Turkish Parliament to Consider New Protest Laws

davutoglu Photo Credit: World Bulletin

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu announced that the Turkish government will introduce a bill in parliament which would give law enforcement greater powers over protests. The introduction of the bill will follow violent clashes between pro-Kurdish protesters and police that killed more than 35 people across Turkey. Prime Minister Davutoglu said one goal of the bill is to enable law enforcement to respond to “massive acts of violence” more rapidly and efficiently.

The security reforms include harsher punishments for possession of “instruments of assault” such as Molotov cocktails and a ban on protesters covering their faces. They also define calls for violence on social media as criminal acts. In addition to broader powers, Davutoglu described the democratic controls included in the bill, such as a 17 member “watchdog” committee composed of members of parliament, which will review and evaluate police actions. Davutoglu said that the reform framework was drafted “in compliance with the European Union standards in order to keep the balance between freedoms and restrictions.”

Gunal Kursun, a professor of penal law at Cukurova University, expressed concern over Turkey’s increasing security restrictions. Unlike in established democracies, where rule of law and transparency are well grounded, “the rule of law has lost much of its meaning in Turkey; [Turkey] is turning more and more into a police state.”

When asked to comment on the introduction of the reform bill to the Turkish parliament, U.S. State Department spokesperson, Marie Harf, said the U.S. has “looked to Turkey to uphold fundamental freedoms of expression, of assembly, including the right to peacefully protest.” She added that although she did not have the full details on the bill and its implications, that the U.S. has “made it clear in the past [it] remains concerned about due process and effective access to justice in Turkey.”

These security reforms are part of a wider Turkish legislative initiative to set the country on course for establishing “New Turkey.” Davutoglu has instructed all government institutions to meet with him to determine necessary reforms, including regulations to aid the disabled, elderly, and sick in legal proceedings, improvements to workplace safety regulations, and broader consumer rights protections.