Turkish Constitutional Court upholds impunity for state officials

Turkey’s Constitutional Court (AYM) has upheld provisions protecting public servants and civilians who committed crimes while attempting to prevent a military coup, enacted under the State of Emergency following the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016, according to the Arrested Lawyers Initiative.

The Arrested Lawyers Initiative is a volunteer organisation which advocates on behalf of legal professionals who have been imprisoned or gone into exile as a result of the Turkish government’s post-coup purges.

Impunity as granted in the emergency decrees covers “any acts committed with the aim of suppressing the coup attempt and the terrorist activities that took place on July 15, 2016 and actions that can be deemed as the continuation of these,” the group said.

A Human Rights Foundation report in 2019 noted that “Article 37 of Decree Law No. 668, and its subsequent amendment, have also been criticized—including byformer President Abdullah Gül—warning that the prolonged state of emergency could encourage vigilante groups.”

These Decree laws are vague, because they apply not only to actions taken to prevent the military coup attempt on July 15, 2016, but also to “actions that can be deemed as the continuation of these.”

The Arrested Lawyers Initiative strongly criticised the judgements of the AYM, saying that “In two separate judgments, (the AYM) upheld these provisions which have resulted in a de facto derogation of the right to life, and to the prohibition of torture, which is clearly illegal under the Constitution, the ICCPR and the ECHR.”

According to the group, the AYM said that the impunity clauses “were necessary to encourage the public servants so they could perform their duties effectively to overcome the threats (which) arose out of the state of emergency.”

Turkey ended its legal state of emergency in 2018.