Briefing note on emergency powers of the Turkish government during a disaster: concerns of abuse


During the state of emergency rule declared after 2016’s coup attempt, Erdogan government largely abused its emergency powers. During 2016-2018, President Erdogan’s government enacted 32 emergency decrees comprising some 1200 articles that have led to over 1000 permanent amendments to national laws, most of those were with human rights implications and had no relevance to the emergency situation.

What is worse, after 2016, Turkish Constitutional Court of which two members were dismissed and arrested under an emergency Decree, by reversing its 25-years-old precedent said it cannot review state of emergency decrees, and and dismissed the actions for annulment that were lodged by the main opposition party against the emergency Decree laws.

Today therefore there is no checks on Erdogan government’s emergency powers which he could abuse during forthcoming election.

Constitution of Turkey stipulates Administration of State of Emergency as follows:

ARTICLE 119- (As amended on April 16, 2017; Act No. 6771) In the event of war, the emergence of a situation necessitating war, mobilization, an uprising, strong rebellious actions against the motherland and the Republic, widespread acts of violence of internal or external origin threatening the indivisibility of the country and the nation, emergence of widespread acts of violence aimed at the destruction of the Constitutional order or of fundamental rights and freedoms, serious deterioration of public order because of acts of violence, occurence of natural disasters, outbreak of dangerous epidemic diseases or emergence of a serious economic crisis; the President of the Republic may declare state of emergency in one region or nationwide for a period not exceeding six months.

The financial, material and labour obligations to be imposed on citizens, the manner of restriction and temporary suspension of fundamental rights and freedoms in line with the principles of the Article 15, and the provisions to be applied and actions to be carried out in the event of state of emergency shall be regulated by law.

In the event of a state of emergency, the President of the Republic may issue presidential decrees on matters necessitated by the state of emergency, notwithstanding the limitations set forth in the second sentence of the seventeenth paragraph of the Article 104.


The limits to the government’s emergency powers are set out in Article 15 of the Constitution. This allows for the “partial or total” suspension, “during the state of emergency”, of the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms, but only “to the extent required by the exigencies of the situation”, and provided that “obligations under international law are not violated”. In other words, the suspension shall be proportional to the necessities that stem from the ongoing extraordinary situation. Pursuant to the same Article (Art. 15), even under the partial or total suspension of the exercise of fundamental rights and freedoms, the individual’s right to life, the integrity of his/her corporeal and spiritual existence shall be inviolable, except where death occurs through acts in conformity with the law of war; no one shall be compelled to reveal his/her religion, conscience, thought or opinion, nor to be accused on account of them; offences and penalties shall not be made retroactive; nor shall anyone be held guilty until so proven by a court ruling.

The Law on State of Emergencies stipulates the details of the administration of state of emergency:

Obligations and Measures to be Taken in Natural Disasters and Dangerous Epidemics

Article 5 - In the event that a state of emergency is declared due to natural disasters and dangerous epidemics; the money and all kinds of movable and immovable goods and works to be done, which are needed for the rescue of the victims of the disaster and for the compensation of the damage and loss incurred and which cannot be provided immediately, shall be provided through money, goods and work obligations.

Monetary obligations
Article 6 - In case a state of emergency is declared due to natural disasters and dangerous epidemics, the necessary expenditures shall be provided primarily from public resources and aids.

In the event that sufficient funds for the expenditure of urgent and vital necessities cannot be obtained from public resources in a timely manner, the facilities of credit institutions in the region shall be utilized.

In the implementation of the monetary obligation, consideration shall be given to the non-disruption of the services and activities of the organizations.

Obligation with regard to goods

Article 7 - Public institutions and organizations and legal and natural persons within the region where a state of emergency has been declared due to natural disasters and dangerous epidemics shall be obliged to provide land, land, buildings, facilities, tools, equipment, food, medicine and medical supplies, clothing and other goods to be requested or obliged from them.


Labor obligation

Article 8 - All citizens between the ages of 18 and 60 in the regions where a state of emergency has been declared due to natural disasters and dangerous epidemics shall be obliged to perform the work assigned to them due to the state of emergency.
The Law on State of Emergencies stipulates the measure that can be taken. This is an exhaustive list:
Measures to be taken:
Article 9 - In the event of a declaration of a state of emergency due to natural disasters and dangerous epidemics, the following measures may be taken, taking into account the issues requiring the declaration of a state of emergency:
a) Prohibiting settlement in certain parts of the region, restricting entry to and exit from certain settlements, evacuating certain settlements or transferring them to other places,
b) To suspend education in public and private education and training institutions at all levels and to close student dormitories temporarily or indefinitely,
c) Supervising casinos, restaurants, pubs, taverns, taverns, discotheques, bars, dance halls, cinemas, theaters and similar places of entertainment, clubs and other game halls, hotels, motels, camping, holiday villages and similar accommodation facilities, determining and limiting the opening and closing times of these places, closing them when necessary and using these places according to the requirements of the state of emergency,
d) Limiting or abolishing the annual leaves of the personnel in charge of the execution of emergency services in the region,
e) To make use of all means and equipment of communication within the boundaries of the zone and, when necessary, to temporarily seize them for this purpose,
f) Demolishing buildings that pose a danger; destroying movable and immovable property and foodstuffs and crops that are harmful to health,
g) Controlling, restricting or, where necessary, prohibiting the import or export of certain foodstuffs, animal and animal feed and animal products outside or into the territory,
h) To organize the distribution of essential items deemed necessary,
i) Manufacture and sale of foodstuffs and goods and all kinds of fuels necessary for the feeding, heating, cleaning and lighting of the public, medicines, chemicals, tools and other things used in health protection, treatment and medicine, goods and materials used in construction, industry, transportation and agriculture, other goods, goods, tools, equipment and all kinds of materials necessary for the public, To take the necessary measures regarding the distribution, storage and trade of these goods, to seize and control these places when necessary, and to close the workplace for those who refrain from selling, hide, smuggle, sell at excessive prices, stop or slow down the production of these goods, taking into account the manner or nature of the act, unless it is vital for the location where the workplace is located,
j) To take measures regarding land, sea and air traffic order, to register or prohibit the entry and exit of transportation vehicles to and from the region.