Turkey tries to heal coup d’état wounds

Turkey tries to heal coup d’état wounds

Individuals who have suffered as a result of the coups d'etat will soon receive compensation if a new bill drafted by the Justice and Development Party is passed.

January 15, 2011, Saturday/ 17:08:00

Individuals who have suffered as a result of the May 27, 1960 and Sept. 12, 1980 coups d'état will soon receive compensation if a new bill drafted by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) is passed.

The Draft Law for Post-Military Intervention Legal Restoration has been drafted by the AK Party's legal advisors. The bill will enable compensation payments to victims of torture during the two coups d'état of 1960 and 1980, the reinstitution of citizenships for those who lost their Turkish citizenship, the restoration of social insurance rights for individuals who were fired from public agencies by junta administrations, and an amnesty for students who were expelled from universities during these coups. The state will also offer a formal apology to anyone who can prove that they were a coup d'état victim. Bekir Bozdağ, the AK Party parliamentary group deputy chairman, told Today's Zaman that this bill constitutes a very important phase in larger efforts to compensate coup victims, such as the Sept. 12, 2010 referendum, which resulted in the passing of various constitutional amendments including the abolition of a temporary article in the 1982 Constitution which barred any indictments against the leaders and perpetrators of the 1980 coup d'état.

The government is working on a new bill which, if it passes, might help heal the wounds of those who suffered financial loss, bodily harm, emotional trauma or irreparable damage to their careers during times of military intervention

Bozdağ said that in the past six months, the AK Party has passed many laws to help the restoration of rights of victims from those troubled political periods. He said: “Opening the rulings of the Supreme Military Council [YAŞ] and the Supreme Council of Judges and Prosecutors [HSYK] to further judicial review, amnesties for students who were dismissed from university on questionable charges and the right to individual applications to the Constitutional Court are in a sense, the first steps in giving back full rights to those who suffered during the coups d'état. Our efforts to erase all the traces of past military interventions will continue.”

Turkey eliminated temporary Article 15 of the 1982 Constitution, which made it impossible to file any legal proceedings against the perpetrators of the Sept. 12, 1980 coup. This followed a recent referendum for constitutional amendments that was held on the 30th anniversary of the coup. Article 15 had served as the main obstacle in the way of legal actions against the leaders of the 1980 coup, including Kenan Evren and his allies.

Thousands of people have so far taken the opportunity to lodge criminal complaints against Evren and other members of the 1980 junta, but it is still not clear when, how and by which court Evren will be tried. Prosecutors have been ruling the applications out of their jurisdiction and passing the files to one other. The bill, if passed, is likely to end the ambiguity regarding who can indict and try Evren and his cohorts. The draft law has been submitted to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. It will discussed in Parliament after the June 2011 elections.

Many commentators say it will ultimately be a civilian court that tries Evren and his allies. The new bill seeks to remedy the losses suffered by individuals during in the military interventions, but priority will be given to victims of the 1980 coup, as the scars of this intervention are still fresh. As a great majority of the perpetrators of the 1960 coup have since died, so those who suffered in that intervention will only be given a formal apology.

In order to draft this law, the AK Party’s legal team examined regulations passed in other countries with histories of coups, such as Spain and Argentina. According to estimates, the total amount that will be paid in compensation following the implementation of this draft bill will be less than $1 billion.

A total of 14,000 people lost their Turkish citizenship in the aftermath of the Sept. 12 coup. This bill proposes to enable the restoration of these citizenship, of which an estimated 3,000 are expected to be restored once it is passed.

Formal apology letters

The bill also introduces a new body that will be responsible for assessing the damage caused by the coups d’état. A proposed Damage Assessment Commission will decide the amount of compensation to be paid to victims by the state.

Turkey paid high price for coups d’etat

Turkey suffered immensely after each military intervention in the country’s history. After the May 27, 1960 coup d’etat, high-level politicians, including President Celal Bayar, Prime Minister Adnan Menderes and three of his ministers, were arrested. Menderes, Foreign Minister Fatin Rüştü Zorlu and Finance Minister Hasan Polatkan were executed. Also after this coup d’etat, 235 generals and 3,500 military officers were forced to take early retirement, 1,401 academics lost tenure and some universities were shut down, and 520 judges and prosecutors were dismissed. The damage caused by the Sept. 12, 1980 coup was much higher. During this coup 650,000 people were detained, prosecutors demanded the death penalty for 7,000 people, 517 were sentenced to death, and 50 were executed. A further 500 people died in prisons, some under suspicious circumstances, some during torture and others on hunger strikes. Sixteen prisoners were shot while attempting to escape. Official records say 74 others were killed during prison riots. According to official records, 30,000 people lost their jobs because the junta administration considered them as a danger to the state. Another 30,000 had to flee the country as political immigrants. About 4,000 teachers, 120 university instructors and 47 judges were dismissed, while 400 journalists were sentenced to a total of 4,000 years in prison and 14,000 people lost their citizenship rights.

Legislators will set minimum and maximum limits for compensation amounts to be paid to those who were disabled as a result of torture, or to the families of those who died after being tortured. Anyone who can prove that they directly suffered in the military intervention will be presented with a formal apology.

People who unfairly lost their public sector jobs because the coup leaders had deemed them to be a “threat” to the state will have their social security rights reinstated. The bill also has provisions that will make it possible for people who were jailed during the military intervention to pay insurance premiums for their days out of work and to be entitled to a Social Security Institution (SGK) pension.

In addition to the restoration of social rights for those who were fired from public agencies, people who lost their jobs in the military, the police force and the judiciary during the coups will also have their rights reinstated. Those who were dismissed from these institutions will be able to apply to the Constitutional Court, which will soon hear applications from ordinary citizens as an appeals court. In cases where a person cannot return to their former position held before the coup d’état, the bill calls for compensation payments to be made. There are estimates that 2,000 military officers were expelled from the military following YAŞ decisions; however, only an estimated 200 of these qualify to be classified as victims of the coup.

People who were expelled from universities because of a coup d’état will be offered an amnesty and will have the opportunity to return to complete their higher education. This student amnesty will be passed in a separate law that will be taken up in Parliament before the general elections scheduled for June 2011. The AK Party hopes to have this bill enacted by the end of January.

In a related matter, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) -- which campaigned against the Sept. 12, 2010 referendum -- have submitted a proposal to Parliament for the reinstatement of retirement rights for those who were jailed or arrested during the Sept. 12, 1980 coup. The Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) also supports the proposal. The proposal was submitted by CHP Mersin deputy Ali Rıza Öztürk on Nov. 5, 2010.

However, the AK Party, which is currently passing a miscellany of legal changes in a package called the “sack law,” has decided to leave the proposal out of the package, despite supporting it, as it has already included this amendment in its Post-Military Intervention Legal Restoration Bill.

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