The Legal Battle Waged by the Academics for Peace Continues

Yazar / Referans: 

The legal struggle of the Academics for Peace, who have been expelled by State of Emergency (OHAL, in Turkish ) Decrees, has been going on for nearly six years. Since the applications made to the State of Emergency Commissions were summarily rejected, the Academics have now brought annulment cases which will start being heard by the specially appointed administrative courts in Ankara, on October 27th and 30th and November 25th, 2022. 

After the verdict of the Constitutional Court (in Turkey, the equivalent of the Supreme Court) who declared that signing the Peace Petition came under “freedom of expression”, all the signatories of the Petition were acquitted of the criminal cases they were facing. Nevertheless, the specially appointed administrative courts are now starting to back-pedal: they are once more preparing to discuss whether the language of the Petition is similar to that of “the terrorist organization.” It is legally beyond debate that signing the Petition is not a subject of crime.  The Constitutional Court has clearly decided that the Academics for Peace could come neither under administrative disciplinary penalty nor other legal punishment. It is unacceptable that these special administrative courts are now attempting to discuss the Petition in terms of content and to proceed with the trials within this framework, although the Constitutional Court decisions are binding and mandatory.

The Background

In order to draw attention to the rights violations in the Kurdish regions under curfew starting from July 2015, a declaration was signed by 2212 academics on January 11, 2016, with the title “We shall not be party to this crime,” better known as the Peace Petition. These academics were subjected to many rights violations within the past seven years.  Some were arrested, imprisoned, threatened, or forced to move to a different city. They were subjected to disciplinary penalties or criminal investigations. Some were forced to retire/resign, retract their signature on the Petition; others were removed from their jobs, intimidated and subjected to mobbing. Their contracts were terminated.  Of these signatories, 822 were prosecuted by penal courts, under the accusation of “propagandizing for the terror organization.”  By means of a “state of emergency decree with the force of law,” 406 of those Peace Academics teaching at state universities were banned from public service for life. Many underwent health problems; Mehmet Fatih Traş committed suicide.

Those Academics who were sacked via state of emergency decrees with the force of law, had their names and personal identification numbers disclosed by the Official Gazette.  They were banned for life from public service, including state as well as private universities. Their passports as well as those of their spouses were revoked. Their applications for associate professorship were terminated. They were blacklisted.

When the Constitutional Court decided in 2019 that signing the Peace Petition fell within the freedom of expression, all the Peace Petition signatories were acquitted. On the other hand, this acquittal had no effect on those signatories who were put under a ban by the so-called state of emergency decrees. Last year, the European Human Rights Court (EHRC) demanded a justification from the Turkish state for all the applications they received from those banned academics. However, the State of Emergency Commission continued to refuse any response to the applications of the academics who were sacked. When it finally issued a uniform, cut-and-paste decision within a few months, it refused all the applications for reinstatement, as if the ruling of the Constitutional Court simply did not exist.

Call for solidarity

It has taken six years for the Academics for Peace to be able to reach a court where they can exercise their right to demand the lifting of their ban from public service. The legal struggle continues before the administrative courts, in spite of the heavy-handed intervention directed at a meaningful instance of the freedom of expression.