Turkey declares three-month state of emergency

Turkey declares three-month state of emergency

Turkey declares three-month state of emergency

AFP photo

The Turkish government declared a three-month-long state of emergency throughout the country late on July 20, in a bid to tighten its grip on security, as it launched extensive operations against suspected members of the outlawed Gülenist organization allegedly behind the recent failed military coup attempt.

“As a result of a comprehensive evaluation with members of the National Security Council [MGK], we have decided to recommend the declaration of a state of emergency, in line with Article 120 of our constitution, in order to eliminate the terror organization which attempted to make a coup, swiftly and completely,” President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced late July 20, following successive meetings of the MGK and the cabinet. 

Erdoğan also urged citizens to be wary of “speculations” and said the declaration of a state of emergency was not synonymous with martial law and would not lead to restrictions on rights and liberties. 

“Restrictions on rights and liberties during the state of emergency are not in question. There is no such thing. We guarantee it,” the president said, adding the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) would continue to serve in line with the orders of governors. 

Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım reiterated the president’s remarks, underlining the declaration was a necessity to fight the illegal organization allegedly formed under the leadership of U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen which had infiltrated the state organization with the aim of toppling the government.

“First of all, our respected citizens who displayed a royal attitude in the face of coup-plotters should know that the decision of a three-month state of emergency is not a decision that will have a negative impact on daily life,” Yıldırım said, adding the utmost attention would be paid to protect the rule of law, democracy and economic stability. 

Parliament discusses declaration

Lawmakers gathered in parliament on July 21 in order to discuss the declaration, in line with Article 121 of the country’s constitution, which states that the decision to declare a state of emergency must immediately be submitted to the national assembly for approval. While the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) yielded full support for the decision, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were critical. 

During his address to parliament, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said the government would not opt for a state of emergency if it had the ability to take the necessary steps as swiftly as the declaration allows.

“This decision was taken in order to remove the threat of the Fethullahist terror organization, which spread across the state like a cancer cell, and its offshoots in the TSK, judiciary, police, our universities and the rest of our public institutions,” Bozdağ stated. 

The CHP decided not to take a group decision following its parliamentary group meeting held behind closed doors.

“Friends, how can we take a group decision on democracy? We support democracy,” party chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu told reporters who inquired about the CHP’s take on the declaration. 

Speaking on behalf of the CHP parliamentary group, party deputy chair Bülent Tezcan acknowledged there was legal ground for the decision but said it was “not politically viable in the current environment.”

“Our citizens may feel the desire for revenge, it is understandable considering the anger but the institution of politics has to be serious about this and normalize society instead of inciting its anger. This is our duty,” Tezcan said. “The road to normalization is through normal, ordinary procedures.”

The HDP slammed the declaration as a means to eliminate all opposition and a process whereby fundamental rights and freedoms would be abolished for a de facto presidential system. 

“The antidote for coups and the harm inflicted by them were not sought in democracy but the society was forced to make a choice between a coup and an undemocratic administration. We certainly reject these options,” an announcement by the party’s Central Executive Board said. 

The MHP however, welcomed the declaration as a suitable decision, saying it was parliament’s obligation to take all necessary decisions swiftly. 

“The Nationalist Movement Party supports the decision to declare a state of emergency and considers it beneficial in Turkey’s current fragile and sensitive environment,” a written statement by party chair Devlet Bahçeli said, while also reminding that the MHP has previously made calls for such a declaration in order to prevent “calamitous incidents.”

State of emergency

The primary implication of a state of emergency, in line with Article 120 of the constitution, is the limitation it will impose on basic rights and freedoms without requiring legal regulations by decree law. 

According to the law, a state of emergency can be declared by the cabinet, led by the president, after taking the MGK’s opinion into consideration. It can be applicable in specific parts of the country or throughout the country for up to six months. 

The law enables state of emergency exercises in situations of natural disasters, epidemics or intense economic depression, as well as at times when the country faces threats to its constitutionally-protected free and democratic order and indicators of violent acts targeting basic rights and freedoms. It can also be put into force when public order is seriously disrupted by violent incidents. 

According to the law, ministries will be tasked with coordinating the state of emergency, while there will be a coordination commission and there also may be state of emergency councils. Governors will also play a more effective role during this period in terms of both security and local governments. 

During a state of emergency, detention periods can be extended beyond 48 hours, which is the maximum amount of detention time before suspects can be tried by a court under normal constitutional procedures.  
The state of emergency will also allow authorities to impose limited or full curfews, as well as prevent people from gathering or traveling at certain times or in certain places. Body, vehicle and property searches and the seizure of potential evidence will be authorized as well. People will also be asked to carry their IDs with them everywhere. 

The authorities will also be able to ban the pressing, publishing, distributing and replicating of certain newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, books and leaflets, as well as seize such publications that were banned previously. 

Controlling, recording, and banning certain speeches, scripts, pictures, films, records, theaters and films, as well as audio and image records and all audio-related broadcasts, will also be possible. 

The practice will limit certain individuals’ or groups’ entrance to certain places and will permit removing them from certain places. Public gatherings and meetings, marches and parades can be banned or postponed by the authorities. The operations of associations can also be stopped without exceeding three months.  

The parliament will be tasked with discussing and finalizing the state of emergency decree laws within 30 days and it has the authority to reject or approve it with or without making amendments. If parliament rejects a state of emergency decree law, it will be dismantled. All approvals, amended approvals and rejections will be made not by parliamentary decisions but through law. 

The practice also allows law enforcement officers to shoot individuals who violate surrender orders or attempt to exchange fire, or in self-defense situations. Probes regarding such cases will also be carried out without suspects being arrested. 

The last state of emergency was declared in Turkey in July 1987 in a number of the country’s southeastern provinces and lasted until November 2002.