Turkey’s parliament to vote on expanding watchmen’s powers

Turkey’s parliament will soon debate a bill seeking to grant the local watchmen powers to stop and search the citizens, the T24 news website reported.

The parliament’s Committee of Internal Affairs passed the draft bill on Wednesday and submitted it to the parliament to finalize the controversial bill.

The bill, which has stirred objections from opposition parties’ MPs, seeks to furnish the watchmen with police-related powers and is likely to cause concerns over the separation of power distinction between police and watchmen.

Local watchmen are a part of Turkey’s Police Department. They have the authorization to bear weapons and are tasked with securing markets and shopping centers and also walk beats at night in the towns and cities.

The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) denounced the proposal as the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) attempt to create a “parallel police forces.”

CHP’s MP Ali Oztunc said, “Article 7 of the proposal grants all the power of police forces to the watchmen. Then, what is the need for police forces?”

Another provision that has prompted many to speak out against the bill is the level of education required to become a watchman.

The bill’s provision that anyone holding a secondary school degree could apply for watchmen posts raises questions regarding the watchmen’s ability to handle those sweeping powers granted in accordance with the law.

Former AKP MP Mustafa Yeneroglu said in his Twitter post, “Giving excessive powers such as stop-and-search and using weapons to poorly educated people would lead to irrecoverable human rights violations.”

The ruling party’s move to expand watchmen’s power comes in the wake of some local Turkish court decisions saying local watchmen have no authority to request identification.

A court in the western province of Izmir ruled in November that the watchmen could not ask for identification. This ruling was followed by a local court in the eastern province of Mardin, where the court said on January 6, 2020, the watchmen have no such power.

Although the local watchman post was deemed unnecessary and abolished in 2008, the government decided to re-establish them in the aftermath of the coup attempt in 2016.

The move is seen by many as a part of the country’s transformation into a police state.

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