Almost 130,000 purged Turkish public servants await justice - Amnesty International

More than two years after being dismissed from their jobs by government decree following the 2016 coup attempt, almost 130,000 Turkish public sector workers are still awaiting justice and facing an uncertain future, Amnesty International said in a report published on Thursday.

The purge of public employees took place under the country’s nearly two-year-long state of emergency, declared after the July 2016 coup attempt, which the government blames on U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen.

The report entitled “Purged beyond return? No remedy for Turkey’s dismissed public sector workers” reviews 109 decisions made by a commission set up last year to rule on the appeals of public sector workers sacked for alleged links to terrorist organisations after the coup attempt.

The report said the commission, set up in January 2017 had “failed to uphold international standards and is acting as a de facto rubber stamp for the initial flawed decisions. The whole process is a shameful affront to justice”. It said the commission had even used formerly lawful activities to retroactively justify the dismissals, pointing to actions such as depositing money in a certain bank, membership of certain trade union, or downloading a particular smart phone application.

The report said the commission was flawed by a “lack of institutional independence, long waiting periods, absence of safeguards allowing individuals to effectively rebut allegations, and weak evidence cited in decisions upholding dismissals”.

Out of approximately 125,000 applications made by dismissed individuals, the commission had issued decisions in only 36,000 cases as of October and overturned only 7 percent of the original decisions, according to the figures cited by Amnesty International.

“They dismissed us without reason and now they are trying to find excuses for our dismissals,” said a teacher whose appeal against his dismissal for depositing money into Bank Asya was rejected by the commission. Bank Asya used to belong to the Gülen movement.

Those submitting appeals had no knowledge of the allegations they were facing, or evidence that was used against them, the report found, which made rebutting accusations and mounting an effective appeal a virtually impossible task.

While the state of emergency was lifted in July, a new law was passed the same month that allows for the summary dismissals of public sector workers deemed to have links to terrorist organisations, or other groups posing a threat to national security, to continue for another three years.

“In Turkey, the justice system is in thrall to the politicians. It changes according to the political climate,” one academic, dismissed after signing a petition, told Amnesty International.

“More than two years since the first dismissals began, tens of thousands of public sector workers are living in limbo without effective remedy. Rather than providing a mechanism for justice, the commission has merely rubbed salt into their wounds,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s Turkey Strategy and Research Manager.