“Turkey will suspend the European convention on human rights insofar as it does not conflict with its international obligations,” the deputy prime minister, Numan Kurtulmus, was quoted as saying by the state-run Anadolu news agency.
The three-month state of emergency, approved by parliament on Thursday, will allow the government to rule by decree, passing bills that have the force of the rule of law unless they are overturned by parliament, where the majority of MPs belong to the ruling Justice and Development party.
Turkish officials insisted the lives and freedoms of citizens would not be affected, and that western powers such as France had recently taken similar measures. But concerns have mounted among both opponents and allies that the move will further consolidate President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s power.
Kurtulmus said Turkey would take the step “just like France has done under article 15 of the convention”, which allows signatory states to derogate certain rights during times of war or major public emergency.
Article 15 and other international rights treaties allow governments to restrict certain rights, including freedom of movement, expression and association during states of emergency. However, the article stipulates that measures must be strictly proportionate and not discriminate against people based on ethnicity, religion or social group.
A purge of state institutions has seen thousands of people detained, suspended or fired from their jobs over alleged links to the Hizmet movement of Fethullah Gülen, a US-based exiled cleric whom Erdoğan accuses of masterminding the coup attempt.
The Council of Europe in Strasbourg, which oversees the European convention on human rights, confirmed that Turkey has formally notified the organisation’s secretary general that it is declaring a state of emergency under article 15 of the treaty.
In doing so Turkey is using existing provisions within the convention as France has recently done in response to the wave of terrorism it has faced. That formal move is therefore unlikely of itself to provoke a storm of international protest.
Human rights groups, however, will be watching closely how Erdoğan interprets the legal freedoms he believes he has gained. Turkey, along with Russia, is one of the countries most frequently found by the European court of human rights to have violated the convention.
The emergency provisions under Article 15 cannot, however, be used retrospectively to justify any action before the declaration was made. Nor do the emergency provisions allow for the right to a fair trial to be suspended or the prohibition on torture to be lifted.
A spokesman for the Council of Europe told the Guardian: “What’s important is that Turkey has to keep the secretary general of the council informed of developments during the state of emergency. Strictly speaking, they have to inform us what parts of the convention will be affected.”
Erdoğan announced the state of emergency late on Wednesday evening following marathon sessions with top military and cabinet officials.
“The aim of the declaration of the state of emergency is to be able to take fast and effective steps against this threat against democracy, the rule of law and rights and freedoms of our citizens,” Erdoğan said at a press conference on Wednesday night.
Can Dündar, the editor of the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet, said the emergency state meant Turkey now had “an oppressive regime where the law and liberties will be suspended, press will be censored, and the parliament eliminated”.
Germany’s foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, urged the Turkish government to maintain both the rule of law and a sense of proportion in its response to the coup attempt.
“Only provable involvement in illegal acts, not suspected political leanings, should trigger governmental action,” Steinmeier said. “It’s also critical that the declaration of emergency be the truly necessary length of time, and to end the measure as quickly as possible.”
Tanks and fighter jets commandeered by elite military troops rolled out into the streets of Ankara and Istanbul during the attempted putsch. More than 200 people were killed and thousands were wounded in the violence and Erdoğan narrowly escaped being detained at the holiday resort of Marmaris.
The government said it had arrested another soldier involved in the Marmaris raid, which occurred 20 minutes after Erdoğan had left the residence.
The Turkish leader has been accused of increasing authoritarianism in recent years,appointing loyalists to the bureaucracy, closing or prosecuting opposition media outlets and failing to crack down on corruption.
Author: Kareem Shaheen, Owen Bowcott