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Non-Discrimination, Minority Rights and Self-Determination: Turkey’s Post-Coup State of Emergency and the Position of Turkey’s Kurds

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Human Rights in Turkey

Part of the book series: Philosophy and Politics - Critical Explorations ((PPCE,volume 15))

Abstract

States of emergency are often declared due to underlying problems of minority group accommodation, and the extraordinary limitation of rights arising from them tends to have a particularly striking effect on such groups. This was true, for instance, with the emergency measures adopted by the British authorities in the context of the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. The same appears true in respect of the Turkish state of emergency in the aftermath of the failed military coup of 15 July 2016 vis-à-vis the position of Turkey’s Kurds. In spite of the fact that the declaration of the state of emergency constituted a response to an attempted coup which was, allegedly, orchestrated by the Gülen Movement, it is clear that the resulting derogating measures have also targeted ‘other individuals and organizations’, mainly those allegedly connected to the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party), and thus extended to Turkey’s Kurdish periphery. This chapter seeks to map the impact of the Turkish post-coup derogation measures on Turkey’s Kurds and to test them against the non-discrimination principle, minority rights, and the right of self-determination.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    See, Turkey, Derogation to the Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms Notification (ETS No.5), JJ8187C Tr./005–191, 22 July 2016.

  2. 2.

    See, Turkey, Notification under Article 4(3) of International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, C.N.580.2016.Treaties-iv.4, 2 August 2016.

  3. 3.

    See, Turkey, Derogation to the Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms Notification (ETS No.5), JJ8719C Tr./005–223, 8 August 2018.

  4. 4.

    The PKK and Da’esh are the only ‘other terrorist organizations’ mentioned by name in the Turkish Government’s Memorandum to the Venice Commission. See, Turkey, ‘Memorandum prepared by the Ministry of Justice of Turkey for the visit of the delegation of the Venice Commission to Ankara on 3 and 4 November 2016 in connection with the emergency decree laws’, CDL-REF (2016)067, 23 November 2016.

  5. 5.

    Despite its lack of a minority rights provision, the ECHR is not completely blind to questions of minority group protection and does, to a limited extent, engage with them indirectly.

  6. 6.

    There is an emerging literature on the Turkish state of emergency in the aftermath of the 15 July coup attempt and the post-coup emergency measures. The existing scholarship has so far focused on the legality of the collective dismissals of thousands of public servants from the perspective of ECHR law (see, Ruys and Turkut 2018); on the use of exceptional national security and emergency powers in the fight against terrorism in Turkey (see, Turkut 2019); on the question whether the Turkish failed coup could be regarded as an ‘emergency that threatens the life of a nation’ under Article 4 ICCPR and Article 15 ECHR (see, Nugraha 2018); on the legitimacy and proportionality of Turkey’s post-coup derogation (See, Altiparmak and Gürol 2019); and on the perceptions of the victims of human rights violation during the post-coup crackdown (see, Aydin and Avincan 2020). Finally, for a comparative analysis in the context the recent declarations of state of emergencies by Ukraine, France, and Turkey, see Mariniello 2019.

  7. 7.

    See, Turkey, Derogation to the Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms Notification (ETS No.5), JJ8190C Tr./005–192, 25 July 2016.

  8. 8.

    The exception concerns the European Commission on Human Rights’ rejection of the claim by the Greek “Colonel’s regime” that a state of emergency existed that justified its having taken certain measures following the 1967 military coup that had brought it to power.

  9. 9.

    In June 2007, the Turkish Armed Forces announced via their website that ‘temporary security zones’ would be formed in three Kurdish provinces: Şırnak, Siirt and Hakkari. Since then, many additional areas have been declared as provisional security zones. The Law on Prohibited Military Zones and Security Zones No. 2565 provided the legal basis of ‘temporary security zones’. The Law No. 2565 was adopted on 18 December 1981 by the 12 September military regime and it still remains in effect. When the PKK announced to end the cease-fire in July 2015, a total of 37 areas had become ‘temporary security zones’ in Turkey’s east and southeast. The declaration of such zones enables the military to effectively occupy the area and exercise powers similar to those, which existed under the state of emergency regimes. It has been argued, however, that since then a de facto state of emergency has continued to exist in a legally dubious form and substance in the context of ‘temporary security zones’. Thus, despite a de jure revocation in 2002, a de facto exceptional regime has continued to raise the spectre of past emergency rule in Turkey’s southeast. See also Yıldız and Breau 2010, 22 and KHRP 2008, 14.

  10. 10.

    “According to official figures related to Sur, for example, 22,000 persons were displaced for 50 terrorists rendered ineffective; a ratio of 440.” See, Memorandum on the Human Rights Implications of Anti-Terrorism Operations in South-Eastern Turkey, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Comm.DH (2016) 39, 2 December 2016, para.28.

  11. 11.

    Many lower level public servants, such as schoolteachers, not mentioned in the appended lists of Decrees, have been dismissed by decisions of the relevant administrative entities and judicial bodies. As envisaged in Article 4(1) of Decree no.667, these dismissals take place “upon the proposal of the commission to be established by the minister in the relevant ministries and with the approval of the Minister.”

  12. 12.

    See i.a. Orsus and others v Coratia ([2010] para. 149) in which the European Court held that “very weighty reasons would have to be put forward before the Court could regard a difference of treatment based exclusively on the ground of ethnic origin as compatible with the Convention”.

  13. 13.

    It is of great significance to note that in many cases before the ECtHR where the Kurds alleged discrimination, they mostly based those claims on grounds of ethnic origin, rather than of being member of a national minority. See, Kurban and Gülalp 2013, 170.

  14. 14.

    The Canadian Supreme Court notes that internal self-determination, understood as “a people’s pursuit of its political, economic, social and cultural development within the framework of an existing state”, is the usual way in which the right of self-determination is fulfilled. See, Reference re Secession of Quebec [1998] 2 R.C.S., para. 126.

  15. 15.

    Recent scholarship argues convincingly that there is no direct right to autonomy under international law, see Nam and Fessha 2018, 530.

  16. 16.

    Given the fact that roughly half of Turkey’s Kurds do not live in the southeast, territorial autonomy arguably has to be complemented with some form of cultural autonomy.

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Turkut, E., Phillips, T. (2021). Non-Discrimination, Minority Rights and Self-Determination: Turkey’s Post-Coup State of Emergency and the Position of Turkey’s Kurds. In: Aydin, H., Langley, W. (eds) Human Rights in Turkey. Philosophy and Politics - Critical Explorations, vol 15. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-57476-5_5

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