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HRW: ‘Turkey’s NGO bill threatens civil society’
24/12/2020, 13:29

BIANET

Drafted by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), the “Bill on Preventing the Spread and Financing of Weapons of Mass Destruction”, which also foresees the appointment of trustees to NGOs, has been passed by the Justice Commission amid objections from the opposition.

While the bill is expected to be debated at the Parliament today (December 24), Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a written statement and raised concerns that “the draft law threatens civil society”.

“The government should withdraw provisions in a draft law that would arbitrarily curtail nongovernmental organizations’ activities and have the potential to violate the right to freedom of association,” it has said and added:

“Only six of the articles include means and regulations to combat financing of terrorism. The rest grant the Interior Ministry and the president wide authority to restrict the activities of independent groups and diminish their role.

“It is unclear how the proposed measures will be limited to curbing the activities of groups with material connection to armed groups and will not be used widely against other organizations.”

“Organizations disliked by the government for their work on human rights and rule of law issues in Turkey will especially be at risk.”

‘The law will flout the standards’

Expressing its “strong opposition to equipping the Interior Ministry with the authority to use the pretext of a terrorism investigation that has not proceeded to a prosecution, let alone a conviction, to prevent people from engagement with nongovernmental organizations,” the HRW has also noted:

“Financial Action Task Force’s Recommendation No. 6 urges governments to respect human rights, respect the rule of law, and recognize the rights of innocent third parties while working to prevent the financing of terrorism and money laundering. Turkey’s bill, if passed into law, will completely flout such standards and instead widen the scope for the Interior Ministry to restrict the activities of any organization and individuals engaged in them.”

‘It may curtail legitimate civil society activity’

Commenting on the bill, Hugh Williamson, the Europe and Central Asia Director at the HRW, has indicated that “the government’s new law on curbing financing of terrorism, with the new powers it grants the Interior Ministry, conceals within it another purpose: that is to curtail and restrict the legitimate activities of any nongovernmental group it doesn’t like.”

According to HRW’s Williamson, “This law will become a dangerous tool to limit freedom of association, and the provisions relating to nongovernmental organizations should be withdrawn immediately.”

“It is crucial for the Financial Action Task Force to recognize that Turkey’s proposed new law is not fit for purpose,” he has said and added, “The proposed law may curtail legitimate civil society activity rather than contribute to preventing terrorism financing and money laundering.”

 
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