EP: Turkey must end crackdown on democratically elected officials

Amed, Mardin and Van metropolitan municipalities were seized by order of the Ministry of Interior on August 19 and the democratically and freely elected HDP mayors were dismissed and replaced with trustees.

The seizure of the HDP-run municipalities and human rights breaches in Turkey were discussed in the European Parliament General Assembly on Thursday.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution on the replacement of the elected mayors with trustees. The bill of resolution was submitted to the parliament by the European United Left–Nordic Green Left (GUE/GNL) group.

The resolution says;

“Amid a deteriorating rule of law situation in Turkey, MEPs condemn the recent decision by Turkish authorities to remove the democratically elected mayors in the cities of Diyarbakır, Van and Mardin from office based on questionable evidence and alleged links to terrorism. They also strongly criticise the arbitrary replacement of local elected representatives by unelected central government trustees, which is further undermining the democratic structure of Turkey, according to the text. The resolution calls on the Turkish authorities to reinstate all mayors and other elected officials who won local elections on 31 March 2019 but were subsequently prevented from assuming office, dismissed or replaced on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations.

The European Parliament also condemns the threats to dismiss other elected officials, specifically targeting the new mayor of Istanbul Ekrem İmamoğlu, and calls on the country’s authorities to refrain from further intimidation.”

The resolution also criticized the nearly 10-year prison sentence given to main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) İstanbul Chairperson Canan Kaftancıoğlu for several offenses including "terrorist propaganda" and "insulting the president" over her social media posts.

"[Kaftancıoğlu] is clearly being punished for having played a key role in the successful election campaign of the mayor of İstanbul," the resolution said, demanding the reversal of the sentence.

The situation of Selahattin Demirtaş, the former co-chair of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) who has been behind bars for nearly three years was also mentioned in the resolution.

"The European Parliament calls for his immediate and unconditional release; takes note of the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights on his case, which calls on the Turkish authorities to release him immediately."

Demirtaş was convicted in another case after the ECtHR ruling, therefore continues to stay in prison.

"The European Parliament also condemned the threats to dismiss other elected officials, specifically targeting the new mayor of İstanbul Ekrem İmamoğlu, and calls on the country's authorities to refrain from further intimidation," the resolution said.

"Turkey must abide by ECtHR judgments"

Here are highlights from the resolution:

European Parliament;

- Calls on the Turkish authorities to immediately and unconditionally release members of the opposition arrested as part of the crackdown on all voices of dissent in the country and to drop all charges against them;

- Strongly criticizes the arbitrary replacement of local elected representatives by unelected trustees, which further undermines the democratic structure of Turkey

- Reiterates its profound concern at the ongoing deterioration of fundamental freedoms and the rule of law in Turkey, and condemns the use of arbitrary detention, judicial and administrative harassment, travel bans in addition to other means intended to persecute thousands of Turkish citizens.

- Urges Turkey to make its anti-terrorism legislation compliant with international human rights standards; reiterates that broadly defined Turkish anti-terrorism legislation should not be used to punish citizens and the media for exercising their right of freedom of expression, or to arbitrarily remove elected representatives and replace them with Government trustees.

- Reiterates its concerns over the excessive use of legal proceedings against local elected representatives in Turkey, and their replacement by appointed officials – a practice that seriously undermines the proper functioning of local democracy;

- Calls on the Turkish Government to ensure that all individuals have the right to due process and to have their cases reviewed by an independent judicial court [...] and to abide by judgments from the European Court of Human Rights;

- Calls for the EEAS and the Commission to provide Parliament with a comprehensive debrief on the topics discussed during the EU-Turkey political dialogue of 13 September 2019;

- Urges the Vice-President of the Commission / High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, the Commission and Member States to continue to bring up the situation of arrested members of the opposition, human rights defenders, political activists, lawyers, journalists and academics who are in detention with their Turkish interlocutors, and to provide diplomatic and political support for them.