ABDULLAH – Turkey violates European Social Charter

Turkey violates European Social CharterI wonder whether any of the participants at the high-level conference on social rights organized by the Italian presidency of the European Union in cooperation with the Council of Europe to be held at Turin’s Teatro Regio on Oct. 17-18 will dare to raise the massive infringements on the rights of civil service employees in Turkey committed by the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip ErdoIan.

In case the unprecedented reshuffling and purging of public employees with no regard for the due process guaranteed in the law might be overlooked in a member state, let me explain how profoundly corrupt politicians in the political Islamist government in Turkey have manifestly violated the articles of the European Social Charter In fact, one of the main reasons why Turkish society is experiencing deep social divisions and polarization stems from the ErdoIan government’s trampling of the rights of civil servants in order to derail substantive criminal investigations involving senior government officials and their close associates.Article 1 of the European Social Charter prohibits all forms of discrimination, direct or indirect, in employment on the grounds of sex, race, ethnic origin, religion, disability, age, sexual orientation or political opinion.

These protections are intimately linked to other articles in the charter such as Article 20, which emphasizes the right to equal opportunities and equal treatment in matters of employment.Yet the massive and illegal profiling conducted by the ErdoIan government on unsuspecting citizens based on their ethnic, religious or ideological affiliations exposed by investigative reporter Mehmet Baransu, who published confidential documents on the subject in the liberal Taraf daily, revealed how the government denies public sector jobs to people who are affiliated with opposition political parties or who belong to minority groups, such as Alevis or members of the faith-based social movement called Hizmet, which is active in education, social work and interfaithintercultural dialogue.

Article 4 of the charter ensures the effective exercise of the right to fair remuneration in terms of respecting the right of all workers to a reasonable period of notice of the termination of their employment. Yet, again, the ErdoIan government purged law enforcement officials, including numerous police chiefs, who were involved in investigating government corruption, acting on the orders of the prosecutor’s office, just as they were supposed to as defined in their very job description.

Almost all have clean disciplinary records, and in fact many were cited in the past for their commendable work in dismantling criminal enterprises. But the purge was not limited to the police, of course.

Many civil servants working in other branches of government have also felt the effects of politically motivated dismissal, reassignments and demotions. No official explanations are offered for these illegal practices, although everyone knows the government has been trying to save the crooked politicians, their family members and business associates.

Terminating public employees’ employment without a reasonable justification and without due process infringes on articles of the charter The victimized employees were not even given reasonable notice to allow them time to look for other work.Article 21 gives workers the right to be informed and to be consulted on all matters relevant to their working environment.

ErdoIan’s government flagrantly violates this article as well. It never informs public employees of possible changes that may drastically impact the lives of employees and their families.

Reassigning tens of thousands of civil servants in the middle of winter and during the school year has been a hallmark of the ErdoIan government’s practices since last December, when the prime minister was implicated in the network of corruption. The established rules and procedures, as well as customary practice in government bureaucracy, require the government to not implement large-scale reassignments during the winter or when school is in session.

However, many members of the judiciary and police were reassigned several times, often to different cities, within a very short period of time without any aance notice. The aim is to punish the investigators, prosecutors and judges who were involved in the political corruption probe.

The most serious violation by the Turkish government is related to Article 24 of the charter, which states that all workers have the right to protections in the event of the termination of their employment. The victimized employees in Turkey were not offered the required administrative protections surrounding the termination of their job such as there being sufficient cause, access to appropriate compensation and the right to appeal.

Moreover, legal injunctions and judgments they obtained through courts to halt the illegal procedures and restore them to their position were not recognized by the government. This is a constitutional crime as the executive branch must comply with judiciary rulings in a democracy where the rule of law is respected.

When the cases against the government started to pile up and the large number of dismissals, reassignments and purges were found by Turkish courts to be unjustified, resulting in judges’ rulings in favor of the plaintiffs against the government, ErdoIan resorted to something else that is quite unusual and unprecedented. Using the ruling party’s majority in Parliament, the government proposed a bill that will allow government agencies to ignore court rulings reinstating civil servants who were removed from their positions.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) says this draft bill, buried in a large omnibus bill that lumped together unrelated amendments in one package, paves the way for the ErdoIan government to continue a witch hunt in state agencies by purging every civil servant it deems to not be adhering to the ruling party’s ideology. This bill is in conflict with the constitutional article that says the reinstatement of civil servants as ordered by the courts should be done immediately.

This totally undemocratic proposal will allow government agencies two years to enforce court decisions to return personnel to their positions.What is more, the bill also says that such administrative decisions about public servants cannot create damage that is difficult or impossible to compensate.

In other words, civil servants will not be able to seek compensation for damages through the courts, as the discretion of the judge is being removed by law. The European Social Charter is very specific on this matter, as it says that the state must recognize the right of workers whose employment is terminated without a valid reason to adequate compensation or other appropriate relief.

Those who were fired, dismissed or reassigned must have the right to appeal to an impartial body such as the courts. Last but not least, the government bill also introduces a provision that protects public servants who don’t abide by court orders from criminal prosecution, hampering efforts to ensure accountability in the government.

Article E of the revised European Social Charter specifically says, “The enjoyment of the rights set forth in this Charter shall be secured without discrimination on any ground such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national extraction or social origin, health, association with a national minority, birth or other status.” The foundation for this article is the non-discrimination principle of Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), which is also binding on Turkey.

Article H of the charter says there will be no restrictions imposed on the exercise of the rights described in the charter “except those limitations prescribed by law, necessary in a democratic society and in pursuit of a legitimate aim such as the protection of the rights and freedoms of others”According to the standards established in the charter, national legislation must contain express safeguards against retaliatory dismissal. Yet it seems that since it was implicated in a massive corruption scandal that is all that the ErdoIan government has been doing.

The government is targeting the anti-corruption investigators to punish them for exposing the government’s dirty laundry. Turkey has accepted and ratified most of the articles of the European Social Charter, including the revised version, but it seems to be failing to meet its obligations as a member state of the Council of Europe.

The last time the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) issued a monitoring report on Turkey was Feb. 19, 2014, and it covered the period between 2009 and 2012.

The report was critical of Turkey’s many shortcomings that violated articles of the charter It appears that criticism will surge when an analysis includes the year 2014, when the ErdoIan government orchestrated a huge witch hunt against public employees, promoting political loyalists at every level of the government at the expense of a merit-based approach and blocked administrative and legal avenues for the restitution of justice.As a result, ErdoIan, the chief political Islamist who is facing serious criminal charges, has been rapidly pushing Turkey to the brink of collapse in terms of social rights and freedoms.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman