Turkey adopts new law to monitor civil society groups

The Turkish parliament adopted a law on Dec. 27, banning commercial activities of organizations and individuals facing sanctions by the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Accordingly, collecting or providing funds to such individuals and organizations also stands banned in Turkey.The act is called “Preventing Financing of Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction” and was proposed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development party 

The legislative body has also ratified a motion calling for the prevention of the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).

Critics are seeing certain provisions of the bill as oppressive and believe that it violates the provisions under the Turkish constitution since it interferes with the right to freedom of association.

The Bill has come following the 2019 report on Turkey prepared by the intergovernmental body Financial Action Task Force (FATF) meant to fight money laundering and terror financing. The bill consists of 43 articles and has made changes to seven laws on Turkey’s Law of Associations and is meant to keep Turkey from being blacklisted by the Paris-based watchdog of terror financing.

Some additional provisions of the law also regulate both domestic and foreign foundations operating in Turkey. The operations of foreign foundations working in Turkey will be inspected regularly by Turkish Interior Ministry. The collection and distribution of funds abroad by the Turkey-based foundations in the form of aid and donations will be also regulated by the ministry.

The Bill gives the Turkish government the power to appoint trustees to non-governmental organisations (NGOs), to suspend their activities, seize their assets and monitor their sources of funding.

As per various media reports, critics and human rights activists are seeing this move as a way to crack down on dissidents in a country where civil society is already not very free.

After a failed coup in 2016 that was aimed at protecting democracy in the country, thousands of journalists, bureaucrats, academics and judges have been targeted by the government.