Turkish parliament debate on new non-governmental organizations

The Turkish Parliament Friday began debate on a controversial new law that would grant the government more power to regulate non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

The title of the proposed law is “Preventing the Financing of the Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction,” and it purports to help the government crack down on the financing of terrorist organizations as well as on money laundering in general. Under the law, the Interior Ministry could replace the leaders of NGOs under investigation by the police, halt all their activities, seize their assets, and require them to turn over all their records to the government. The government, led by President Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP), has cracked down on dissent in the country since it put down a coup attempt in 2016.

Human rights groups decried the new bill, with Human Rights Watch calling on parliament to withdraw the bil from consideration. Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia Director, said the bill is a “dangerous tool to limit freedom of association.” Dunja Mijatovic, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, tweetedthat the Turkish Parliament “should discontinue attempts to introduce legislation further restricting legitimate NGO activities.” The Human Rights Joint Platform (IHOP), a coalition of human rights groups, issued a statementcondemning the process and reasoning that led to the proposed bill, noting that it was written without any input from human rights or civil society organizations and that the legislation would bring about “a huge restriction over the freedom of association.”