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Home arrow newsitems arrow CoE Local Democracy Watchdog slams Turkey's Mass Oppression of Elected Mayors : Back to 1990ies ?!

CoE Local Democracy Watchdog slams Turkey's Mass Oppression of Elected Mayors : Back to 1990ies ?!

Written by ACM
Wednesday, 29 March 2017
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*Strasbourg/CoE/Angelo Marcopolo/-  "I have NEVER seen a SO BAD  Situation as Now" in "Turkey",  during 18 Years that I've been CoE's Rapporteur on Local Democracy for that Country, "since 1999" : - "We are BACK TO the Situation of 1990ies !", Denounced Today, widely applauded, Anders Knape, Experienced Long-Time MEP from Sweden, President of the PanEuropean Organisation's Chamber of Local Authorities, in Conclusion of a Long Debate and Votes, which practicaly found that "Democracy" was "Suspended" at Local level particularly "in South-East" Turkey, with a predominantly Kurdish Culture Population, (See Infra).

 

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I.e., Significantly, he referred Back to an Era of the Past, Before Turkey's controversial and unpopular EU bid, during which, Ankara's regime was not only clearly considered by All the EU not only as Incompatible with any "Accession" Candidacy, but Even Inadequate for normal EU Funding, because of particularly Serious Problems of Mass Human Rights' Violations, grave Anti-Democratic Discrepancies, Contempt and Disregard of the Rule of Law, etc, as things stood for a Long Period of Time, Before the December 1999 Helsinki EU Summit.


He was Speaking also on Behalf of the Socialist Co-Rapporteur of the CoE, Leendert Verbeek, Head of the Dutch Delegation, and President of the powerful "Monitoring" Committee in CoE's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities (CLRAE).

 

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Knape and Verbeek had made Together a Fact-Finding Mission in Turkey on October and December 2016, before Presenting for Vote the Results in a Report with a Resolution and concrete Recommendations for Action Today, after a Largely Attended, Long Debate at CLRAE's Spring 2017 Plenary Session in Strasbourg, this Thursday, Exceptionaly Full with a lot of People until this Late Afternoon/Evening Hour, (despite a Shuttle Bus vainly waiting to bring them to the Annual Reception given by the City's Mayor/Senator for the CoE, downtown)...

 

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    - It's "Long Before the Attempted Coup of July 2016", that "a Wave of Dismissals of Elected Representatives, in particular in South-Eastern Turkey (mainly inhabited by Kurds), had "Started" a "Trend" which had Already been a cause of Concern" for CoE's Rapporteurs. That's why, CLRAE's Bureau's "Decision to conduct a Fact-Finding Mission" on those Incidents had been "Taken on 8 February 2016", the adopted Report reminds.


    - "However", the subsequent "Declaration of the State of Emergency", on July 2016, made that "Still More Relevant", they observe, while, nevertheless, having clearly Distinguished between the Mass Oppression of Dissidents even at the Local/Regional level, which had already Started Long Before, and the State of Emergency Measures, which obviously Aggravated that situation. So that, f.ex., an eventual Future LIft of the State of Emergency, (f.ex. after the April 2017 Referendum to Change the Constitution, i.e. if Mr. Erdogan gets what he wanted), would Not be sufficient at all in order to settle All those Serious Problems.


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        + But, in Addition, "Today ... there have been Many Accounts of Individuals being Arrested and Detained withOut there being Sufficient Charges against them". And "Given their Suddenness alone, the Mass "Purges" of National and Local Administrative Bodies, and even Judicial Bodies (some 3.000 Judges and Prosecutors) could Not have been carried out in accordance with the Fundamental Principles", (such as, f.ex., the "Presumption of Innocence", the "Individual" character of any prosecution, etc.), CoE's Report Concludes.


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        => Therefore, CLRAE's Spring 2017 Plenary Session largely Debated and Adopted, with a very Big Majority of Votes, a Strong Resolution and Recommendation on several 2015-2017 Massive Attacks against Local Democracy by Ankara's Central Government, slaming the Dire "Situation of Local Elected Representatives in Turkey", during which a 3/4  Majority of Voters Rejected All Amendmends lodged by Turkish MEPs Vainly Attempting to "Delete" or Alter the most "Hot" Points of the Draft Texts, after a Long and Complex Procedure, calmly and clearly Chaired by CLRAE's New President Gudrun Mosler-Toenstroem from Austria, hershelf :

 

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For the RELEASE of Jailed Mayors :
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    >>> In the Most Important Point, an adopted CLRAE's Official Recommendation "Asks the Committee of Ministers" (CoE's Highest Political body, currently Chaired by Cyprus), "to Invite the Turkish Authorities to ... Proceed with ... the Immediate Release" of "Local Elected Representatives currently in Pre-Trial Detention", "where appropriate", and, at any case, "to Examine" the "Situation" of All of them, "in order to Ensure that it is in Conformity with the European Convention of Human Rights", "with a View to their Release".


    A Turkish Attempt to "Delete" that Appeal, was Strongly Rejected by a Majority of 117 Votes against Only 20.


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On TORTURE/INHUMAN-DEGRADING TREATMENTS + :
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   => Moreover, CLRAE's Plenary Strongly Supported, with a very strong Majority of 118 Votes against Only 21, an Official Demand for CoE's competent "European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman Treatment or punishment (CPT) to Examine Reports of Inhumane Treatment of Detained Local Elected Representatives in Turkey".


    CoE's body pointed, in this regard, "Notably" to the Victims' "Solitary Confinement", in Addition to their "Systematic Transfert to Prisons Far from their Homes", clearly Rejecting a Turkish Ammendment which Failed to "Erase" all those mentions on such a Core Human Rights Issue as Torture/Inhuman-Degrading Treatments.


    + In Addition, CLRAE also "proposes that the (CoE's) Human Rights Commissioner ... pays Particular Attention to the Situation of Elected Mayors, notably in South-East Turkey", (notoriously with a predominant Kurdish Population), "including those Former Mayors who are Now in Prison". And, in Parallel, CLRAE's Plenary "suggests that (CoE's Democracy through Law body of Top Legal Experts, known as) the Venice Commission" checks "the Constitutionality of the Measures ... which Concern the exercice of Local Democracy in Turkey", that Ankara's Central Government took with some infamous "Decree Laws", seriously Restricting not only Liberties but also Democracy. Turkish Attempts to "Delete" such Moves were Rejected with a Majority of 111 Votres against Only 24.          


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On Pseudo- "TERRORISM" Turkish Pretexts against Political Dissidents :
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    >>> Meanwhile, a particularly "Hot" InFight took place on Turkey's notoriously Excessive, and often False Claims of Pseudo-"Terrorism", with which Ankara's Authorities often Accuse Political Dissidents and/or Critics in order to Search a Hollow Pretext to Oppress even their most Elementary Human Rights :


    - Indeed, CLRAE's Plenary clearly "Observed that Most of the Arrests of Local Elected Representatives" in Turkey "have been made on the Basis of Accusations of Terrorism" by Ankara's Central Authorities using a "Definition... which has been Criticized by CoE's Bodies, the EU, and other International Organisations", and "is Not in Conformity with the Practice of Most CoE Member States".


    Turkish Attempts to "Delete" that Critical, Last Sentence, were Strongly Rejected by a Majority of 118 Votes against only 24.


    => Moreover, in order to Make things Clear, also for the foreseeable Future, CLRAE also "Asks" CoE's Foreign Ministers to make Ankara "Revise the Turkish Legislation" in order "to Align its Definition of Terrorism with European Standards", and, "notably the ECHR's case-law".


     This is a Serious Point that has been also Made by the EU Commission in Brussels, supported by an EU Parliament's Resolution in Strasbourg on 2016, even on the occasion of a Series of Conditions for Ankara's controversial and unpopular Demand to Give to 80 Millions of Turks a "Free Visa" Status in order to Enter and Stay in Europe for at least 6 Months each Year, but the Turkish Government has Refused to abide.

 

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    - Today, the Head of the Turkish Delegation to the CLRAE, Gaye Doganoglou, appeared instructed to go as Far as to repeatedly Claim even that Strasbourg's PanEuropean Organisation for Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law, the CoE, would "Not have Any Mandate to Define the term "Terrorism" !" (sic)...


    However, also that provocative Turkish Claim was Strongly Rejected by CLRAE's Plenary, which Droped a controversial Amendment asking to "Delete" the above-mentioned sentence in CoE's Draft, with a 4/5 Super-Majority of 118 Votes against Only 22.


     -------------------


    + CLRAE's Plenary also strongly Refused, with almost a 3/4 Majority, a Turkish Amendment which had Claimed to practicaly Assimilate the Kurdish "PKK" with "ISIS" Islamist Terrorists and atrocious BeHeaders, who Target innocent Civilian People, (and with whom, Ankara's Deep State has notoriously been Accused by many for various Scandalous and Dangerous Complicities, including on transferts of "Jihadists", Money Laundering, Trafficking of Stolen Oil/Gas, Weapons deliveries, etc).


    - The Criticism exerted on Turkey by the 47 Member States strong (including Russia, etc) CoE's Local/Regional Democracy Watchdog against Ankara's Oppressive Measures was so Deep, that a 2/3 Majority Refused even an Amendment suggested by CLRAE's co-Rapporteurs to speak, in this regard, about "Threats against the Life of the Nation", that CLRAE's Plenary obviously did Not found to be an Excuse, but rather a Pretext for so Serious Violations of Human Rights, (as several Key MEPs later Confirmed to "Eurofora").


    >>> In Fact, CLRAE's Adopted Resolution stressed, on the Contrary, that "the Detentions and Arrests of Local Elected Representatives, and the Extensive resort to Lengthy Remand Detention, ... are Counter-Productive, and are Weakening the capacity of Turkey to Deal with the Terrorist threats that it is facing". A Turkish MEPs' attempt to "Delete" that Paragraph, was Rejected by a Majority of 109 Votes against Only 32.


    Naturaly, COE "is Aware of the Threats that Turkey is Facing, including an Increase in Terror Attacks, the Attempted Coup of 15 July 2016, several Millioj Refugees ... and War at its Borders", while it also "categorically Condemns all Forms of Terrorism and Violent Extremism", admitting that "Nobody can Deny that Turkey Needs to Take ... Measures to Protect itself and its Institutions", But on the Condition that these will be "Adequate and Proportionate".


    >>> In particular, it's "the use of the Turkish Anti-Terror Law, ... principaly with regard to Declarations and Opinions Expressed", which "is having a Negative Impact on Political Pluralism, and" on "Local Democracy in Turkey", CLRAE observed.


    - Moreover, "the Healthy Functioning of Local Democracy is an Essential Tool to Combating these Threats", CLRAE's Recommendation pointed out. That's why, CLRAE "Believes that the Detentions and Arrests of Local Representatives, and the Extensive resort to Lenthy Remand Detention, ... are CounterProductive and are Weakening the capacity of Turkey to Deal with the Terrorist Threats that it is facing".


    => Therefore, in Addition, CLRAE "is Concerned that the Arrest and Removal from Office of Many Elected Representatives, Seriously Risk Damaging Pluralist Democracy at the Local level, and Gravely Weakening Political Parties and Civil Society".


    + And a "Decree ... introduced ...withing the Framework of the State of Emergency", "to enable the Central Authorities to Appoint UnElected Mayors, ... is Incompatible with Turkey's Commitments" vis a vis the CoE, "notably" as a "Party to the Charter (for Local Democracy), ... according to which, Local Government should be carried out under the authority of Councils or Assemblies Elected Freely, by Secret Ballot", CLRAE's Text notes.


    - Thus, "the Detentions of Elected Mayors, and their Replacement by "Mayors Appointed by the Central Authorities" in over 50 Cities, in South-East Turkey, has effectively Suspended ... Local Democracy in that Region, with Most Municipal Councils of those Cities Ceasing to Function, and with almost 6 Million Turkish Citizens Deprived of Political Representation at the Local level", CoE's competent body found.


    Because "the Transfert of Power ... of these Municipal Councils, to "Mayors Appointed by the Central Authorities", Amounts to a DisProportionate form of Administrative Supervision", which has practicaly "Abrogated" the relevant Articles of COE's "Charter" for Local Democracy.


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 + PUBLIC SERVICES + CLRAE Members
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    + CLRAE also Denounced the Fact that "the Replacementr of Elected Mayors, by "Mayors Appointed by the Central Authorities" (i.e. Ankara's Turkish Government) is being accompagnied by a Reduction in Local Public Services, and, in particular, the Closure of Women's Refuges and Other Services for Women, Children and Families at Risk", expressing its "Concern". A Turkish Amendment asking to "Delete" all that, was Strontgly Rejected by a Majority of 113 Votes against Only 24.   

 - Last, but not least, Concerning the sort of Individual Members of the CLRAE from Turkey, the Adopted Resolution Decided to "put the Review of the Situation of Nurhayat Altun, Member of the Turkish Delegation of the Congress, on the Agenda of its Bureau Meetings, until the End of Legal Proceedings", (concerning that Jailed Representative to the CoE), while CLRAE's Recommendation to CoE's Foreign Ministers asks Turkey "to Ensure that Congress' Members and Turkish Members of the Group of Independent Experts of the CLRAE, are Free to carry out their Work, and can Circulate Freely, for this purpose".

 

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    Once Completed, this CoE Local/Regional Democracy Watchdog's Recommendation to its Committee of Ministers on Turkey was Finaly Adopted with an even Bigger Majority : 125 Votes in favor, against Only 23.

(../..)

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    Scientific innovation joined to Faith for Human Rights, Eastern Partnership and fight against the Crisis, but above all, the need to overcome the "Crisis of Trust" from EU Citizens, are the main priorities for new EU Parliament's President, Polish Jerzy Buzek, that a 555-votes-strong majority of MEPs on July 14,  Strasbourg made a living symbol of the fact that, 20 years after the fall of Berlin Wall (1989 - 2009) there is no more an Eastern or Western Europe, but only one Europe, as the head of the largest group of MEPs, ChristianDemocrats/EPP, Joseph Daul, stressed after the event.

    Speaking later to a group of Strasbourg's Journalists, including "EuroFora", the new EU Parliament's President clarified his stance on concrete topical issues, as f.ex. that of Turkey's controversial EU bid, which was one of the main issues of the June 2009 Electoral campain, clearly won by his party of ChristianDemocrats/EPP :  - "At present, Turkey does not fullfil none of EU conditions", he stressed, (See infra).

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    Buzek is well known in Strasbourg and to "EuroFora" as EU Rapporteur for the Framework Program of Scientific Research and Development of Technologies. A Natural Science Professor from the Historic and Religious landmark Polish City of Częstochowa, active in the famous Solidarnosk grass-roots social movement, he served 4 years as Prime Minister (1997-2001), before being elected as MEP in 2004 and 2009, after he brillantly won the latest EU Election at the head of his party (EPP) almost doubling the number of its MEPs from 15 to 28 !

    - "Innovation" and "Energy safety", as well as fight against the "Cimat change", but also "Eastern Partnership", the "Mediterranean", "Strategic partnerships" with Russia, the USA, etc, and the search for "solutions to the Economic Crisis" that EU Citizens "expect" from us, will be his "priorities", announced from the outset the new EU Parliament's President, reminding also that the quest for "Human and Civic Rights" played an important role in his experience with the Solidarnosc grass-roots social movement in Poland's History

    But, the most important of all, is the urgent need to overcome the "Crisis of Trust" between EU Institutions and the People he stressed : - EU "Citizens often don't understand us", denounced Buzek, launcing a call to "do anything for EU Citizens to understand our work" in EU Parliament : "We (MEPs) need to make EU Citizens involved" in "what we are doing every week, in Strasbourg and Brussels", he proposed. Pointing f.ex. to the hot "Debates" with "strong arguments" exchanged between MEPs during the preparation of their Legislative Decisions, in Committees, delivering often hard struggles between initially opposed points of view, long before forging a majority at the final vote, sometimes more than a year..

    Therefore, EU Parliament will be "open to your criticism, for discussion and exchange of views", he promissed to Journalists in Strasbourg.

    In this way, Buzek, in fact, highlighted "EuroFora"s main idea, that we strongly advocate since 1997-2007, to systematicaly and actively involve EU Citizens in public debates during the decision-making process of important EU measures, which affect their lives and the society in which they live, (and not only just a few weeks each 4 or 5 Years at the eve of EU Elections)...
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    This is related also to the symbolic gift that Buzek chose to give to the out-going former EU Parliament's President, Hans Gert Poettering, (2007-2009), his collegue in the ChristianDemocrats/EPP, who brillantly won 2009 EU Elections in Germany : A genuine statute of sainte Barbara crafted in Silesia's black Coal by Polish Miners : Those simple but strong people who fought for social change against some technocrats and bureaucrats disguissed into so-called "real-socialists" of old times. (PHOTO).

    It's enough to have seen a popular open air mass, at Warsaw's center, with many thousands of people, old and young, simple workers and intellectuals mixed together, with references to Poland's history and struggles for survival and liberty, through various ages, (as fex. that organized at the eve of CoE's 2005 panEuropean Heads of State and Government for the beatification of late Pope John-Paul II), in order to understand what such symbols mean..

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    But, overcoming the "Crisis of Trust" with EU Citizens obviously implies also to rectify any errors done in the past, fex. on Turkey's controversial EU bid, with controversial decisions taken in 1999 and 2004 to give a "candidate" status and to start EU negotiations, provoking an unprecedented series of 3 "No" to EuroReferenda and 3 Majoriy Abstentions in EU Parliament Elections : 1999, 2005 and 2009, (even if the latest one succeeded to decelerate and almost stop the drop of participation rates, opening hopes for vote's revival after an electoral campaign clearly critical to Turkey's claims in several mainstream EU countries)
    
    Therefore, Buzek was faced with manifold critical Questions on EU Enlargement, most of them citting concrete examples of certain political problems  :  But his replies were almost always given as a matter of general principle :

    F.ex. Questioned on the suspension of EU - Croatia talks because of a Border conflict with EU Member Slovenia, Buzek prefered to speak about principles :

- "We know that during Enlargement, the process can be blocked by failure to resolve this kind of issues",  This concerns also other enlargments' cases", and "these rules are always in force" he warned.


But Buzek avoided to directly reply to a queston on "French and German EPP' calls to define the Borders of Europe", as a German journalist asked him by making a reference to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and German Chancellor Angie Merkel's, critical statements on Turkey at the June 2009 Electoral campain.    

- "Concerning Enlargement, there's always the same rules : There have to be Criteria, which have to be respected if a Country wants to join the EU", he started to simply reply.

- "For my country (Poland) it took us 15 Years to fullfil these Criteria", Buzek reminded, indicating, if proportions are kept, that Turkey, fex. would have to spend some 25 years before eventually joining the EU..

- "Countries wishing to join the EU need to Change their Systems", as we (Poland and other former Eastern European Countries) did, he stressed.

- "'For me, meeting the condition of Human Rights is one of the Key conditions for membership in the EU", preferring again to speak from the point of view of General Principles, on the occasion of an untimely question on Serbia (which is not even a candidate yet)...

- "Turkey" has, "first of all", to fullfil (EU) Copenhagen criteria". Bevause, currently, none of them is fullfiled by Turkey", New EU Parliament's President, denounced, speaking later to a group of Journalists, including "EuroFora".

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In particular, on Human Rights :  - "We (EU) can never forget Human Rights", because "this is at the very Foundations of the EU", Buzek added.

On the contrary, when he referred to EU Enlargment for the  "Western Balkans Countries ", Buzek appeared upbeat, finding "promising situations", despite "difficulties" in the Past, since "Countries are queuing to become EU members", and this "generated changes", as he said.

As for Russia, Buzek observed that it was a "very important" country, located "in the same Continent", Europe,  "close to our borders", and "we need eachother". "But Russia' has 'differend poblems : "They claim that their system is Democratic, but rules are differend", and we must be "aware of such differencies", fex. "on Human Rights", that we can't ignore, as he said;

Concerning China, where a journalist observed that the recipient of EU Parliament's latest "Sakharov prize" for freedom of thought is "still in prison", Buzek found that since the 1999 events in Tien Amin square, "we see differencies on Human Rights still today", and expressed his "support" for those who try to ameliorate the situation.

On the contrary, speaking recently to "EuroFora" he strongly supported the idea for an EU - Ukraine cooperation, fex. between Airbus and Antonov, in order to build a  less costly but more performant than the old and problematic A400M, new Military Transport Airplane : - "They (Ukranian Antonov Company) can certainly do it. I'm sure they can. It's a good Idea, and I'd be glad if it was done", he told us. (See : http://www.eurofora.net/newsflashes/news/airbusantonov.html )


(../..)

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