The European Union spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy says the dismissal of democratically elected mayors of Diyarbakir, Van, and Mardin in southeast Turkey as well as the detention of more than 400 people is “seriously risk damaging local democracy.”
The Turkish government early on Monday suspended three Kurdish mayors, Adnan Selcuk Mizrakli, Ahmet Turk and Bedia Ozgokce Ertan from Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van provinces from their duties as part of a major terrorism-related investigation.
The move led by the ruling AK Party (AKP) drew criticism from both local opposition and international authorities, as more than 400 people were detained in southeastern Turkey over terror-related charges.
A spokesman for the union Maja Kocijancic said in a statement released on Monday that the removal of Kurdish mayors after only five months in office puts the respect of the democratic outcomes of the 31 March elections into question.
“Dismissals and detentions of local politicians and appointment of trustees deprive voters of political representation at the local level, and seriously risk damaging local democracy,” she elaborated.
Underlining that the Turkish government has a legitimate right to fight terrorism, Kocijancic added that it should be done in accordance with the rule of law, human rights and fundamental freedoms enshrined in the Turkish Constitution and the country’s international commitments.
“Turkey has to repeal measures inhibiting the functioning of local democracy, in line with the recommendations of the Venice Commission and with Turkey’s commitment to the European Charter of Local Self-Government,” Kocijancic further noted.
She said that while the EU has unambiguously and repeatedly condemned violent terrorist attacks in Turkey, it once again calls for the urgent resumption of a credible political process to achieve a peaceful and sustainable solution.
Anders Knape, president of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe on Tuesday expressed his “grave concern” about the decision of the Turkish authorities to suspend elected mayors in three metropolitan cities in the southeast of the country.
Knape highlighted that excessive use of legal proceedings against local elected representatives in Turkey and their replacement by appointed officials “seriously undermine the proper functioning of local democracy.”
“The Congress Bureau will continue to follow this situation closely, in particular at its next meeting in Strasbourg on 11 September 2019,” Knape said.
“This situation will also be addressed during the monitoring mission planned from 1 to 4 October 2019 which aims to assess the implementation of the principles of the European Charter of Local Self-Government in Turkey,” he added.
Thorbjorn Jagland, the Secretary-General of the Council of Europe said in a tweet through his spokesperson Daniel Holtgen that the suspension of Kurdish mayors in Turkey is of “serious concern.”
“The dismissal of mayors in Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van and their replacement by state governors undermines the 31 March elections and proper functioning of local democracy,” he argued.
#Turkey: The dismissal of mayors in Diyarbakir, Mardin and Van and their replacement by state governors undermines the 31 March elections and a proper functioning of local democracy. This is of serious concern. We continue to watch the situation closelyhttps://t.co/9mSotuPdMD
— Daniel Holtgen (@CoESpokesperson) August 20, 2019
Holtgen also indicated that they will continue to watch the situation closely.
The replacement of mayors came after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned during rallies prior to the March 31 local elections that candidates with links to outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) would be ousted by his AKP government.
Labeled as a terrorist organization by the Turkish government as well as the United States and the European Union, the PKK is an armed militant group that has launched an insurgency for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey’s mainly Kurdish southeast in 1984.