Turkey: “maintaining the rule of law, restraint and a sense of proportionality” Turkey

21.07.2016 - Article

Government response following failed coup is “far beyond any reasonable level”.

The failed coup in Istanbul and Ankara has been followed by a wave of arrests, dismissals and suspensions. President Erdogan declared a three‑month state of emergency on 20 July. Foreign Minister Steinmeier emphasised that the rule of law, restraint and a sense of proportionality must be maintained as the necessary investigations into the attempted coup are carried out. The Turkish Government’s response was, “however, far beyond any reasonable level,” he said.

Attempted coup in Ankara and Istanbul

Sections of the military attempted to overthrow the Government in Istanbul and Ankara (file photo).
Sections of the military attempted to overthrow the Government in Istanbul and Ankara (file photo).© Thomas Imo/photothek.net

In the late hours of 15 July, sections of the military attempted to overthrow the Turkish Government in Istanbul and Ankara and to seize power in the country. The attempted coup failed, and the people quickly took to the streets to oppose the military. All parties in the Turkish Parliament had previously condemned the attempted coup and called on their supporters to join demonstrations. The coup collapsed. Nevertheless, more than 200 people were killed and over 1000 injured.

Foreign Minister Frank‑Walter Steinmeier released a statement while the attempted coup was still under way and called for the constitutional order in Turkey to be respected: “We are deeply concerned about the recent developments in Turkey. I condemn in the strongest possible terms any attempt to use violent means to change Turkey’s democratic foundations.”

Wave of arrests and suspensions

In an interview he gave to the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper on Friday (29 July), Steinmeier said it almost seemed as if Turkey had managed to avoid falling into the abyss but was now headed towards a serious internal crisis. Immediately after the attempted overthrow of the Government, a wave of arrests, dismissals and suspensions began as part of the investigations into its circumstances, targeting alleged supporters of the coup in the political arena, state institutions, NGOs and the media. It is still ongoing.

Thousands of judges and tens of thousands of civil servants and teachers have been removed from their posts. Journalists have also been subject to a wave of arrests. Thousands of schools and other educational establishments have been closed without there being, as the German Foreign Minister put it, “any direct discernible link to the coup”. Academics have been banned from travel out of the country.

Reintroduction of death penalty would be a step backwards

Foreign Minister Steinmeier speaks to the press (file photo).
Foreign Minister Steinmeier speaks to the press (file photo).© Michael Gottschalk/photothek.net

There is also a debate about reintroducing capital punishment. As the German Foreign Minister made clear, this would be “a huge step backwards”. Turkey, he insisted, must uphold both its own standards and its international obligations. “We expect it to adhere to the rule‑of‑law levels it has achieved,” Steinmeier said. In this context, Steinmeier also spoke clearly about Turkey’s accession negotiations with the EU: “This would answer the question on continuing the accession process.”

The Turkish Government’s response to the attempted coup is being viewed with concern throughout Europe. It was important, the Foreign Minister said, that all those involved remain aware of their major responsibility for Turkish democracy and its constitutional order and that “all rule‑of‑law principles be respected in the judicial follow‑up which is now needed”.

Interview with Foreign Minister Steinmeier for the Passauer Neue Presse newspaper (29 July 2016)

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