Erdoğan’s government tightens stranglehold on civil society groups - Amnesty

Turkey’s new law designed to prevent terrorism financing raises the possibility that rights groups may be abolished in the country, said Tarık Beyhan, a director at Amnesty International in Turkey.

“This law provides the interior minister with the authority to shut down any group whenever he wants without a chance for appeal,” Beyhan said, according to the Financial Times.

The bill, drafted by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), was introduced to comply with a United Nations Security Council counterterrorism resolution and was approved in response to a 2019 report by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an intergovernmental money-laundering and terrorism financing watchdog.

Turkey’s parliament passed the "Law on Preventing Financing of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction” on early on Sunday. It subjects non-governmental organisations to Interior Ministry inspections and requests for permission to accept donations, limiting online fundraising. It also allows the government to appoint trustees to NGO boards and halt their activities based on inspection reports rather than a court decision.

“Additional provisions were added secretly with the ulterior motive of further limiting the freedom of civil society to organise and assemble,” Beyhan said. “Human rights groups are frequently exposed to terrorism accusations (and) this law relies on ambiguous definitions of terrorism to render associations dysfunctional.”

The oversight rules for NGOs apply to a myriad of civil society groups, from rights advocates to sports associations to religious groups, the FT said.

A crackdown on civil society in Turkey intensified after 2016, when the government declared a state of emergency following a failed military coup and presidential decrees shut down 1,748 foundations and associations in the span of two years.