Turkey’s 'legal lawlessness'

MLSA Co-Director Lawyer Veysel Ok said that the NGO bill, which paves the way for appointing trustees to NGOs, is introduced to suppress civil society.

The 'Law on Preventing the Financing of the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction' brought to the Turkish Grand National Assembly by AKP deputies grants Turkish authorities to appoint trustees.

Article 15, which gives the Interior Minister the authority to appoint trustees to the management of non-governmental organizations (NGOs), was accepted with the AKP-MHP votes. The law allows the Interior Minister to dismiss the executives of associations or non-governmental organizations that are charged with terrorism allegations.


Attorney Veysel Ok, co-director of the Media and Legal Studies Association (MLSA), emphasizes that the bill was anti-democratic from the very beginning with the way it was adopted, and that the rule of law was disregarded: “First of all, the way this law was introduced is wrong and unlawful. This is a form that the parliament has been doing for years, they are gathering together the articles that are not related to the bill law and drafting like this collectively. They are preparing a draft law on the preventing the financing of the spread of weapons of mass destruction, but this article is added in it. The procedure is not democratic. Because on such an important issue the parliament should consult with the civil society and talk to the opposition and prepare a law. This already shows that it is anti-democratic from the beginning. "


Lawyer Ok says he accepts July 15 coup attempt in 2016 as a milestone because the legal personality of thousands of NGOs was disregarded and they were closed down afterwards; “After that date, representatives of non-governmental organizations were arrested for doing civil work. Osman Kavala, who is still under arrest and whose case has recently appeared, is one such example. It is mentioned in the indictment that he has done civil society activities. The government is now trying to get this on a legal basis. It is now making the unlawfulness it has done so far into legal terms. One of the most dangerous articles in this law is the dismissal of any civil association executive who is investigated with terrorism charges with the authority of the Minister of Interior. There are serious problems in the judicial independence in Turkey, a terrorism investigation can be launched against anyone. A police officer within the Ministry of the Interior can keep a report about you and take it to the prosecutor's office for investigation. The same Ministry of the Interior may also dismiss you. There is such a contradiction, the stripping of a person's civil rights and legal personality without any conviction or judicial decision shows us that terrible days are waiting for us.


Veysel Ok continued; ‘’ There are already ongoing investigations and accusations targeting civil society administrators and members. While there is already a crackdown, dismissal will now be made legal. But there is no clear concept of terrorism in Turkey. There is no definition according to the case law of the European Court of Human Rights. There is no prediction as to who can be accused of terrorism. Ideas accepted normal 5 years ago can be now linked to terrorism or those posted a tweet years ago can be considered terrorists today. Democratic rights such as participating in a press conference can be included in a terrorism investigation. Naturally, this paves the way for the law to be used as a malicious oppression tool. On the other hand, there is a concept called terrorist financing in this law, and it is this: There is a control over the financial affairs of associations, including fundraising. But every association and every civil society already has a financial control and a responsibility to the general board. If you give the financial control to the Ministry of Interior indefinitely, you will create a serious oppression tool on non-governmental organizations and associations. We know very well that large media outlets such as the Doğan Media Group had been suppressed and changed through financial auditing and similar methods in the past."


Lawyer Ok underlines that all this legal regulation is mainly aimed at suppressing civil society, which is the only remaining area of ​​opposition: “When we look at the general situation, the judiciary has seriously lost its independence, it has become dysfunctional within the framework of the parliamentary presidential system. Bar associations law has changed, chambers are targeted, media is under control. There were only the non-governmental organizations left to embrace democracy and speak out in this sense. Now they are trying to take control of it too. In fact, civil society in Turkey does not only consist of human rights associations or NGOs. There are non-governmental organizations in many areas from village and neighbourhood associations. That is why I think many associations will be uncomfortable with this law without favoring any party or ideology."