Europe’s top rights body slams Turkey’s emergency decrees

A Turkish police special forces officer secures central Istanbul's Istiklal Avenue, the main shopping road of Istanbul, in this July 2016 file photo. Europe's top human rights and democracy-promoting body says a series of decrees issued by Turkey's government, as part of a state of emergency declared following last year's coup attempt, exceed international democratic standards and Turkey's Constitution. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis, File)
Updated 06 October 2017
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Europe’s top rights body slams Turkey’s emergency decrees

ANKARA, Turkey: Experts from Europe’s top human rights body on Friday expressed concerns over decrees issued by Turkey’s government that removed elected mayors from posts and replaced them with unelected officials.
Following last year’s coup attempt Turkey declared a state of emergency that allows the government to rule by decrees, largely by-passing parliament. Turkey says the emergency powers are needed to deal with the coup-plotters and thwart security threats.
The Council of Europe’s advisory body — known as the Venice Commission and made up of constitutional law experts — said it was “particularly worried” by the use of decrees to sack elected mayors and other municipal officials in Turkey’s mainly-Kurdish southeast over terror-related charges and to appoint unelected officials in their place.
The Commission said: “Local authorities are one of the main foundations of democratic society... Their election by the local population is key to ensuring the people’s participation in the political process.”
Among other things, the Commission called on Turkey to stop filling vacancies through appointments, to ensure that decisions affecting municipalities are taken after parliamentary debate and to introduce rules that would reinstate mayors if charges do not lead to a criminal conviction.
Opposition politicians say the government has used the state of emergency to crack down on critics.
More than 50,000 people have been arrested and some 110,000 others were sacked from government jobs in a large-scale crackdown on people with alleged links to terror groups or to US-based cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who Turkey accuses of orchestrating the failed coup.


Syrian regime’s killing spree continues in largest opposition holdout

A member of Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham group watches as a convoy of busses gets ready to enter the towns of Fuaa and Kefraya to evacuate their residents on Wednesday. (AFP)
Updated 19 July 2018
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Syrian regime’s killing spree continues in largest opposition holdout

  • Israel has occupied the Golan Heights since 1967, and a cease-fire deal was reached in 1974
  • The regime offensive has displaced more than 230,000 people, many of them on the run in the open

BEIRUT: Syrian regime forces determined to retake the largest opposition holdout in the country’s southwest unleashed an intense bombing campaign, killing at least a dozen people and wounding over 100 in a densely populated town, activists and rescuers said on Wednesday.
The aerial bombardment of the town of Nawa came after talks to cede the town failed on Tuesday, triggering the heavy bombardment.
Separately, some 7,000 civilians were expected to be evacuated from two pro-regime villages in northwestern Syria as part of a negotiated deal with insurgents who have besieged them for three years.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said “frenzied” overnight bombing in Nawa and the town’s surroundings continued into Wednesday, with at least 350 missiles launched. The Observatory said at least 12 people were killed as rescuers struggled to get to the casualties.
Khaled Solh, head of the local Syria Civil Defense known as White Helmets, said they have documented 14 people killed while Nawa’s only hospital was bombed and rendered non-operational on late Tuesday. Only one ambulance was able to get to the town and civilians relied on their cars to bring out at least 150 wounded. He said one of the last orthopedists in the town was killed in the strikes.
The regime has stepped up its military offensive on the remaining opposition pockets in the southwestern region, which includes the Daraa and Quneitra provinces that straddle the border with Jordan and the frontier with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights. In recent days, Syrian forces have turned to the last opposition pockets near the frontier with Israel.
Images from across the frontier in the Israel-occupied Golan Heights showed large plumes of smoke rising over the Nawa area, as the bombing continued on Wednesday.
Hundreds of civilians were seen taking cover in shelters along the frontier, apparently seeking safety in the de-militarized zone between the two countries. Israel has occupied the Golan Heights since 1967, and a cease-fire deal was reached in 1974.
In less than a month, regime forces backed by Russian air power have been able to seize control of most of southwestern Daraa province, including the provincial capital of the same name. The city of Daraa was the cradle of the uprising against Bashar Assad more than seven years ago.
Alongside the military offensive, the government has struck “reconciliation” deals, essentially a negotiated capitulation in a number of villages that have been in rebel hands for years, to restore government control there.
Talks to hand over Nawa, one of the most densely populated towns in Daraa province, have been ongoing for a couple of days. That has encouraged displaced civilians to return to Nawa, said a local activist who goes by the name Selma Mohammed.
But the talks faltered, triggering the overnight onslaught and a new wave of displacement, with hundreds leaving the town again.
On Wednesday, the bombing focused on towns and villages surrounding Nawa, making the road in and out of town deadly, Mohammed said.
The Observatory said warplanes and ground forces have also targeted the southern tip of the region, which is held by militants affiliated with Daesh.
The regime offensive has displaced more than 230,000 people, many of them on the run in the open. Jordan said it will not take in new refugees and Israeli soldiers have shooed away dozens of protesters who had approached the frontier Tuesday, demanding protection.
Meanwhile, about 7,000 Syrians were expected to be evacuated from two pro-regime villages in northwestern Syria, ending a three-year siege by insurgents who control the surrounding area. Dozens of buses arrived in the Foua and Kfraya villages to transport the evacuees on Wednesday, Syrian state media said.
Evacuation deals have been criticized by the UN as forced displacement. A negotiated deal to evacuate Foua and Kfraya villagers earlier this year faltered after the evacuation of only 40 people from a third village. The evacuees’ first stop is the regime-controlled city of Aleppo.
Russia’s Defense Ministry said on Wednesday that Russian and Syrian authorities had set up a refugee center in Syria to help refugees return home from abroad.