Abuse of the Anti-Terrorism laws by Turkey is steadily increasing

Updated on 30 May 2019.

According to the survey by the Arrested Lawyers Initiative carried out on the Turkish Justice Ministry’s statistics of their operations in the last five years, there is a steady increase in the use of anti-terrorism law on individuals by public prosecutors.

At present, Turkey’s anti-terrorism legislation consists of two separate laws: the Turkish Penal Code (5237) (“TPC”) and Anti-Terrorism Law (3713). Many articles of the Anti-Terrorism Law were rescinded but article 5, which is still in force, stipulates the aggravation of the terrorism-related sentences by half.

Sub-section 1[1] (Article 314/1) of Article 314 of the Turkish Penal Code criminalises the establishment and/or commanding an armed terrorist organisation, and the subsection 2 (Article 314/2) [2]  criminalises the membership to an armed organisation. Under the Turkish Penal Code, these two offences carry the penalty of 7.5 to 22.5 years imprisonment.

According to our survey there is a steady increase in the use of anti-terrorism law on individuals by public prosecutors. So, while 8,324 people were indicted under Article 314 of the TPC in 2013, 146,718 people were indicted under the same Article in 2017.

Year 2013: 8.324

2013

Number of the individuals who were indicted under Article 314 of the TPC in 2013.

Year 2014: 20.475

2014

Number of the individuals who were indicted under Article 314 of the TPC in 2014.

Year 2015: 15.139

2015

Number of the individuals who were indicted under Article 314 of the TPC in 2015.

Year 2016: 30.710

2016

Number of the individuals who were indicted under Article 314 of the TPC in 2016.

Year 2017 : 146.718

2017

Number of the individuals who were indicted under Article 314 of the TPC in 2017.

Only in 2017, 21.833 women have been indicted with the charges of being the founder, the leader or the member of an armed terrorist, of those 226 are under 18 years old

Only in 2017, 21.383 women have been indicted with the charges of being the founder, the leader or the member of an armed terrorist, of those 226 are under 18 years old

These statistics highlight that Turkey has indicted 221,366 people with the charges of being member or leader of an armed terrorist organization within last five years.

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In 2017, number of individuals indicted under the crimes against the Constitutional Order is 176.491.

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In 2018, number of the crimes against the Constitutional Order imputed to individuals is 123.207. Of those 21.637 are women and more than 1500 are under age of 18.

In 2017 and 2018, public prosecutors have indicted more than 300.000 individuals under 309-316 of Turkish Penal Code which stipulate crimes against the Constitutional Order. Statistics also indicate that, in 2017, Turkish prosecutors have opened investigations against 527.154 individuals under Articles 309-316, this number is 456.175 in 2018.

The problem is that the Turkish Penal Code contains neither the definition of what constitutes  armed organizations and armed groups nor the offense of membership[3].  The lack of legal definitions and criteria of what constitutes an armed terrorist organization and the offense of membership in the armed terrorist organization makes these articles prone to arbitrary application and abuse. Vague formulation of the criminal provisions on the security of the state and terrorism and their overly broad interpretation[4] by Turkish judges and prosecutors make all critics, particularly lawyers, human rights defenders, journalists, and rival politicians, a potential victim of judicial harassment. This indistinct area under the Turkish Penal code is actively used by the Turkish government to investigate, prosecute and convict opponents.

Turkey also has been using the vague formulation of the anti-terrorism legislation in his hostage diplomacy. According to a report  entitled “Erdogan’s Hostage Diplomacy – Western Nationals in Turkish Prisons” undertaken by the Foundation for Defence of Democracies (FDD), more than 30 Western nationals have been jailed in Turkey since the failed military coup of July 15, 2016. Almost all of these foreign citizens were accused of terrorism-related offenses.

Besides foreigners, deputies of People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and the Republic People’s Party (CHP), the chairperson and the director of the Amnesty (Turkey branch) Taner Kilic and Idil Eser, revered philanthropic Osman Kavala, 1,542 lawyers including presidents of 14 regional bar associations, more than 150 journalists, and innumerable others have all been accused of being member of an armed terrorist organization or aiding and abetting one or more of those.

European Court of Human Rights decided (Imret vs Turkey, Isikirik vs Turkey) that convictions under Articles 220 § 7 and 314 § 2 of the Turkish Criminal Code violate Article 11 of the Convention.[6]

In the light of the aforementioned considerations, the Court concludes that Article 220 § 7 of the Criminal Code was not “foreseeable” in its application since it did not afford the applicant the legal protection against arbitrary interference with his right under Article 11 of the Convention (see Ahmet Yıldırım v. Turkey, no. 3111/10, § 67, ECHR 2012, and Işıkırık, cited above, § 70). Hence, the interference resulting from the application of Article 220 § 7 was not prescribed by law. 

For years, Turkey’s anti-terrorism legislation has been criticised by the European Union, the Council of Europe, the United Nation’s human rights bodies and international human rights organization. The European Union and the Council of Europe has urged Turkey to make its anti-terrorism legislation compliant with human rights standards, including with the European Convention on Human Rights and the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights.

FOOTNOTES:

[1] Armed Organisation Article 314 (1) Any person who establishes or commands an armed organisation with the purpose of committing the offences listed in parts four and five of this chapter, shall be sentenced to a penalty of imprisonment for a term of ten to fifteen years.
[2] Armed Organisation Article 314 (2) Any person who becomes a member of the organisation defined in paragraph one shall be sentenced to a penalty of imprisonment for a term of five to ten years. (3) Other provisions relating to the forming of an organisation in order to commit offences shall also be applicable to this offence.
[3] CDL-AD(2016)002-e Opinion on articles 216, 299, 301 and 314 of the Penal Code of Turkey http://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/?pdf=CDL-AD(2016)002-e
In its judgment E. 2006/10-253 K. 2007/80 of 3 April 2007, the General Criminal Board of the Court of Cassation made a definition: The group has to have at least three members; there should be a tight or loose hierarchical connection between the members of the group, the members should have a common intention to commit crimes (even though no crime has yet been committed); the group has to present continuity in time; and the structure of the group, the number of its members, tools and equipment at the disposal of the group should be sufficient/appropriate for the commission of the envisaged crimes.
[4] https://rm.coe.int/third-party-intervention-10-cases-v-turkey-on-freedom-of-expression-an/168075f48f
[5] In clear violation of the Turkish Constitution and the ECHR, the Turkish government is using membership in duly authorized and officially registered institutions as pretexts to arrest and prosecute people although such membership is not defined as a crime in the law at all. For example, the private schools, cram schools, Bank Asya, union organizations, professional associations, charity organizations, foundations, media outlets and others that were founded by businessmen and professionals who were believed to be linked to the Gülen movement were declared terrorist entities overnight in Turkey after the failed coup of July 15, 2016. By extension, the government claimed, employees, members, volunteers and those who have sort of connections to these entities were deemed as terrorists. Stockholm Center for Freedom https://stockholmcf.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/09/Turkeys-Contempt-for-The-Rule-of-Law.pdf
[6] The Court further observes that the applicant was given a prison sentence of six years and three months under Articles 220 § 7 and 314 § 2 of the Criminal Code. The length of his prison sentence was subsequently reduced to five years, two months and fifteen days and the applicant served his sentence. The Court notes that when demonstrators, such as the applicant, face the charge of membership of an illegal armed organisation, they risk an additional sentence of between five and ten years in prison, a sanction which is strikingly severe and grossly disproportionate to their conduct. The Court finds therefore that Article 220 § 7 of the Criminal Code, as applied in the instant case, would inevitably have a particularly chilling effect on the exercise of the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. Moreover, the application of the provision at issue was not only likely to deter those who were found criminally liable from exercising their rights under Articles 10 and 11 of the Convention in the future, but also had a great deal of potential to deter other members of the public from attending demonstrations and, more generally, from participating in open political debate (see, mutatis mutandis, Huseynli and Others v. Azerbaijan, nos. 67360/11 and 2 others, § 99, 11 February 2016; Süleyman Çelebi and Others v. Turkey, nos. 37273/10 and 17 others, § 134, 24 May 2016; Kasparov and Others v. Russia (no. 2), no. 51988/07, § 32, 13 December 2016; and Işıkırık, cited above, § 69).
In the light of the aforementioned considerations, the Court concludes that Article 220 § 7 of the Criminal Code was not “foreseeable” in its application since it did not afford the applicant the legal protection against arbitrary interference with his right under Article 11 of the Convention (see Ahmet Yıldırım v. Turkey, no. 3111/10, § 67, ECHR 2012, and Işıkırık, cited above, § 70). Hence, the interference resulting from the application of Article 220 § 7 was not prescribed by law. 



Categories: Opinion, Reports, Today in Crackdown

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