New Turkish anti-terror laws extend emergency rule, critics say

Turkey’s state of emergency, imposed in the wake of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, ended at midnight on July 18, but the opposition says anti-terror laws introduced to parliament this week will extend emergency rule indefinitely.

Three provisions in the draft anti-terror law, to be in effect for three years, mirror measures in force under the state of emergency, said Ayhan Bilgen, deputy co-chair of the pro-Kurdish opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).

“The long detentions, arbitrary authority of governors, and civil servant dismissals were going to end when the state of emergency ended. These three things are now being legislated, and there won't be any difference from when the state of emergency was in effect. The administration has already passed into law everything it wanted to do with the state of emergency,” he said.

The draft anti-terror law also proposes a change to the period of detention without charge,

Öztürk Türkdoğan, chairman of the Human Rights Association, said the constitution stipulates the maximum length of detention without charge is four days, and this can only be extended by a judge. The draft law proposes the period can be extended twice for a maximum of 12 days, Türkdoğan said that contradicts the constitution.

Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said in April that 77,081 people had been jailed on charges of links to the Gülen movement, the government blames for the 2016 military bid to topple President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. More than 200 people were killed in the failed coup.

Under the new proposed legislation, governors will have the power to prohibit people from entering or exiting a city due to security conditions. Türkdoğan said this authority was only given to governors during a state of emergency.

The anti-terror bill also proposes that any civil servants, including army officials, police officers, teachers, and any other public servants thought to be linked to terrorist organisations, will be dismissed from their jobs. This week, more than 150,000 civil servants, teachers, police officers, and judges had either been fired or suspended from their jobs since July 2016.

“It is clear that the guiding logic is one of criminalising all opposition even if it has no identifiable relationship with the events of July 15. This logic is incompatible with democratisation and the rule of law," Bilgen said.

If passed, he said, the anti-terror laws could be extended beyond the three-year period, making the state of emergency permanent.  

“Even the regulations concerning the return of state officials to work or dismissals are not limited to three years, but the regulations can be maintained as the process continues. In addition to returning to the existing order, they are taking steps to make temporary measures permanent and thus creating a new order,” he said.

The new law would run counter to the constitution, Türkdoğan said.

“According to Article 15 of the constitution, it's necessary to declare a state of emergency in order to do all these things, but the administration is working to transfer all these powers to the executive by changing the law without declaring a state of emergency," he said.


"When we look at the current constitution, we see that there must be widespread acts of violence in order to declare a state of emergency. We all opposed the coup attempt on July 15 two years ago, and the coup was suppressed,” Türkdoğan said. After the coup collapsed, there was no violence that would have warranted a state of emergency, he said.

Meanwhile, the concentration of power in the new executive presidency carries its own risks, Bilgen said.

"When the system is centralised, the risk of a coup increases, and the work of a coup plotter becomes easier. If every area is captured when someone seizes one person's position, then this provides a big advantage regarding the order they want to establish after the coup,” he said.