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Turkey's state of emergency 'chilling' for society: Rights chief

The state of emergency gives security forces, government and courts extra powers [Getty]

Date of publication: 16 February, 2018

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The head of a European rights watchdog said Turkey's prolonged state of emergency following the July 2016 failed coup was concerning in its scope and length.

The head of a top European rights watchdog on Friday expressed alarm over the duration and magnitude of the state of emergency imposed in Turkey after the 2016 failed coup.

Council of Europe chief Thorbjorn Jagland said the arrests of journalists, MPs and activists under the emergency had been "chilling" for Turkish society.

In a keynote address to candidate judges and prosecutors in Ankara, he also expressed concern that lower courts last month had defied an order by Turkey's Constitutional Court to release two prominent journalists, Sahin Alpay and Mehmet Altan.

The pair remain on trial and in jail.

The state of emergency, which gives security forces, government and courts extra powers, was implemented shortly after the July 15, 2016 failed coup and has been renewed six times.

"Many of us are concerned today by the length and scope of the ongoing state of emergency," Jagland said.

He expressed concern that so many journalists, members of parliament, mayors and human rights defenders "are deprived of their liberty".

"The result of casting the net too widely is to spread a chilling effect across society as a whole," said Jagland, who met with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday.

Turkey has arrested more than 55,000 in the mass crackdown after the coup, saying the measures are needed to eradicate the group of US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen who Ankara blames for the putsch. Gulen denies the charges.

Jagland said that the situation had resulted in a backlog of cases at the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), adding all cases had to be dealt with in line with the European Convention on Human Rights.

He warned that "overloading" the court will only raise the question of "Turkey's capacity or willingness to uphold the Convention".

"This simply will not work," he said, saying member states had to uphold the convention "at the domestic level" and "not wait for an international court to compel them to do it. 

"It is important to look forward to a time when the emergency law is lifted and normality is restored.  

"That time surely cannot be far off," said Jagland.

The ECHR, which enforces the European Convention on Human Rights, is a body of the Council of Europe, of which Turkey has been a member since 1950.

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