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Rights chief alarmed by 'scope and length' of Turkey emergency

  • Published at 03:06 pm February 16th, 2018
Rights chief alarmed by 'scope and length' of Turkey emergency
The head of a top European rights watchdog on Friday expressed alarm over the duration and magnitude of the state of emergency imposed in Turkey after the 2016 failed coup. Council of Europe chief Thorbjorn Jagland said the arrests of journalists, MPs and activists under the emergency had been "chilling" for Turkish society. In a keynote address to candidate judges and prosecutors in Ankara, he also expressed concern that lower courts last month had defied an order by Turkey's Constitutional Court to release two prominent journalists. The state of emergency, which gives security forces, government and courts extra powers, was implemented shortly after the July 15, 2016 failed coup and has been renewed six times. "Many of us are concerned today by the length and scope of the ongoing state of emergency," Jagland said in the speech on the premises of the Constitutional Court. He expressed concern that so many journalists, members of parliament, mayors and human rights defenders "are deprived of their liberty." "The result of casting the net too widely is to spread a chilling effect across society as a whole," said Jagland, who met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday. Turkey has arrested over 55,000 in the mass crackdown after the coup, saying the measures are needed to eradicate the group of US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen who Ankara blames for the putsch. Gulen denies the charges. Jagland said that the situation had resulted in a backlog of cases at the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), adding all cases had to be dealt with in line with the European Convention on Human Rights. He warned that "overloading" the court will only raise the question of "Turkey's capacity or willingness to uphold the Convention." "This simply will not work," he said. The ECHR, which enforces the European Convention on Human Rights, is a body of the Council of Europe, of which Turkey has been a member since 1950. Concerns over the rule of law were amplified in January when lower courts defied an order by the Constitutional Court to release journalists Sahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan on the grounds their rights had been violated. The pair remain on trial and in jail. Jagland praised the Constitutional Court's ruling and warned: "These decisions are binding. This is guaranteed by the Turkish Constitution. Other courts must abide by them."
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