UN experts urge Turkey to adhere to its human rights obligations

A group of United Nations human rights experts urged the Turkish Government to uphold its obligations under international human rights law, even in the current time of declared emergency following an attempted coup.

The experts’ call comes as Turkey’s invocation of Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) enters into effect, following the Government’s proclamation of a state of emergency. The derogation provision in Article 4 allows States to temporarily relax some of their obligations under the Covenant under certain narrow conditions. Turkey signed the ICCPR in 2000 and ratified it in 2003.

“The invocation of Article 4 is lawful only if there is a threat to the life of the nation, a condition that arguably is not met in this case”, the experts noted. “Even in situations that meet this high threshold, Article 4 establishes limits to how much a state may deviate from its obligations under the Covenant”, they added.

“One cannot avoid, even in times of emergency, obligations to protect the right to life, prohibit torture, adhere to fundamental elements of due process and non-discrimination, and protect everyone’s right to belief and opinion,” the experts underscored.

“The derogation provision under Article 4 does not give a carte blanche to ignore all obligations under the ICCPR,” the experts said. “Even where derogation is permitted, the Government has a legal obligation to limit such measures to those that are strictly required by the needs of the situation.”

Since the attempted coup on 15 July, and in particular since the declaration of state of emergency on 20 July, Turkish society has seen an escalation of detentions and purges, in particular in the education, media, military and justice sectors.

In addition, allegations of torture and poor detention conditions have been raised following legislative provisions that enable wide and indiscriminate administrative powers that affect core human rights.

“While we understand the sense of crisis in Turkey,” the experts said, “we are concerned that the Government’s steps to limit a broad range of human rights guarantees go beyond what can be justified in light of the current situation”.

In recent statements, UN human rights experts have urged the Turkish Government to uphold the rule of law in time of crisis, voicing their concern about the use of emergency measures to target dissent and criticism.

“Turkey is going through a critical period. Derogation measures must not be used in a way that will push the country deeper into crisis,” the experts stressed.

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