On 4 April 2019, a complaint concerning the suspension of the Council of the Greater Municipality of Diyarbakır in south-eastern Turkey was lodged with the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC). The Turkey Litigation Support Project worked with Mr Cihan Aydin, representative of the 6 applicants. Under Emergency Decree Law No. 674, the applicants, who were at the time elected members of the Municipal Council, were prevented from holding meetings and participating in public affairs. Their functions were assumed by a ‘trustee’ appointed by the government under Emergency Decree Law No. 674, a situation that continues despite the lifting of the state of emergency.
Before the UNHRC, the applicants contend that Turkey, a state party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), has failed to meet the requirements necessary for lawful derogation under Article 4 and that the suspension of the Council of the Greater Municipality of Diyarbakir constitutes violations of Articles 25, 26 and 2(3) of the ICCPR. The notice of derogation was insufficiently precise, the measures were still ongoing at the time the complaint was submitted, and the measures have neither been shown to be necessary or proportionate to the stated aims of the fight against terrorism.
Moreover, restrictions adopted by Decree Law No. 674 cannot be said to be lawful and reasonable. The law lacked clarity and foreseeability, and was neither necessary or proportionate in its aim of addressing the perceived national security threat. Additionally, it lacked sufficient legal safeguards and has been applied arbitrarily. There has thus been a violation of the applicants’ and the electorate’s rights under Article 25 (a) and (b) of the ICCPR as they were prevented from exercising their right to take part in the conduct of public affairs through the election of representatives after the suspension of the Municipal Council.
The applicants also complained that the law in this case was applied in a manner that targeted predominantly Kurdish politicians and those of a particular political opinion, thereby constituting a violation of the right of the applicants to non-discriminatory treatment under Article 26 of the ICCPR.
Lastly, the complaint raises concerns surrounding the independence, impartiality and competence of the judiciary in Turkey. The influence of the executive over these bodies, as well as confusion and lack of access to adequate legal avenues for redress, has contributed to an ineffective basis for legal remedies for rights violations flowing from state of emergency measures. The Constitutional Court’s decision to reject the applicants’ case on the grounds that it is unable to constitutionally review legislative acts, has resulted in a clear lack of accessibility to even the very possibility of an effective domestic remedy for the rights violations suffered by the applicants. In the absence of any other available remedy, or adequate aggregate of remedies, this constitutes a violation of Article 2(3) when read with Articles 25 and 26 of the ICCPR.
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