In his role as a Turkish monitor on behalf of the Council of Europe John and fellow rapporteurs have expressed their deep concern about possible new restrictions which could be imposed on NGOs. A proposed new piece of legislation to be introduced in Turkey would be another step towards a more restrictive environment for activities of civil society groups, adding to the new crackdown on civil dissent which has already been condemned by the Assembly.
John joined his fellow PACE monitors for Turkey, Thomas Hammarberg (Sweden, SOC) and Alexandra Louis (France, ALDE), in jointly expressing their deep concern about the possible new restrictions:
“We are very concerned to learn that a bill aimed at fighting money laundering currently examined by the parliament could eventually further reduce the space allocated for NGOs. This law could result in “temporary suspensions” of NGO leaders facing terror-related investigations and their replacement by government-appointed trustees, as well as more controls imposed on NGOs' fundraising activities and donations from foreign countries”.
“This new piece of legislation would be another step towards a more restrictive environment for activities of civil society groups, adding to the new crackdown on civil dissent condemned by the Assembly in its Resolution 2347 (2020) and previous measures introduced in 2020 – including the obligation for NGOs to inform the authorities of the names of their members”,
“We expect the Turkish authorities to refrain from the practice of appointing trustees in the media and municipalities, which result in permanent changes of leadership and policies. This clearly goes against European democratic standards, as highlighted by the Venice Commission in its opinion of June 2020 on the replacement of elected candidates and mayors.
We therefore urge the Turkish parliament to refrain from any hasty adoption of this legislation and to carefully ensure, during the legislative process, its compliance with Council of Europe standards to avoid considerable damaging and chilling effects on civil society organisations. If adopted, the law in question would jeopardise NGOs and further undermine the foundations of the democratic functioning of Turkish society”
On 23rd October The Assembly adopted Resolution 2347 (2020) on New crackdown on political opposition and civil dissent in Turkey: urgent need to safeguard Council of Europe standards and in January will debate the report adopted on 8th December by the Legal affairs committee on Restrictions on NGO activities in Council of Europe member States.