The functioning of democratic institutions in Turkey is under threat, PACE decides to ‘closely follow’ the situation

At the end of a debate on the functioning of democratic institutions in Turkey, the Assembly underlined that the latest developments pertaining to freedom of the media and of expression, erosion of the rule of law and human rights violations in relation to the anti-terrorism security operations in south-eastern Turkey “constitute a threat to the functioning of democratic institutions and the country’s commitments to its obligations towards the Council of Europe”.

The Assembly resolved to closely follow the situation in the country on the basis of information provided by its Monitoring Committee. Progress made on all items of the post-monitoring dialogue, including on the items discussed in the adopted resolution, will be assessed in the post-monitoring report to be presented in 2017.

The resolution, based on the post-monitoring report prepared by co-rapporteurs Ingebjørg Godskesen (Norway, EC) and Nataša Vuckovic (Serbia, SOC), regrets that peace talks to address the Kurdish issue collapsed in summer 2015, putting at stake the process of enlarging the cultural and linguistic rights of the Kurdish community. As regards the attacks and terrorist actions and violence perpetrated by the PKK, Daesh or any other organisation, the committee unequivocally condemned them and said that by no means can they be tolerated.

The parliamentarians stressed Turkey’s right and duty to fight terrorism, but recalled however that “security operations must be carried out in line with international law”, in accordance with the principle of proportionality and necessity. “The right balance between security and individual liberties must be found in Turkey,” they added.

Regarding the decision of the Turkish Grand National Assembly to strip the immunity of a large number of parliamentarians from prosecution, the committee expressed worry about the “potential political consequences of this decision, which could damage parliamentary life and undermine the healthy political environment that Turkey needs to face today’s challenges”.

The adopted text expresses concern at the latest developments in the field of freedom of expression and freedom of the media. “Changes in ownership of media companies serving business interests over the past years were motivated by, and have resulted in, significant political influence on the media”, it reads, adding that “domestic and foreign investigative journalism should be conducted on all topics, and in all regions.”

As concerns the large number of blocked websites (110 000) and Twitter takedown requests, the Assembly said this was a “highly disproportionate measure, which impedes the public’s right to have access to, and to be provided with, information on the internet, and negatively impacts media pluralism and free expression”. It urged Turkey to upgrade its legal framework in line with the European Convention on Human Rights and to repeal Articles 299 (Insulting the President of Republic) and 301 (Degrading the Turkish Nation) of the Penal Code.

The Assembly urged Turkish officials to refrain from unduly interfering in the judiciary and challenging the rule of law. It did however appreciate that “all decisions of the Constitutional Court resulting from individual applications have been implemented”.

Turkey has been under post-monitoring dialogue with the Assembly since 2004. In its Resolution 1925 of April 2013, the Assembly encouraged Turkey to pursue its efforts to align its legislation and practices with Council of Europe standards and fulfill the remaining post-monitoring dialogue requirements.