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Rapporteurs urge Turkish parliament not to adopt new restrictions on NGOs

NGO assistance

PACE monitors for Turkey Thomas Hammarberg (Sweden, SOC) and John Howell (United Kingdom, EC/DA) and Alexandra Louis (France, ALDE), PACE rapporteur on Restrictions on NGO activities in Council of Europe member States, expressed their deep concern about possible new restrictions which could be imposed on NGOs.

“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”, the PACE rapporteurs said.

“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, the co-rapporteurs for the monitoring of Turkey said.

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” the three rapporteurs concluded.

The Assembly adopted on 23 October Resolution 2347 (2020) on New crackdown on political opposition and civil dissent in Turkey: urgent need to safeguard Council of Europe standards and will debate, on 26 January 2021 the report adopted on 8 December 2020 by the Legal affairs committee on Restrictions