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Turkey To Suspend European Rights Convention, Says Deputy PM

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses the nation in a live television broadcast from the presidential palace in Ankara, Turkey on July 21.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses the nation in a live television broadcast from the presidential palace in Ankara, Turkey on July 21.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus has said Turkey will suspend its duty to comply with the European Convention on Human Rights during the current three-month state of emergency following an abortive coup last week.

Kurtulmus said the step was being taken "just like France has done under Article 15 of the convention," which allows signatory states to suspend certain rights in a period of war or major public emergency.

France has declared consecutive states of emergency following deadly attacks that killed 130 people in Paris in November and 84 people in the Mediterranean resort of Nice earlier this month.

But Turkey's announcement is almost certain to alarm critics who fear that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's administration plans to use the failed coup to punish traditional political opponents and further consolidate Erdogan's already considerable grip on the levers of state power.

Turkish authorities said the state of emergency was needed to take swift and effective action against those responsible for the military coup, which left more than 260 people dead and 1,500 injured.

Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus (file photo)
Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus (file photo)

"Turkey will suspend the European Convention on Human Rights insofar as it does not conflict with its international obligations," Kurtulmus was quoted as saying by the state-run Anatolia news agency.

Article 15 and other international human rights conventions allow governments to restrict certain rights, including freedom of movement, expression, and association during states of emergency.

Article 15 says such moves must be strictly proportionate and not discriminate against people based on ethnicity, religion, or social group.

Bypassing Parliament

The Turkish state of emergency will allow Erdogan and the cabinet to bypass parliament in passing new laws and to limit or suspend rights and freedoms as they deem necessary.

However, Kurtulmus said it "does not contradict the European Convention on Human Rights." He also said the state of emergency may only be enforced for up to 45 days despite being declared for three months.

Kurtulmus insisted that no steps would be taken to restrict basic rights and freedoms, telling journalists that "the decision on the state of emergency is aimed at cleansing the state of the gang" of conspirators.

The government of NATO member Turkey has said a "cancer virus" within some state institutions led to the July 15 coup attempt, and it launched mass purges of state institutions that threaten the livelihood of tens of thousands of people at universities, in the civil service, and in houses of worship.

Meanwhile, a Greek court on July 21 sentenced eight Turkish military officers who reportedly fled last week's failed coup to suspended two-month prison terms for illegally entering the country.

The officers, wanted by Ankara to face a military trial at home, have requested asylum in Greece and will remain in police custody until their cases on that issue are heard early in August.

Turkish authorities insist they will receive fair treatment at home, despite indications of rough treatment in the postcoup crackdown by Erdogan's government.

So far, nearly one-third of Turkey's roughly 360 serving generals have been detained. Some of those shown in state media have appeared bruised and injured.

Hours after the state of emergency went into effect, Turkish media reported that 32 more judges and two military officers were detained by authorities on July 21 as part of the crackdown.

Thousands Targeted

Erdogan's government has already fired, suspended, or detained nearly 60,000 police, judges, civil servants, and teachers in an unprecedented reprisal following the failed coup that has stunned world leaders.

But Erdogan gave no indication that the clampdown would end anytime soon.

"Of course that does not mean we have come to the end of it," Erdogan told Al-Jazeera television on July 21.

Turkey's education system has also been hit hard during the ongoing crackdown. The Education Ministry on July 20 added more than 6,500 new names to the list of 15,200 school employees suspended, state media reported.

The government also started proceedings to close down more than 600 educational institutions, most of them private schools. In addition, 21,000 teachers at private institutions have had their licenses revoked and more than 1,500 university deans have been forced to resign.

Many of the thousands targeted by the government are purported to be followers of Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric living in self-imposed exile in the United States whom Erdogan blames for the coup attempt.

The 75-year-old Gullen, an erstwhile Erdogan ally, has condemned the coup attempt and denied any involvement.

The last state of emergency in Turkey was lifted in 2002 in two southeastern provinces.

In early Western reaction to the latest Turkish state of emergency, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on July 21 urged Ankara to maintain both the rule of law and a sense of proportionality in its response to the coup attempt.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders has also voiced "serious concerns" about the turn of events in Turkey.

Russia, which recently patched up briefly strained relations with Ankara, refrained from commenting on the Turkish move. Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters on July 21 that the matter was "an internal affair of Turkey."

With reporting by Reuters, dpa, and AFP

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