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Published On: Sat, Apr 15th, 2017

Yes Vote in Turkey’s Referendum to Give President Unchecked Powers, Increase Rights Violations: UN Experts

nsnbc: Four UN special rapporteurs were citing a cohort of serious of concerns of mass rights violations under Turkey’s post-coup state of emergency and warned that a ‘Yes’ vote in Sunday’s referendum on constitutional change would give the president unchecked power to impose disturbing measures on the country. 

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In a statement released last Tuesday the rapporteurs stressed that “Given the arbitrary and sweeping nature of the emergency decrees issued since July 2016, there is serious concern that such powers might be used in ways that exacerbate the existing major violations of economic, social and cultural right.”

The referendum under current conditions is especially disturbing because after the attempted coup of July 15, 2016, the Turkish government imposed a state of emergency, dismissed tens of thousands civil servants, carried out mass arrests, and shut down some 200 media outlets. Moreover, these mass arrests also resulted in the detention of opposition lawmakers who were stripped off their immunity and arrested under alleged and trumped up terrorism charges and charges as disturbing as “insulting the president”.

Ankara has justified its actions saying it is targeting alleged coup-plotters and terrorists. However, Ankara accuses the self-exiled cleric Fetullah Gülen and his network as coup plotters while the lawmakers who were detained primarily belong to the HDP, a party that stands particularly strong in predominantly Kurdish regions of the country.

The UN special rapporteurs stated that the proposed constitutional amendments that will be put to a referendum vote on Sunday will “empower the President alone to declare future states of emergency and to determine the measures to be taken.”

erdogan_aarhus_denmark_nov-1-2016The constitutional amendment and introduction of the presidential system would also result in fundamental changes to Turkey’s judiciary and render parliament as powerless as a debating club say critics.

If adopted, the constitutional amendment introduces a strong partisan, executive presidential system that will take over the authorities and functions of the prime minister and cabinet.

The presidency will also will have the authority to issue decrees in effect of law, to appoint vice presidents and cabinets who can be outside of the parliament and not elected, and to hold the title “head of the state.”

Kenan Evren, Turkey’s former coup leader and seventh president, introduced this title of “Head of State” in Turkey for the first time with the provisional article of the 1982 Constitution. If the referendum results in a yes vote, the AKP, with the help of the MHP, will have reintroduced this highly controversial title too.

The president will also be given the authority to annul parliament and declare an election, while they will also have the authority to declare a state of emergency, during which they will have the authority to issue decrees without any restriction of jurisdiction.

The “reform” will render Turkey’s parliament as a chamber that will be comparable with the “rubber-stamp” parliament of the Islamic Republic of Iran and many are not surprised that it was the Islamist AKP that insisted on the “constitutional reform”.

The duties and authorities of the parliament are amended in the amendments, with its authority to supervise ministerial cabinet and ministers, as well as its authority to assign cabinet to issue decrees in effect of law, being abolished. Lawmakers will only be able to supervise ministers and the government with written statements, since the motion of interpellation will also be abolished.

The configuration of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) will also be changed.  The number of members will be reduced from 22 to 13. Out of 13 members, four will be appointed by the president, while the justice minister, who will be appointed by the president, will be the chair of the board and the undersecretary will be a permanent member. The seven remaining members will be elected by the parliamentary majority, which will likely to be the political party of the president.

The four UN special rapporteurs who issued the statement are Philip Alston, special rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, David Kaye, special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression, Maina Kiai, special rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, and Koumbou Boly Barry, special rapporteur on the right to education.

CH/L – nsnbc 15.04.2017

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