Human Rights Assoc Istanbul head criticises draft bill for targeting NGOs

The head of the Human Rights Association (IHD)’s Istanbul branch on Monday called a proposed bill set to provide the state more control over non-governmental organisations dangerous for individual freedoms.

Gülseren Yoleri told the news site Bianet that if passed, the new legislation would make NGOs that are critical of the government fall further under Ankara’s thumb, curbing opposition to its policies further. 

"In the current situation in Turkey and in an environment where the media and judiciary have been placed under an absolute tutelage and political parties and some civil society organizations act in accordance with the government, the aim of this bill is apparently to stop the activities of a few civil society organizations that can raise dissident voices,” Yoleri told Bianet. 

She described how past efforts to curtail criticism from NGOS or the media through intimidation, so the government is looking to outright shut these organisations down. 

The bill in question is named "Bill on Preventing the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction,” but Yoleri notes that only six of its 43 articles has anything to do with nonproliferation. Of these parts, 11 of them are aimed at the NGO sector. Some of these measures include requesting permission for accepting donations, limiting online fundraising and subjecting NGOs through inspections by the Interior Ministry or local authorities if delegated. 

One specific section allows for the government to appoint trustees to NGO boards and initiate a shutdown of their activities based on inspection reports rather than a court decision. Yoleri described these moves as dangerous for civil liberties in Turkey. 

“They are trying to turn this into a legal method of pressure. This is, of course, a dangerous course of events in the name of democracy and human rights. It is trying to reinforce the authority of the regime even more," she said. 

Turkey is a party to multiple human rights forums including the European Commission on Human Rights and the United Nations Convention on Civil and Political Rights that guarantee the freedom of association. The Turkish constitution similarly provides for these rights which the draft law appears to violate.