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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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    The incoming Swedish EU Presidency (July-December 2009) may still remain in favour of Turkey's controversial EU bid, despite June 2009 EU Elections' results, but it has "very strong demands on Turkey"'s obligation to respect EU Rules, said the Head of Swedish Foreign Ministry's Press Service, Cecilia Julin, to "EuroFora", reacting to critical Press reports.

    - "I know (that) the link is often made also to Sweden's position on Turkey"'s controversial EU bid. Indeed, "we (Swedish EU Presidency) are very much engaged in the future membership of Turkey, but not without fullfiling all the Criteria".

    - "It's very clear that we (Swedish EU Presidecny) have very Strong Demands on Turkey, in a sort of concept for Future membership of the Union, ...which will be a Long Process...", she stressed.

    This means, in particular, "the Copenhagen Criteria (on Human Rights, Democracy and Rule of Law), and also the adaptation to the Acquis of the European Union".

     - "If you listen to what Mr. Bildt (the Swedish Foreign Minister) says on Turkey at different occasions, it's very clear : We want Turkey to become part of the Union, in the Future. But we want it to fullfil all the Criteria : The Acquis of the European Union. That's very clear", she concluded.

    The Senior Official of the Swedish Foreign Ministry was reacting to critical Press Reports, from Brussels' Journalists invited by EU Commission's secretariat to Stockholm, who claimed that Bildt was abusing of a ..."Whip" (sic !) against Cyprus, by "threatening" the presence of UNO's Peace-keeping force at the "Green line" which separates the island's Government-controlled areas from the territories occupied by Ankara's army, if Nicosia didn't accept any political solution, regardless of Turkey's demands, before the end of 2009.

        Governing AKEL Party's new Secretary General, Andros Kyprianou, reacted by declaring that no-one can threat the People of Cyprus : -"We shall decide for our Future, and nobody else",  he reportedly said, asking to "keep calm". "In order to find a Solution soon, certain basic Principles must be respected", he stressed, calling those who feel an urgency to use their influence on Turkey. Other Political Parties were more critical.

    This was a reference to recently reported statements by Turkish Minister Bagis, Prime Minister Tayip Erdogan and Turkey's National Security Council (a Military-Political body), accused to push towards a partitionist "2 States" solution, contrary to UNO SC Resolutions for Cyprus' reunification.

    December 2009 is a crucial moment for EU's appraisal of Turkey's controversial EU bid, because EU Council has decided to review then Ankara's compliance with the European position on the recognition of Cyprus' Government, which was clearly set out by an EU reply of 21 September 2005 to Turkish Prime Minister Tayip Erdogan's claims, refusing to recognize even the existence of EU Member Cyprus, in controversial statements he made to London (former EU chair) on July 29, 2005.

    EU Parliament's latest Resolution on Turkey, adopted on March 2009 in Strasbourg, warned Ankara that "the non-fulfillment of Turkey's commitments... by December 2009, may further seriously affect the process of Negotiations" with the EU.

    In practice, the issue boils down to Ankara's "embargo" against Ships and Airplanes using Cyprus' seaports or airports at the strategic EU island, which traditionaly hosts one of the World's biggest Shipping flags. EU has already "freezed" 6 relevant Chapters in EU - Turkey Negotiations since December 2006, after Ankara refused to fullfil a commitment it had undertaken when EU had decided to open controversial "accession" negotiations with Turkey, back on December 2005.

    - "As far as EU - Turkey relations are concerned, it's clear that Turkey needs to fullfil its obligation of full, non-discriminatory implementation of the additional Protocol (to "EC-Turkey Association Agreement"),  This is an important issue....and should be addresseed as soon as possible as it clearly affects the pace of the accession negotiations.Issues covered by the Declaration of September 2005 will continue to be followed up, and progress is urgently awaited", warned earlier in Strasbourg the out-going Czech EU Presidency (former vice-Prime Minister Alexander Vodra).

    But the Head of the Swedish Foreign Ministry's Press Service, Cecilia Julin, dismissed "interpretations" by "some" that Foreign Minister Carl Bildt was reportedly "threatening" Cyprus with consequences on the UNFICYP, if it doesn't accept any solution until December 2009, while Turkey is reportedly delaying in an attempt to impose a partitionist "2 States" solution.

    On the contrary, Julin, stressed that "Sweden has strong demands on Turkey'"s respect of "Copenhagen Criteria and EU Acquis".

    Meanwhile, Sweden  is "concerned" about the risk of "Stalemate" in Cyprus' Talks, but is well aware that "the main responsibilities lie with the two leaders and the UNO", Europe playing only a role of "facilitator".

    After carefully verifying, the Head of Swedish Foreign Ministry's Press Service, stressed to "EuroFora" that Bildt's reference to UNFICYP "was not linked to a Threat", and dismissed those who "interpreted" it so.

    On the contrary, the Swedish EU Presidency acknowledged the fact that Peace Talks are mainly for the UN and the leaders of the Cypriot communities, EU's role being limited into that of a "facilitator".

    As for Turkey's reported attempts to impose a "2 States' solution", the Head of the Swedish Foreign Ministry's Press Service sharply replied by stressing that Turkey must respect the "EU Acquis" rules.

    In particular :

    - "Basically he (Bildt) underlined that it's the leaders of the two communities in Cyprus and the UN that have the main responsibilities for solving the problem", started to say the Swedish Senior Official to "EuroFora", referring to the above-mentioned "briefing".

    - "But the EU had a role in sort of pointing out the benefits and facilitating a little bit the outcome for the settlement of the whole Cyprus' issue", she added.

    - "And he did state the Fact, that the rest of the World (i.e. USA, etc) will, of course, look at the differend issues which are at the table, and the future of the UN Peace keeping force is part of what is at the table", she admitted.

    - "I understand that some have interpreted that as a Threat, by the Swedish Minister" "But", in reality, "it's a statement of a Fact, that, when we'll look at the differend issues, one of the issues on which we shall have to take a stand on, is the future of the UN Peace keeping force in Cyprus".

    Indeed, one of the questions usually raised for a Solution of Cyprus' issue is what International and/or European or other Guarantees, by a Peace-keeping force, might be needed afterwards, eventually for a transitory period.

    Questioned anew by "EuroFora" whether (according to critical Press Reports) this could be taken as a veiled warning that, if Cyprus didn't accept any Turkish demand for any solution whatever, it might be left alone to face Ankara's Military Invasion/Occupation, she denied :

    - "He (Bildt) didn't say it in that way"... "It was not linked to a threat, or anything like that", the Head of the Swedish Foreign Ministry's Press Service stressed.

    On the contrary, "he (Bildt) underlined that the main responsibility lies with the parties concerned on the island". "The EU can try to facilitate and show the benefits of reaching a settlement. But also, when the EU and the rest of the World (i.e. USA) will have to look at it, they will look at all the Facts on the table, and the presence of the UN Peace-keeping force is one".

    And "he (Bildt) didn't speak about that at all", she replied to "EuroFora" question on Turkey's reported attemps to impose, in one way of another, a partitionist "2 States solution".

    Asked whether Bildt's aim was to incite both parties to move forward efficiently, she agreed :

    - In fact, "the EU is really very concerned with the Stalemate in the situation. Yes !", the Head of Sweden's Foreign Ministry's Press Service anounced. That's why Bildt "was hoping for the two parties (i.e. for Turkey's also) to engage and break, a little-bit, the present stalemate, come to a solution of the issue" of Cyprus.

    But, replying  to a "EuroFora"s question on the risk, denounced by several politicians in case of strict Time Deadlines, for Turkey to provoke a stalemate and wait for the time to come to impose a partitionist "2 States' solution", she reacted by pointing at Turkey's obligation to respect "EU Acquis" :

    - "Turkey must fullfil the EU Acquis : That's clear !", the Swedish Senior Official stressed.

    More details are expected when Swedish Prime Minister Reinfeldt will debate his Programme with new MEPs at EU Parliament's plenary mid-July in Strasbourg, that he has visited already in 2008.

    Foreign Minister Carl Bildt became familiar with Strasbourg's CoE last year, when Sweden chaired the PanEuropean organization of Human Rights. As EU chairman-in-office, he will also chair the 27-member States strong EU Group inside the 47-member States strong CoE.

    Minister for EU affairs, Cecilia Malmstrom is well known at EU Parliament, where she has been an active MEP of the Liberal Group for many years, following also Press Freedom issues.

    Both have already made various statements at "EuroFora", on differend topical matters.

    ***

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