Turkish opposition parties have criticized Turkey’s top administrative court for refusing to annul Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s decision to pull Turkey out of a European convention against gender-based violence, Turkish media reported.
Rights groups and Western governments expressed shock and outrage when Erdoğan withdrew Turkey from the Istanbul Convention in an overnight decree last year.
Turkey was the first country to sign the convention in 2011 and ratified it by a vote in parliament the following year.
Erdoğan’s political opponents argued that the president did not have the power to unilaterally withdraw the country from an international agreement.
But the Council of State on Tuesday rejected a request to annul Erdoğan’s decision.
The 10th Chamber of the Council of State argued that since the president has the authority to approve international treaties after they are ratified by parliament, the legislature did not need to take any action for the president to exercise his authority to withdraw from treaties.
Following the ruling by the top court, main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu vowed to reinstate the treaty once they came to power.
“I have a promise for this nation. When we come to power, we will put the Istanbul Convention back into force in the first week, even within the first 24 hours,” Kılıçdaroğlu said.
Emphasizing that it is not lawful to pull out of treaties that have entered into force after ratification by the Turkish parliament, İYİ (Good) Party Deputy Chairman Bahadır Erdem told the Duvar news website that the ruling sets a dangerous precedent that allows the president to withdraw from any treaty.
According to Erdem, this would lead to a situation where the head of the executive branch can also withdraw from the UN Convention on Human Rights, or pull Turkey out of NATO.
“This decision is a clear example of the president usurping the authority of the parliament regarding international treaties. Thus, any international treaty ratified by parliament can be canceled by a presidential decree,” Erdem was quoted by Duvar as saying.
Prof. Dr. Serap Yazıcı, deputy chairperson of the Future Party (GP), told Duvar that the decision of the Council of State goes against the constitution.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party’s (HDP) Central Executive Board (MYK) released a statement regarding the top court’s ruling, slamming the Council of State for refusing to annul Erdoğan’s decision.
“As the HDP, we do not recognize or accept the unlawful decision of the Council of State. We have fought for the effective implementation of the Istanbul Convention together with women’s organizations in the field and parliament, and we will continue to do so,” the HDP MYK said.
The HDP branded the decision as “an endorsement of violence against women.”
Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) Chairman Ali Babacan and GP chairman and former prime minister Ahmet Davutoğlu also made remarks on the Council of State’s decision.
“The Council of State’s decision on the Istanbul Convention is against the law. We will continue to protect the Istanbul Convention, and the first thing we will do when we come to power is to reinstate it. This lawlessness will not continue. This is our promise to our nation,” Babacan tweeted.
“The Council of State has ignored the rule of law and bowed to the political will with its decision on the Istanbul Convention. We will fix the unlawful [decision]. We will reinstate the Istanbul Convention,” Davutoğlu tweeted.
Both Babacan and Davutoğlu are former heavyweights of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which parted ways with the party and established their rival parties in 2020 and 2019, respectively.
The treaty — now enacted by dozens of European countries — requires member states to adopt domestic legislation and strictly punish domestic abuse and gender-based violence.
Femicides and violence against women are serious problems in Turkey, where women are killed, raped or beaten every day. Critics say the main reason behind the situation is the policies of the AKP government, which protects violent and abusive men by granting them impunity.
A survey conducted by Metropoll revealed last year that 52.3 percent of Turks are against the withdrawal from the convention. While more than a majority of participants oppose it, 26.7 percent approve and 10.2 percent had no opinion.