ALERT/ Constitutional Referendum in Turkey

Alerts, Shrinking Space for Civil Society, Turkey

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This Sunday 16 April, Turkey’s constitutional reform was adopted by referendum by a narrow margin. EuroMed Rights shares the OSCE’s concerns that the consultations took place on “an unlevel playing field” [1] and urges Turkish authorities to shed light on allegations of fraud.

As revealed by the observatory mission on the ground, “voters were not provided with impartial information about the key aspects of the reform”. Moreover, under the State of Emergency put in place after the July 2016 failed coup attempt, fundamental freedoms such as freedom of expression, media, and freedom association and assembly were heavily curtailed [2]. In a climate of intimidation and fear, civil society organisations and independent media were muzzled and prevented from participating to the debates before the referendum, hundreds of them were closed down and thousands of people holding dissenting views detained or submitted to judicial harassment. As a consequence, voters in Turkey were not offered a plurality of views.

EuroMed Rights also fears that the constitutional reform will further undermine human rights and democracy in Turkey. As recently stated by the Council of Europe Venice Commission for Democracy through Law [3], the reform will put an end to the independence of the judiciary and the counter-power of the Parliament, by concentrating all powers in the hands on the President. In this context, the renewal of the state of emergency on 19 April announces further shrinking space for dissenting voices and civil society.

EuroMed Rights calls on Turkish authorities to respect their international obligations, upholding democracy, the rule of law and universal human rights principles. In particular, Turkey needs to stop all measures of judicial and administrative harassment against human rights defenders and independent civil society. We also call on the EU, the Council of Europe and the United Nations to make it very clear that they stand on the side of human rights, defending democracy and pluralism.

Read our letter to the EU on the extension of Turkey’s state of emergency in a context of grave human rights violations.


[1] For more information, read the statement of preliminary findings and conclusions by the OSCE
[2] Our member organisation, Human Rights Association (İHD) launched its annual report (Turkish) for 2016. The figures of human rights violations can be accessed here.
[3] Read as well the Opinion on the constitutional amendments by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe.