Venice Commission says Turkish law restricting NGO activities threatens freedoms

The Venice Commission criticized a Turkish law passed in 2020 for threatening freedom of expression and the right to civil organization, Deutsche Welle reported on July 7.

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Council of Europe's Venice Commission expressed concern over the functionality of non-governmental organizations in Turkey, Deutsche Welle reported on July 7. 

The commission noted that a bill presented as the "Law to Prevent the Funding of Weapons of Mass Destruction" and passed in Turkey last year was in fact non-compliant with global human rights standards and urged Ankara to amend the legislation. 

The law allows the interior minister to replace members of organizations who are being investigated for terrorism charges, while the interior ministry can also apply to courts to halt the groups' activities under the new law. International organizations will also be included under the law and penalized accordingly.

The commission said that Ankara's fight against the funding of terrorism was understandable, but that it should be conducted "within the scope of international law standards."

The commission noted that the bill was not narrowly tailored for its purposes, and hence risked breaching freedom of expression and the right to civil organization.

The legislation allows for the manipulation of organizations' online fundraisers without clear and objective criteria, which could undermine legitimate efforts to collects funds, the commission noted. 

The law also is illegitimate in granting permission to the state to dismiss non-governmental organizations, the commission said, adding that it was an uneven distribution of power to allow the Turkish government jurisdiction over international organizations. 

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic had written to Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu in February to say that she found the legislation "concerning" for NGOs.

Soylu had dismissed the commissioner's comments by saying that the legislation was aimed at "preventing the abuse of the public's efforts through transparent governance" of the organizations.