Turkey’s top administrative court has heard that President Erdogan had no lawful right to withdraw Turkey in 2021 from the international women’s rights treaty – and so the decision should be annulled.

Turkish Court Urged to Annul Erdogan’s Withdrawal From Istanbul Convention

A protester holds a feminist flag during a demonstration on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, in Istanbul, Turkey, March 6 2021. Photo: EPA-EFE/SEDAT SUNA

In a historical case, Turkey’s State Council Prosecutor on Thursday said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s withdrawal of the country from the so-called Istanbul Convention, a European treaty on women rights and domestic violence, was illegal, and asked the Council to annul the decree.

Turkey’s top administrative court monitors the legality of decisions made by administrative courts. Its decisions must be respected by the government.

The State Council will announce its decision later with a written explanation.

Due to high demand, the session had to be held in a conference hall instead of a regular courtroom. The Council’s session was followed by more than 550 people, including women’s NGOs, lawyers, MPs and bar associations.

“This is a first in the history of the State Council. We are having such a crowded trial for the first time,” Yilmaz Akcil, President of the State Council, said before the session.

Speaking for the Ankara Bar Association, lawyer Ceren Kalay Eken told the Court that President Erdogan’s decision was arbitrary decision and unconstitutional.

“No authority can issue a constitutional authority to his or herself with his or her own decision … We are still a party to the Istanbul Convention,” Kalay Eken maintained.

Many women and representatives of women organisations could not enter the conference hall, facing police obstruction.

The Women’s Platform for Equality, ESIK, said in a statement that it expected the State Council to annul the President’s decision.

If not, the ESIK said: “We will, of course, continue our legal and political struggle. We will take this presidential decision, which is unconstitutional, to the Constitutional Court. If we do not get results in domestic law, we will mobilize international mechanisms, including the European Court of Human Rights, ECHR.”

The Council of Europe’s Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence, widely known as the Istanbul Convention, was opened for signatures in Istanbul in May 2011.

Turkey was the first country to ratify the treaty, but Islamist and conservative critics claimed that it undermined traditional family values, and Erdogan then withdrew his country from the treaty, which came into force on July 1, 2021.

Femicide and violence against women generally remain major problems in Turkey. In the first four months of 2022 alone, at least 113 women were killed by men in Turkey. A total of 419 women were recorded as killed by men in 2021, and 413 in 2020.

Repeated calls by the opposition, rights groups and international organisations for Turkey to return to the convention have been dismissed by the government.

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