On 7 February 2017, the Turkish government issued an emergency decree dismissing 330 academics in Turkey from their jobs, without due process. Among these was Prof Ibrahim Kaboğlu, a former member of the Executive Committee of the International Association of Constitutional Law (IACL). Prof Kaboğlu is a world-renowned Professor of constitutional law; the former head of the Turkish Human Rights Advisory Council; a Lawyer at the Istanbul Bar; a columnist for BirGun Daily; the former head of the International Human Rights Centre of the Istanbul Bar; and the President of the Association of Research on Constitutional Law.
The IACL strongly condemns the dismissal of Prof Kaboğlu without any element of due process, and without any evidence that could associate him with the failed coup of 15 July 2016, or any kind of terrorist activity. What started as the government’s emergency measures to counter a conspiracy has been expanded into the repression of dissent and the denial of rights and freedoms. This crackdown has affected all aspects of the legal system, including academics, judges, prosecutors and other members of the legal profession.
The IACL is an association of constitutionalists from all parts of the world who seek to understand each other’s systems, explain and reflect on their own, and engage in fruitful comparison, for a variety of scholarly purposes. One of the objectives of the association is to ‘cooperate and work for the realisation of the aims of the Charter of the United Nations and the Universal Declaration on Human Rights’. It also seeks to coordinate the activities of those concerned with constitutional law around the world to promote the civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights of all individuals.
To this end, the Association draws attention to the important rights enshrined in Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which protects freedom of expression. A similar right is contained in Article 26 of the Turkish Constitution. Furthermore, the latter expressly protects academic freedom in Article 27: ‘ … the right to study and teach freely, explain and disseminate science and the arts, and to carry out research in these fields’.
It is not possible for academics to exercise academic freedom without job security and under the ever-present threat of dismissal. These rights are severely threatened when mere critical discussion of government measures results in dismissal from employment.
The actions of the Turkish government violate the above-mentioned rights as well as basic principles of the rule of law, democracy and international human rights.
The IACL calls on the Turkish government to reinstate Prof Kaboğlu as well as other academics who have been dismissed without due process. The IACL calls on the Turkish government to respect the independence of the judiciary and the legal system and re-commit itself to the values underpinning democracy, constitutionalism, fundamental rights and the rule of law.
The President of the IACL, Prof Manuel Jose Cepeda Espinosa, is available for interviews relating to this statement and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.