The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (Parliamentary Assembly), which consists of deputies elected from 47 member states of the Council of Europe (Council) including Turkey, has been subjecting Turkey to a parliamentary monitoring procedure since April 2017 due to serious concerns about respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. In this context, Turkey has been closely followed by the officials of the Parliamentary Assembly for the past 3 years. Whereas the issues of concerns have remained unaddressed by the Turkish authorities despite recommendations based on the findings of the Parliamentary Assembly monitoring mechanisms, the resolution entitled “The Functioning of Democratic Institutions in Turkey” (Resolution) that was adopted by the Parliamentary Assembly on 22 April 2021. Under this Resolution, the Parliamentary Assembly strongly reiterated its call on the Turkish authorities in particular; to put an end to passing laws and related practices contrary to democratic standards, to revise the legislation and constitutional framework to ensure the separation of powers, to reestablish the freedom of expression and the media, to put an end to abusing interpretation of the anti-terrorism legislation and to implement the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
Following issues were stated under the Resolution;
- Together with urgent discussions on the functioning of democratic institutions in Turkey, withdrawing from the Istanbul Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence without any parliamentary debate and decision is a worrying and ‘’backward” step for the country. The Parliamentary Assembly also requested the Venice Commission to prepare a comparative study on the procedures of ratification and withdrawal from Council of Europe conventions.
- The recent developments aimed at lifting the parliamentary immunity of opposition parliamentarians as well as the attempt to shut down the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and the pressure on the parties’ members were addressed. Accordingly, the Turkish authorities are called upon to end the judicial pressure on MPs and to refrain from practices aimed at removing their immunities, which seriously undermine political pluralism. The Parliamentary Assembly also underlined that the closure of political parties is a drastic measure and should only be taken as the last resort in an exceptional and strictly defined cases such as the protection of public safety and the prevention of crime in accordance with the ECtHR case law and the principles of the Venice Commission.
- Turkey should implement the decisions of the ECtHR and the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (Committee of Ministers), which supervises the implementation of these decisions, and called for the immediate release of former HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtaş and an activist Osman Kavala.
- Civil society activists should be able to operate in a safe and free environment. Accordingly, provisions of the “Law on the Prevention of the Financing of the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction” adopted in 2020 by Turkey, which restrict the activities of non-governmental organizations and freedom of association in the name of combating terrorism should be repealed or revised.
- Turkish authorities are expected to carry out necessary reforms in urgent human rights issues, in particular on the right to a fair trial, the protection and strengthening of freedom of expression and taxation, the strengthening of the independence of the judiciary, the revision of the widely interpreted anti-terror law and the rule of law.
Turkey, which was the first country under the parliamentary monitoring procedure among the founding members of the Council and has been in the post-monitoring process since 2004, became the first Council country to be re-monitored in 2017 due to the problems in the field of human rights. In the decision, it was emphasized that the Turkish authorities are expected to comply with the obligations of the Council of Europe by taking concrete and meaningful steps in order to eliminate the concerns highlighted above.
National delegation documents of member states that fail to fulfill their obligations may be withdrawn or refused to be approved by the Parliamentary Assembly. As a last resort, the suspension of the country’s membership in the Council of Europe can be proposed by the Parliamentary Assembly to the Committee of Ministers. As a member of the Council of Europe and a candidate state of the European Union, Turkey is expected to take these decisions of the Parliamentary Assembly into serious consideration.
 The Functioning of Democratic Institutions in Turkey, https://pace.coe.int/pdf/9ac20bc4b53b10363ada89a046f6f27b241d4e214bf91f522a494ef19e341c07/resolution%202376.pdf .
 The Venice Commission is an advisory body of the Council of Europe consisting of independent experts in the field of constitutional law, to which Turkey is a member. The Venice Commission assists and advises countries on constitutional matters for the functioning of democratic institutions and the protection of human rights.