Turkish President and Chairman of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during the AK Party's group meeting at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in Ankara, on October 3, 2017. President Erdogan signs emergency decrees into law. Photo: AFP / Adam Altan
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Europe’s top human rights advisory body expressed concerns over emergency decrees issued by the Turkish government which removed elected mayors from their posts, particularly in Kurdish regions and replaced them with unelected officials.
“Local authorities are one of the main foundations of a democratic society,” said a member of The Council of Europe’s advisory body on Friday.
“Their election by the local population is key to ensuring the people’s participation in the political process.”
The Council of Europe’s advisory body, known as the Venice Commission, is made up of constitutional law experts.
The advisors said they were “particularly worried” by the use of emergency decrees to fire elected mayors and other government officials in Turkey’s majority-Kurdish southeast over alleged terror-related charges and replacing them with unelected officials.
A state of emergency was declared by Turkey following last year’s failed coup attempt which allows the government to rule by decrees, largely bypassing decisions by parliament.
Turkish authorities claim these emergency powers are needed to thwart security threats and punish coup-plotters.
Among other things, the Commission called on Turkey to introduce laws that would reinstate mayors who have been removed from their posts if charges against them do not lead to any criminal convictions.
They also requested that Turkey stop filling vacancies through appointments to ensure that parliamentary debates would make decisions which affect municipalities.
Turkey has already arrested 50,000 people from the military, police, and other sectors in addition to dismissing over 150,000 officials throughout the past year following the coup attempt for suspected links to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who the Turkish government blames for orchestrating the failed coup attempt in Turkey.
Gulen has denied any involvement in the coup attempt.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s consolidation of power has been denounced by Gulen, who has referred to Turkey’s president as “a dictator” and has encouraged US President Donald Trump’s administration as well as European governments to do more to restore political freedoms in Turkey.