Mar 20 2018

Turkey slams UN for report criticising emergency rule

Turkey accused the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights of bias after he published a report saying the government was using emergency powers to stifle any form of criticism and dissent.

The commissioner made "unfounded allegations matching up perfectly with the propaganda efforts of terrorist organisations," the Turkish Foreign Ministry said on its website on Tuesday. "This is an unacceptable situation."

Routine extensions of the state of emergency, in place since the July 15 coup attempt, have led to profound human rights violations affecting hundreds of thousands of people, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in the report.

"This person, who is the head of an international body bearing an unquestionable global importance, unfortunately, relegated the said UN body under his administration into a position of a collaborator of terrorist organisations. We condemn this situation. We are also saddened because of the damage inflicted on this universal organisation," the Foreign Ministry said.

Turkish police and prosecutors have locked up tens of thousands of people for involvement in the coup attempt, as well as Kurdish opposition leaders and leftist activists. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is seeking to strengthen his executive powers ahead of presidential elections next year that will replace Turkey's parliamentary system of government with one-man rule. The European Union has also called on Turkey to lift the state of emergency.

“The sheer number, frequency and lack of connection of several (emergency) decrees to any national threat seem to … point to the use of emergency powers to stifle any form of criticism or dissent vis-à-vis the government,” the United Nations said in the report.

Emergency rule in Turkey may have “long-lasting implications on the institutional and socio-economic fabric,” the UN warned.

The April 2017 referendum that extended the president’s executive powers into both the legislature and the judiciary was seriously problematic, resulting in interference with the work of the judiciary and curtailment of parliamentary oversight over the executive branch, the report said.

“Twenty-two emergency decrees were promulgated by the end of 2017, with many regulating matters unrelated to the state of emergency and used to limit various legitimate activities by civil society actors,” the UN said. “The decrees also foster impunity, affording immunity to administrative authorities acting within the framework of the decrees.”

Moody's downgraded Turkey's sovereign debt to two steps below investment grade earlier this month, warning that Erdoğan's increased powers made policy decisions less predictable and threatened to undermine other institutions in the country.