Turkish parliament approves controversial oversight law

Turkish parliament approves controversial oversight law
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Members of Amnesty International and other NGOs attend a press conference to condemn attacks on civil society groups in Turkey. (AFP/File)
Turkish parliament approves controversial oversight law
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The new law also allows the interior minister to replace members of organisations who are being investigated on terror charges. (AFP)
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Updated 28 December 2020

Turkish parliament approves controversial oversight law

Turkish parliament approves controversial oversight law
  • New law will stifle NGOs and damage civil society, say critics

ANKARA: Turkey’s parliament on Sunday approved a controversial law approving the oversight of associations and foundations, which critics say will stifle NGOs and damage civil society.

It gives the state the power to replace the boards of NGOs with trustees, as well as suspending their operations and having civil servants carry out annual monitoring.

The assets and online donation campaigns of NGOs could be blocked after inspections as a way to prevent money laundering and prevent terrorism financing.

Dunja Mijatovic, who is the Council of Europe’s commissioner for human rights, last week voiced her concerns about the legislation. She said it would allow the state to restrict civil society activism in the country and target critical voices.

She tweeted on Dec. 22: “The Turkish Parliament should discontinue attempts to introduce legislation further restricting legitimate NGO activities, including replacement of NGO leaders facing investigations under anti-terror laws with gov-appointed trustees and restrictions on fund-raising activities.”

The new law also allows the interior minister to replace members of organisations who are being investigated on terror charges.

However, terror charges in Turkey are often arbitrary and target dissidents as a way to quash civil society activists, journalists and politicians. Hundreds of NGOs launched a petition to prevent the bill from passing, warning that it would “destroy civil society” in Turkey.

Turkish philanthropist and civil society figure Osman Kavala was acquitted earlier this year of terror-related charges for allegedly organizing and financing anti-government protests in Gezi in 2013. But he was quickly re-arrested over alleged links to a failed coup attempt in 2016 and military espionage.

Lawmaker Alpay Antmen, from the main opposition People’s Republican Party (CHP), said the new legislation went against several articles of the constitution, especially regarding the right to privacy and the right to property, as well as against several international conventions that Turkey was a signatory to.

“Here the main target is to get the authority to appoint trustees to all dissident civil groups. It is crystal-clear,” he told Arab News.

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It gives the state the power to replace the boards of NGOs with trustees, as well as suspending their operations and having civil servants carry out annual monitoring.

Antmen said the law would give civil servants the power to close NGOs without waiting for the judicial process to be completed.  

“The courts are generally giving politically motivated rulings without respecting the constitution. Turkish rulers keep branding all dissident figures as terrorists just because they don’t support them. Opposition women’s rights associations, human rights groups and all similar civil society groups can now be closed with just one signature. As the trials will endure for years, their assets will be frozen for long years.”

Antmen, who is a lawyer by training, believed that Turkey’s handful of democratic, secular and progressive civil society actors had lost all judicial guarantees to maintain their once vibrant existence in the country thanks to this new law.

“It is unfortunately the beginning of the end for the civil society presence in Turkey.”

A European ruling that was critical about the jailed Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas and ordered his release led Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to say that the government did not abide by the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights, even though the country has been a member of this court for decades.

“The ECHR could not pass judgment in the place of Turkish courts,” he said on Dec. 23.

 


UAE records highest number of COVID-19 cases since pandemic began

UAE records highest number of COVID-19 cases since pandemic began
Updated 9 min 30 sec ago

UAE records highest number of COVID-19 cases since pandemic began

UAE records highest number of COVID-19 cases since pandemic began
  • UAE says 2,990 have recovered over the past 24 hours
  • Kuwait records 467 cases and 1 death, Oman reports 221 cases and 2 deaths

DUBAI: The UAE on Monday recorded 3,471 new COVID-19 cases, the highest daily count since the start of the pandemic, and six deaths.
Officials from the Ministry of Health and Prevention (MoHAP) said the total number of cases since the pandemic began had reached 256,732, while the death toll rose to 751.
Some 2,990 people had recovered from the virus in the past 24 hours. The total number of recoveries is 228,364.
The Federal Authority for Government Human Resources issued a circular to all ministries and federal entities amending the procedures for dealing with the pandemic to be implemented from Sunday. All government employees, as well as outsourced or public service companies, are required to take a PCR test every seven days, if they have not received two doses of the vaccine.
As part of its national campaign to inoculate 50 percent of the population by April, the UAE said it has vaccinated 1.972 million people, with almost 90,000 in the last 24 hours.
Dubai Health Authority (DHA) said it is organizing a series of virtual seminars aimed at raising awareness on the importance of taking the COVID-19 vaccine, especially for the priority groups.

Dr. Hind Al-Awadi, head of DHA’s Health Promotion and Education Department, said the campaign targets employees of government departments and institutions in Dubai to explain the importance of the vaccine, the procedure, its symptoms and its role in strengthening the body’s immunity, especially for those suffering from chronic diseases.
Dubai Municipality announced it had intensified its inspection campaigns and said it closed down 18 businesses and issued 18 fines and 45 warnings to others for failing to adhere to anti-COVID-19 measures.
The Department of Social Services in Sharjah said it received more than 300 requests to provide home vaccinations for senior citizens, people with disabilities, and their families since the initiative began on Saturday.
“Starting from the beginning of this week, 12 mobile units started visiting the homes of senior citizens and providing vaccinations for COVID-19, the department’s director Ahmed Ibrahim Al-Mayel, said.

He added that they are working “to increase the number of mobile units in the coming weeks to ensure that the largest number of people are vaccinated.”
Ajman Medical District launched a new center to administer the vaccine, with a large turnout on the first day of opening.
Hamad Tarim Al-Shamsi, the district’s director, said: “Our health plans are based on making medical services accessible to all members of society and we are currently focusing on providing services, examinations and vaccines to the most needy groups, especially senior citizens and people with disabilities, and medical teams have been formed to communicate with them in their homes.”
Elsewhere, Kuwait reported 467 new coronavirus cases, raising the total number to 158,244. The death toll rose to 948 after one coronavirus-related death was reported in the previous 24 hours.

Oman’s health ministry confirmed 221 new cases and two deaths, bringing the totals to 132,011 and 1,514, respectively.

In Bahrain, no deaths were reported, keeping the death toll to 360, while 333 new infected cases were confirmed.