Turkey passes law to tighten government control over civil society groups


Turkey has passed a new law that would increase government monitoring of civil society groups, which rights groups have warned would violate the freedom of association.

The legislation approved by the Turkish parliament on Sunday permits the interior ministry to appoint NGO officials and halt groups’ activities under vague terrorism charges.

It also allows the annual inspection of nongovernmental organizations, ostensibly to combat terrorism financing. The law would also apply to international civil society groups operating in Turkey.

The NGO controls were tacked on to legislation that the government said was needed to comply with a UN resolution on preventing the financing of weapons of mass destruction.

The bill, proposed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party, passed with the votes of the party and its nationalist allies.

Turkey’s anti-terrorism laws are broad and have led to the jailing of politicians, journalists, civil society activists, and thousands of others.

Nearly 680 civil society groups signed a declaration against the bill, saying it would limit their ability to raise funds and organize while putting them under ministry pressure. They said the law violates the Turkish Constitution, which guarantees the freedom of association.

”Turkish prosecutors regularly open terrorism investigations into people for peacefully exercising rights to freedom of expression, assembly, and association,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement before the vote.

The rights group warned the law would ”widen the scope for the Interior Ministry to restrict the activities of any organization and individuals engaged in them.”

Turkey’s refusal to implement the rulings of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) increases its risk of exacerbating tensions with the EU, which has threatened Ankara with sanctions over its aggressive foreign policy.