Against the backdrop of the ongoing removal from office and detention of democratically elected mayors in Turkey, including the mayor of Batman, Dr Mehmet Demir, Bärbel Kofler, Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights Policy and Humanitarian Assistance at the Federal Foreign Office, issued the following statement today (25 March):
The removal from office of eight further democratically elected mayors in Turkey concerns me greatly. In similar cases in the past, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, has found clear indications of political motives behind the dismissals. However, criminal justice proceedings are never a legitimate means of achieving political objectives. I would like to strongly remind Turkey of its responsibility to comply with the principles of rule of law and human rights in accordance with its international obligations.
I look back on a conversation I had with Dr Demir at the Bundestag in November and, with this in mind, I urge Turkey not to close down social projects promoting and upholding women’s rights, such as women’s education centres or women’s shelters, as it did when the provinces of southeastern Turkey were most recently placed under forced administration.
Since August 2019, several mayors who were democratically elected in the Turkish municipal elections on 31 March 2019 have been removed from office, particularly in southeastern Turkey. On 23 March 2020, the mayors of the following municipalities were compelled to step down: Batman, Silvan, Lice, Ergani, Egil, Güroymak, Halfeli and Gökçebağ. Some of the ousted mayors are currently in prison. The accusation of support for terrorist organisations has been used to justify these removals from office.