Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan

Erdoğan announces new democratic reforms in Turkey

The plan includes numerous democratic and judicial reforms in Turkey for the next 2 years, to strengthen individual rights and freedoms.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced today his long-awaited Human Rights Action Plan that intends to introduce over the next two years and until 2023 – coinciding with the first centenary of the Republic – several democratic and judicial reforms in Turkey, for the preparation of which the Turkish president says that social organisations have participated and reports from international organizations responsible for monitoring human rights have been taken into account.

“(This plan) has 11 principles, the first of which is the fact that human rights are under the protection of the law,” said Erdoğan when presenting the plan, which he stressed will strengthen the rights to freedom of expression and organisation in Turkey, as well as judicial rights. “The Action Plan on Human Rights that we announce today is proof of our unwavering resolve to make changes and reforms,” ​​he underlined.

The ultimate objective of the plan would be, according to the Turkish president, the elaboration of a new civil constitution for Turkey. “There is no doubt that the constitution has a key and fundamental role for the implementation of the actions foreseen in the plan. Therefore, the ultimate objective of this action plan is a new civil constitution,” insisted Erdoğan, who placed special emphasis on the importance of understanding the rule of law based on respect for human rights.

A plan with 9 objectives

The plan proposes a total of 9 objectives: a stronger system for the protection of human rights; strengthen judicial independence and the right to a fair trial; predictability and legal transparency; protection and promotion of freedoms of expression, association and religion; and the strengthening of personal liberty and security.

The safeguarding of the physical and moral integrity and the private life of the individual are also set as objectives, as well as a more effective protection of the right to property, the protection of vulnerable groups and the strengthening of social welfare, and raise awareness at the social level and in senior administrations on human rights.

More efforts to align Turkish legislation with the EU

Erdoğan also assured that the government will redouble its efforts to adapt Turkish legislation to that of the European Union, especially regarding compliance with the requirements for visa liberalisation, which will allow Turkish citizens to move freely around the Schengen area. Legal amendments will also be introduced in line with the EU regulations on the control of Foreign Direct Investment.

As explained by the President of the Republic, the government also wants to increase the effectiveness of individual applications before the Constitutional Court of Turkey, and an important effort will be carried out “to amend the law on political parties and the electoral law with the aim of strengthen democratic participation”. Furthermore, in order to improve their effectiveness, the decisions of the Office of the Ombudsman and the Office of Human Rights and Equality will be made public.

The plan also expands the powers of the appeal courts, while the predictability and transparency of the actions and decisions of the State Administration will be strengthened, reducing the time limit in which the Administration must respond to the requests from 60 to 30 days, according to Erdoğan. Laws will also be introduced so that public and private sector workers and students can have days off during their religious holidays, regardless of their faith.

The Turkish government will also establish an independent Human Rights Control Commission for Criminal Institutions and with the participation of representatives of legal associations, social organisations and universities, in order to guarantee compliance with human rights in the management and control of prisons.

Guarantees to freedom of expression, assembly and demonstration

The President of Turkey also explained that current legislation and application of laws will be reviewed to ensure that freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and freedom of demonstration are protected as widely as possible; in addition, judges, prosecutors and public security forces will receive periodic training to ensure that criticism and opinions that do not violate individual rights are not pursued.

“We are going to review the legislation and its application with the aim of broadly guaranteeing freedom of expression, as well as the right to assemble and attend protests and demonstrations,” said Erdoğan, saying that no one can be deprived of liberty for the simple fact of criticise or express their opinions or ideas.

Fewer arrests and more judicial guarantees

In this regard, the Plan of Action on Human Rights emphasises that detention is an exceptional measure, since it makes the finding of “concrete evidence” classified as a crime as a condition for carrying it out; a vertical appeal procedure is also introduced with respect to the decisions of the courts on arrests and other measures.

Practices such as detaining a person outside of working hours or in the middle of the night in a hotel room for the sole purpose of obtaining a confession or statement are also ended, and limitations that to disciplinary investigations within the security forces regarding accusations of torture are also supressed.

Last but not least, the action plan announced today by Erdoğan, which will introduce major new democratic and judicial reforms in Turkey over the next two years, also aims to increase the standards of freedom of expression and press freedom, developing new measures and a legal framework to facilitate the professional activity of journalists.