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Accueil » ISJPS - Institut des Sciences Juridique et Philosophique de la Sorbonne - (UMR 8103) » Publications » BLOG » Blog de droit constitutionnel

Blog de droit constitutionnel

WHAT’S GOING ON IN TURKEY? The point of view of Saeed Bagheri

 

À 48 heures d’un référendum autant historique pour les institutions turques qu’à haut risque pour le régime de Recep TAYYIP ERDOGAN, le Blog de l’ISJPS a eu l’opportunité d’interroger M. Saeed BAGHERI, assistant-professeur à l’Université d'Akdeniz et docteur en droit international public. Pour le Blog, il nous présente la situation juridique en Turquie, installée depuis plusieurs mois dans un contexte d’état d’urgence.

 

1) Dear M. Saeed Bagheri, could you please introduce yourself? What is your professional background? Which position do you held at the University? Are you still living and on duty in Turkey? Are you not afraid to speak up?

 

I was born in Azerbaijai region of Iran on February 1983. I left my home country in 2010. After completing my primary and secondary education, I enrolled as a Law student in the Law Faculty of the Azad University of Tabriz, Iran (2001). After earning my Bachelor of Law in 2005, I entered Allameh Tabatabei University Faculty of Law and Political Sciences in 2006 as a master student of Human Rights Law in 2009. I moved to Turkey in 2010 to continue my studies at the Faculty of Law of Ankara University. After 4 years of study in Public Law, I earned my Doctorate of Philosophy (PhD in Public Law, Department of International Law) in 2015. My PhD thesis was titled International Humanitarian Law and Nuclear Weapons and was published in Ankara, Turkey.

 

I’m currently living and working in Turkey as an Assistant Professor of International Law at Akdeniz University Faculty of Law (2015-2017).

 

As in answer to the question if I am afraid to speak up I would say of course I am. After all, the recent year was marked by suspension or firing of academicians who have spoken their minds.

 

2) What's going on in Turkey?

 

I believe the Turkish version of switching to a presidential system is clearly going to be one of a kind. This means that nobody really knows how far Erdogan will extend his powers. But, it’s very probable that he extends his powers as far as he can once the presidential system is put into practice. However, considering Turkey’s national and foreign issues, it’s also vague how the regional and international dynamics will interact with a Turkish presidential system. Therefore, the panoramic image of a Turkish presidential system is somewhat blurry. Legal-wise, the process until and after the April 16 referendum in Turkey seems to be a sword sharp on both ends.

 

3) You have recently published an article at the Oxford Human Rights Hub Blog where you briefly sketch the global legal context in which the so-called “Turkish State of Emergency” takes place. From a strict legal point of view, will you say that the actual measures derogating from Fundamental Human Rights taken by the Turkish authorities are conforms to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR)?

 

Not exactly! If you analyze the article in detail, you will sense that the precautions taken by the Turkish authorities during the continuing state of emergency in the country were not in compliance with the spirit of the ICCPR and ECHR to which Turkey is a party. Namely, there are certain human rights and freedoms that customarily are recognized as non-derogable rights which cannot be taken away even in a State of emergency. Substantially, the rights to freedom of thought, freedom from arbitrary deprivation of liberty, and freedom from torture and inhuman treatment or punishment are the fundamental rights that no State has a legal basis for refusing under any conditions.

 

4) Could you present more precisely the legal basis on which the administration of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan proceeds to dismiss academics? Could you give us examples of academics statements which have been linked to “terrorist activities” by the Turkish administration?

 

Actually, dismissing academics is on the basis of the over-broad definition of “terrorism” in which any academic who criticizes the government’s policies was recognized as a terrorist. Herewith, it seems, the failed coup on 15 July 2016 was an opportunity for the Turkish administration to take away opponents and critics in the country. Doubtless, such attitude has no legal basis. For instance, in my “Basic Concepts of International Law” course, one of the topics to be taught was human rights. As an example, I had put forward the civilians’ human rights in southeast Turkey as a relevant case to be discussed in the class. Before I even mentioned my idea on this issue, only for opening up such a discussion, I was summoned by the head of the department and dean of the faculty and put under informal interrogation. Later the decision on the extension of my contract with the university was bound to this unclear suspicion and they finally decided not to extend my contract for the next semester.

 

5) The Constitutional Amendment Bill Number 6771 of January 21, 2017 has been submitted for a referendum and will be put to a vote on April 16. If it’s adopted, it should thoroughly change the Turkish governmental system in a Presidential system to which an important majority of the Turkish constitutional law doctrine has still been fiercely opposed. Could you present the key passages from the Amendment? How high are the stakes for the future of Turkey?

 

The constitutional amendments accepted by the Parliamentary Constitutional Committee include 21 articles, but I just want to underline some important lines here. According to the new constitution, number of the seats in the Parliament is raised from 550 to 600; age requirement to stand as a candidate in an election to be lowered from 25 to 18; in order to overcome a presidential veto, the Parliament needs to adopt the same bill with an absolute majority (301); president gets power to create States. More importantly, in Article 116(2), the president can decide to renew elections. This means that the president will be able to dissolve the parliament by himself.

 

Actually, the main objective of these amendments is to persuade people to accept and vote for transition from modern Turkish nation-state system —which had been established after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire as the Republic of Turkey— to a presidential system. In this respect, we need to pay attention that it is not the same as the United States’ because the presidential system in the United States has been established in the result of the transition from a federative system to presidential system. To be clear, the transition to a presidential system in the nation states will lead to the federation. Insomuch that, the autonomy discussions are beginning of such procedures which are now the main problem of Turkey in the southeast of the country. In other words, within the presidential systems creating autonomous regions in different regions of the country which will later make the independence of these regions inevitable! As far as my knowledge on the Turkish society and the current situation in the country allows, I can say that this is not a thing that Turkish people desire in majority.

 

6) The Turkish judiciary was actively involved in the judicial harassment of academics, journalists, members of parliament and ordinary citizens. After this deep erosion of the independence and impartiality of judges what can we except from Turkish courts? Do you think that Turkish judiciary could one-day recover it’s integrity?

 

If you have followed the events after the failed coup you should have noticed that ​a large segment of the Turkish judges, especially members of Turkey's Supreme Court were suspended in the result of the coup attempt. All of them were experienced members of the Turkish courts. This looks more like a judicial cleansing which led to a big gap in the Turkish judiciary. In such a case, the Turkish administration is currently trying to fill this gap by employing the youngest and the most inexperienced judges who have graduated recently. For instance, two of my master students in the “International Protection of Human Rights” course who generally don’t participate in the courses, expressed that they have coercively been appointed as judges in the courts before completing their internship period or without any respective training. This means that the majority of the current Turkish judges are individuals that work in line with the government’s policies.

Actually, this cleansing was done to show that anyone who opposes or acts outside the instructions of the authority will be excluded from the judiciary system. This fear is from the kind that binds one’s career and in broader terms can haunt one’s life. Therefore, it is hard to overcome; especially if it is inflicted on a young generation of judiciary raised by the very same system. As a result, even if the judicial system in Turkey gets the chance to regain its solidarity it is going to take a long time.

 

7) How the protest is taking place in Turkey? Could you tell us more about the “Street Academy” set up by fired academics?

 

Academics suspended or dismissed under Turkey’s state of emergency have lunched a Street Academy as a reaction to restricting scientific outputs across the country. The Street Academy was held as workshops including different topics such as hegemony, counter-hegemony, heroic intervention at different places each week. Actually, the academy is under pressure in the country, because academics and scholars who scientifically evaluate the genuine dimensions of the government’s policies are not able to do so safely. They cannot speak and write! Like me!

 

However, I would like to emphasize that in any country protests against the existing administration must be rooted and targeted. Otherwise, any weak and untargeted protests will not achieve any efficient results. Today in Turkey, regardless of the continuing weak protests such as the Street Academy, it could be emphatically said that there is no grave and targeted protest against the existing administration. In the current phase, a large segment of the Turkish society believes that terrorism, insecurity, instability, economic crisis, inflation, unemployment, discrimination against ethnic minorities and ethnic and religious groups and briefly all human rights violations will be ended in the country. Therefore, most probably the presidential system in the April referendum will be realized with a large participation. Whether presidential system gains legality and legitimacy or not, considering the atrocities and fundamental abuses of human rights against all of whom criticize the government’s policies, it cab be emphatically said that there will be no significant change in the current conditions in the country.



Entretien réalisé par Marie Gren, Brice Laniyan et Thibaud Mulier

 


Pour citer l’article : BAGHERI Saeed, GREN Marie, LANIYAN Brice, MULIER Thibaud, « What’s going on in Turkey? The point of view of Saeed Bagheri », Blog de droit constitutionnel de l’ISJPS, 15 avril 2017, www.univ-paris1.fr/unites-de-recherche/isjps/blog-de-lisjps/blog-de-droit-constitutionnel/.