SECURITY vs. FREEDOM: A Recent Example from Turkey

Homeland Security comes at a cost CARTOON: Clay Bennett / The Christian Science Monitor
Homeland Security comes at a cost CARTOON: Clay Bennett / The Christian Science Monitor

The Development and Justice Party ( AKP) government has prepared a law draft which is known as the Internal Security Package that aims to strengthen the authority of the governors, sub-governors and police who are under effective control of the government. As it will be explained below, the Internal Security Package poses serious threats to the human rights and freedoms, particularly, in respect of the prohibition of torture, right to liberty and security, freedom of assembly and association.

According to the law draft, the police chiefs determined by the governors, will be authorized to take persons into detention up to 48 hours without informing the public prosecutors who are in charge of giving decisions of detention pursuant to the current Criminal Procedure Code. In other words, persons will be deprived of their liberty without any procedural safeguards that would prevent them from being subjected to torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Since the prosecutor would not be informed in case of detention, the right to access a lawyer could also be hindered. The Internal Security Package paves the way for this illegal practice of the police which would, obviously, lead to torture and other forms of ill-treatment, as we have encountered, during Gezi Resistance, that the police refrained from informing the prosecutor and prevented the lawyers from meeting their clients in contrast with law.

The Internal Security Package also aims to authorize the police to stop persons they see “suspicious” and search them, their belongings and vehicles without a warrant issued by a judge and if deemed “reasonable” to detain them. Furthermore, the police will be allowed to use firearms against persons who don’t obey “halt” warnings.

Regarding the demonstrations, the police will be authorized to use firearms against those who are considered, by police, to be in a state of attempted attack which is too abstract in its wording as well. Exactly, at this point, It needs to be reminded that since the amendments in 2007 which strengthened the power of police, 183 people have been murdered so far as a result of the authority of police to use firearms.

The reflection of the security “anxiety” of the government is not limited to the changes mentioned above. However, all the changes have a common feature: All the amendments are brought in the name of protecting public order which is used as a legitimizing tool for use of force against the citizens who are, in fact, seen as threats to the maintenance of public order. It is not a coincidence that the Internal Security Package with the reasoning behind, in its own wording, that “The recent social events which turned into a propaganda of terrorist organizations and threatened the security of life and property necessitate the amendment of the concerned laws without breaking security-freedom balance“ came into life after Gezi resistance Kobane solidarity events which are used as a means of creating a situation of imagined insecurity. On the other hand, as it is , very recently, experienced in the last couple of years, torture and other forms of ill-treatment in the streets and unofficial detention places as well as official detention centers, flourishes during times of imagined insecurity. Obviously, by amending the concerned laws to strengthen the power of law enforcement officials, the Justice and Development Party aims to facilitate the practice of torture and also extend the sphere of impunity of the perpetrators. Very recently, the UN General Assembly also pointed out the significance of this issue by stating that it is “deeply concerned about all acts which can amount to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment committed against persons exercising their rights of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression in all regions of the world1.

The amendments do not restrict the basic freedom of rights. Rather, they infringe the very essence of them for the sake of the security of the state. The government’s effort to enact the draft law which is proposed as Internal Security Package just reminds Agamben’s thoughts on the power. “The sovereign power is nothing more than an attempt to annex anomie through state of exception. It is the fictitious attempt to establish a relation between anomic violence and law when no such relation exists.2 It is likely that the law will be enacted within a week and it is utmost important for us who will be subjected to the terrorizing effect of this law, to do all we can in order to prevent its enactment. with support of all human rights organizations all over the world.

Fatma Elif Koru
Lawyer from Turkey
LL.M in International Human Rights
Researcher at Human Rights Foundation Of Turkey

1 General Assembly, Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment : resolution / adopted by the General Assembly , 14 February 2014, A/RES/68/156, available at: [accessed 16 June 2014]
2Agamben (2007), State of Exception, University of Chicago Press, p.59; see also J. Colin Mcquillan, The Real State of Emergency: Agamben on Benjamin and Schmitt.” Studies in Social and Political Thought 18 (2011), p.104

Fatma Elif Koru

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