judiciary activism”! Good news? Yes, especially coming after the rather heavy handed treatment of the accused generals in the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer cases, as well as the Kurdish politicians in the KCK trials. The new bill also focuses on the right of the accused to review the evidence against them, which is music to many ears in Turkey and good news for all the recent defendants. It may be the first sign of the fourth judicial reform package that is forthcoming. You just need to wait. Is it enough to convince the FATF not to blacklist Turkey, together with North Korea and Iran? Well, this is hard to tell.

The FATF, which was established to set standards and promote effective implementation of measures for combating money laundering, terrorist financing, and other related threats to the integrity of the international financial system. It used to be more about money laundering, but the focus shifted after 9/11 toward anti-terror financing. The FATF has a “black list” of noncompliant states and Turkey is at risk of being placed on it.

Why? Like it or not, Turkey has now become a more argumentative country. If you have that old notion in your mind where the West is more assertive and the East is more passive, talk to a few Western dignitaries who have visited Ankara of late. Nathan Sachs recently wrote a piece for Foreign Policy, giving a few tips to Obama on his upcoming March trip to Israel. He titled it “Israelis love to argue,” saying that Israelis expect arguments with foreigners and respect those who argue well. I could say the same for Turks. Maybe it is something related to industrialization. As the two industrialized countries in our neighborhood, both Israel and Turkey are endlessly argumentative and assertive nations.

The FATF has been asking Turkey to immediately freeze the assets of individuals and entities suspected of being linked to terrorist activities. Intelligence-driven evidence is enough in these cases, but now we are arguing for a stronger evidence based mechanism to safeguard “civil liberties”! The Turkish argument in this case seems to be supported by the European Court of Justice ruling in the Kadi al-Barakaat case. Here, the Court found that reviewing evidence was a major pillar in the principle of effective judicial protection of citizens. Good morning after supper.

The new anti-terror financing bill is opening the country for international cooperation on the fight against international terror. Up until now, Turkey has had some of the most introspective anti-terror laws in Europe. It has insistently asked other countries to take measures against its terrorists, but has not cooperated with third country demands for doing the same against their terrorists. We have yet to see how FATF will react, but the bill is a step in the right direction. However, let me remind you please not to underestimate how much Turks love to argue these days.