22. 7. 2016

Derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights by Turkey after the attempted coup


After the unsuccessful coup attempt in Turkey, high-level officials,including the president have constantly talked about the necessity of the introduction of a state of emergency, which has been declared on 20th July. At the same time, the president has also mentioned the “suspension” of the European Convention on Human Rights. What does this exactly mean, what are the effects and consequences of this step?

Even before the declaration was made, the removal or the suspension of thousands of civil servants, soldiers, and even university staff for suspected complicity in the attempted coup has drawn strong criticism and caused serious concerns of human rights nature, so this political step was not welcomed by many. Obviously, president Erdogan argued that the extra powers provided by the state of emergency are needed to protect democracy in Turkey, rejecting criticism by some European leaders and various human rights groups. Critics have targeted the purge of state institutions, and also the more and more intense talks and calls by the pro-government public opinion to reinstate the death penalty (we have covered this issue in the previous International Law Reflection). At the same time declared that he wants to “suspend the European Convention on Human Rights”, the fundamental human rights treaty of the Council of Europe, of which Turkeyis a founding member. The use of the word “suspension” has immediately caused confusion, analysts and political actors as well trying to figure out the intent behind the wording. A complete pullout? First step of seriously trying to reinstate the death penalty?

On 21 July, six days after the coup, and one day after the idea of has been introduced by the president, the Turkish government has finally clarified its position, and has informed the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, about the decision that it applies a derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights, according to its Article 15.