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Council of Europe commissioner for Human Rights

SEND A LETTER | PURGED PUBLIC WORKERS

PURGED BEYOND RETURNS

SEND A LETTER to COUNCIL OF EUROPE, VENICE COMMISSION & MEMBER OF CABINET

“On the evening of 15 July 2016, elements within Turkey’s armed forces attempted a violent coup. The coup attempt was quickly thwarted as thousands of people took to the streets and state forces overpowered the coup plotters. Hundreds died, and thousands were injured in a night of terrible violence. The government declared a state of emergency soon afterwards on 20 July 2016 with the stated aim of countering threats to national security arising from the coup attempt. While the state of emergency was initially declared for three months, it would be renewed seven times, and its remit broadened to include combatting ‘terrorist’ organizations. The state of emergency finally ended on 18 July 2018, two years after it was first announced, having ushered in a period of tremendous upheaval in Turkish public life.

During the state of emergency, the government had the extraordinary power to issue emergency decrees with the force of law. These decrees were used to enact a wide variety of measures, affecting diverse issues from detention periods and NGO closures to snow tyre requirements. Around 130,000 public sector workers were dismissed by emergency decrees. Those dismissed include teachers, academics, doctors, police officers, media workers employed by the state broadcaster, members of the armed forces, as well as people working at all levels of local and central government. Their dismissals did not include specific evidence or details of their alleged wrongdoing. Instead, the decrees offered a generalized justification that they ‘…had links to, were part of, were connected to, or in communication with…’ proscribed groups.
The arbitrary dismissals have had a devastating impact on those who lost their jobs and their families. They did not only lose the jobs they occupied; in some cases, they were entirely cut off from access to their professions, as well as housing and healthcare benefits, leaving them and their families without livelihood opportunities.

For a long time, these dismissed public sector workers did not have any recourse against their dismissal as they had no access to ordinary administrative or legal channels in Turkey. Following considerable domestic and international pressure, the government passed an emergency decree in January 2017 setting up a ‘State of Emergency Inquiry Commission’ (hereinafter referred to as ‘the Commission’) to review decisions taken by the emergency decrees, including the appeals of purged public sector workers. Amnesty International research, which involved a review of procedures and a sample of decisions taken by this Commission and interviews with dismissed individuals and their families, reveals that the Commission – by its very design – is not set up to provide an effective remedy to the thousands of public sector workers dismissed from their jobs by emergency decrees. The combination of factors – including the lack of genuine institutional independence, lengthy review procedures, absence of necessary safeguards allowing individuals to effectively rebut allegations about their alleged illegal activity and weak evidence cited in decisions upholding dismissals – resulted in the failure of the Commission to provide a recourse against dismissals, leaving more than a hundred thousand individuals – their livelihoods on hold – without a timely and effective means of justice and reparation. The Commission does not have institutional independence from the government as its members are largely appointed by the government and may be dismissed simply by virtue of an ‘administrative investigation’ on the basis of suspicion of links to proscribed groups. Thus, the provisions for
appointments and dismissals could easily influence the decision-making process; should members fail to make decisions expected of them, the government can just as easily dispense with them.”

Purged Beyond Return Report by AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL, pp. 4-5, October 2018.

SEND A LETTER AS A DISMISSED PUBLIC WORKER OR DEFENDER

The Commission of Europe invited OHAL commission to Strasbourg in November about their political decisions and the violation of rights of the dismissed 130,000 public workers. We urge the dismissed public workers or their defenders to write letters to the commission, member of the parliament, President of the Council of EU and Secretary of Venice Commission:
In order to comply with the human rights standards that they profess to uphold, Turkish authorities should reinstate all the dismissed public sector workers and, in any cases where individuals are reasonably suspected of wrongdoing or misconduct in their employment, or of a criminal offense, any decision on their dismissal should be made solely in a regular disciplinary process with full procedural safeguards.

3 SAMPLE LETTERS FOR PUBLIC WORKERS

Below are the sample letters created for a dismissed teacher, doctor and public worker. Do not forget to include your own story by changing the related parts.

You can download TEACHERS SAMPLE LETTER here…

https://silencedturkey.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Teacher_sample_letter.pdf

You can download DOCTORS SAMPLE LETTER here…

https://silencedturkey.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/Doctors_sample_letter.pdf

You can download PUBLIC WORKER SAMPLE LETTER here…

https://silencedturkey.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/11/public_servants_Sample_letter.pdf

CONTACT INFORMATION TO SEND YOUR LETTER.

1) PRESIDENT OF EUROPEAN COUNCIL
Donald TUSK
https://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/contact/general-enquiries/send-message/?IsPresident=true

2) PRESS OFFICE
press.office@consilium.europa.eu

3) PRESS CENTER
press.centre@consilium.europa.eu
Planning.Audiovisuel@consilium.europa.eu

4) SECRETARY OF VENICE COMMISSION
Thomas Markert
Thomas.markert@coe.int

4) RIAA OOMEN
Chairperson of the Committee on Political Affairs and Democracy: Bureau of the Assembly
ria.oomen-ruijten@eerstekamer.nl

5) BERNARD BRUNET
Bernard Brunet is currently Head of Unit “Thematic Support, Monitoring, and Evaluation” in the
European Commission (DG Neighbourhood and Enlargement
Bernard.BRUNET@ec.europa.eu

6) JOHANNES NOACK
Member of Cabinet
johannes.noack@ec.europa.eu

7) MEMBERS OF COMMITTEE on Political Affairs and Democracy
http://www.assembly.coe.int/nw/xml/AssemblyList/AL-XML2HTML-EN.asp?lang=en&XmlID=Committee-Pol

8) TWITTER

—-VENICE COMMISSION—-
@venicecomm

—-EUROPEAN COUNCIL—-
@EUCouncil

“PURGED BEYOND RETURN” 28 pages report released by Amnesty International about the
130,000 dismissed public workers in Turkey. You can reach the report from the link;

https://www.amnesty.org/en/documents/eur44/9210/2018/en/

NEED HELP?

If you need help to translate your story, AST volunteers in your local community will help you.
If you could not find an AST volunteer for the translation of your letter from Turkish to English to submit, you can send the Turkish letter to help@silencedturkey.org until November 15. We will try to do our best to translate your letter by our volunteers and empower you to submit your letter to the relevant commissions and officials in Europe

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An open letter to President Erdoğan from 38 Nobel laureates

Dear President Erdoğan,

We wish to draw your attention to the damage being done to the Republic of Turkey, to its reputation and the dignity and well-being of its citizens, through what leading authorities on freedom of expression deem to be the unlawful detention and wrongful conviction of writers and thinkers.

In a Memorandum on the Freedom of Expression in Turkey (2017), Nils Muižnieks, then Council of Europe commissioner for Human Rights, warned:

“The space for democratic debate in Turkey has shrunk alarmingly following increased judicial harassment of large strata of society, including journalists, members of parliament, academics and ordinary citizens, and government action which has reduced pluralism and led to self-censorship. This deterioration came about in a very difficult context, but neither the attempted coup nor other terrorist threats faced by Turkey, can justify measures that infringe media freedom and disavow the rule of law to such an extent.

“The authorities should urgently change course by overhauling criminal legislation and practice, redevelop judicial independence and reaffirm their commitment to protect free speech.”

There is no clearer example of the commissioner’s concern that the detention in September 2016 of Ahmet Altan, a bestselling novelist and columnist; Mehmet Altan, his brother, professor of economics and essayist; and Nazlı Ilıcak, a prominent journalist – all as part of a wave of arrests following the failed July 2016 coup. These writers were charged with attempting to overthrow the constitutional order through violence or force. The prosecutors originally wanted to charge them with giving “subliminal messages” to coup supporters while appearing on a television panel show. The ensuing tide of public ridicule made them change that accusation to using rhetoric “evocative of a coup”. Indeed, Turkey’s official Anatolia News Agency called the case “The Coup Evocation Trial”.

As noted in the commissioner’s report, the evidence considered by the judge in Ahmet Altan’s case was limited to a story dating from 2010 in Taraf newspaper (of which Ahmet Altan had been the editor-in-chief until 2012), three of his op-ed columns and a TV appearance. The evidence against the other defendants was equally insubstantial. All these writers had spent their careers opposing coups and militarism of any sort, and yet were charged with aiding an armed terrorist organisation and staging a coup.

The commissioner saw the detention and prosecution of Altan brothers as part of a broader pattern of repression in Turkey against those expressing dissent or criticism of the authorities. He considered such detentions and prosecutions to have violated human rights and undermined the rule of law. David Kaye, the UN special rapporteur on freedom of expression, concurred and dubbed the legal proceedings a “show trial”.

Turkey’s own constitutional court concurred with this criticism. On 11 January this year, it ruled that Mehmet Altan and fellow journalist Şahin Alpay’s rights were being violated by pre-trial detention, and that they should be released. Yet the first-degree courts refused to implement the higher constitutional court’s decision, thus placing the judicial system in criminal violation of the constitution. Mr President, you must surely be concerned that the lower criminal court’s defiance and this non-legal decision was backed by the spokesperson of your government.

On 16 February 2018, the Altan brothers and Ilıcak were sentenced to aggravated life sentences, precluding them from any prospect of a future amnesty.

President Erdoğan, we the undersigned share the following opinion of David Kaye: “The court decision condemning journalists to aggravated life in prison for their work, without presenting substantial proof of their involvement in the coup attempt or ensuring a fair trial, critically threatens journalism and with it the remnants of freedom of expression and media freedom in Turkey”.

In April 1998, you yourself were stripped of your position as mayor of Istanbul, banned from political office, and sentenced to prison for 10 months, for reciting a poem during a public speech in December 1997 through the same article 312 of the penal code. This was unjust, unlawful and cruel. Many human rights organisations – which defended you then – are appalled at the violations now occurring in your country. Amnesty International, PEN International, Committee to Protect Journalists, Article 19, and Reporters Without Borders are among those who oppose the recent court decision.

During a ceremony in honour of Çetin Altan, on 2 February 2009, you declared publicly that “Turkey is no longer the same old Turkey who used to sentence its great writers to prison – this era is gone for ever.” Among the audience were Çetin Altan’s two sons: Ahmet and Mehmet. Nine years later, they are sentenced to life; isn’t that a fundamental contradiction?

Under these circumstances, we voice the concern of many inside Turkey itself, of its allies and of the multilateral organisations of which it is a member. We call for the abrogation of the state of emergency, a quick return to the rule of law and for full freedom of speech and expression. Such a move would result in the speedy acquittal on appeal of Ms Ilıcak and the Altan brothers, and the immediate release of others wrongfully detained. Better still, it would make Turkey again a proud member of the free world.

Full list of Nobel laureate signatories:

Svetlana Alexievich, Philip W Anderson, Aaron Ciechanover, JM Coetzee, Claude Cohen-Tannoudji, Elias J Corey, Gerhard Ertl, Albert Fert, Edmond H Fischer, Andrew Z Fire, Andre Geim, Sheldon Glashow, Serge Haroche, Leland H Hartwell, Oliver Hart, Richard Henderson, Dudley Herschbach, Avram Hershko, Roald Hoffmann, Robert Huber, Tim Hunt, Kazuo Ishiguro, Elfriede Jelinek, Eric S Maskin, Hartmut Michel, Herta Müller, VS Naipaul, William D Phillips, John C Polanyi, Richard J Roberts, Randy W Schekman, Wole Soyinka, Joseph Stiglitz, Thomas C Südhof, Jack W Szostak, Mario Vargas Llosa, J Robin Warren, Eric F Wieschaus

Source:
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/28/nobel-laureates-president-erdogan-turkey-free-writers

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