The Istanbul Convention, which is the internationally agreed zero-tolerance norm for violence against women and gender-based violence, is a human rights guarantee. The Convention is the international benchmark and “gold standard” for legislation and policy not only in Europe but also worldwide. It addresses violence against women and domestic violence as a human rights issue and is the first legally binding international instrument on preventing and combating all forms of violence against women and girls at international level. Although the Convention focuses on the elimination of violence against women first and foremost, it also encourages state parties to implement the Convention in cases of gender, gender identity, race, sexual orientation and age-based violence and discrimination. As of today, the Convention has been signed by all European Union (EU) member states and ratified by 21 of them*. The EU has signed the Convention on June 13, 2017. There are ongoing efforts to ratify and implement the convention in all the EU member states**.
The Istanbul Convention is the most fundamental and the solemn guarantee in terms of women’s human rights due to the fact that it regulates and retributes cases of domestic (physical, sexual, psychological or economic) violence. According to the Article 90 of the Turkish Constitution, the Istanbul Convention, as an international human rights convention, is qualified as a law under the domestic law. No appeal to the Constitutional Court shall be made with regard to the Convention, on the grounds that it is unconstitutional. In the case of a conflict between international agreements, duly put into effect, concerning fundamental rights and freedoms and the laws due to differences in provisions on the same matter, the provisions of international agreements shall prevail.
We know that some governments have a tendency to interpret the Convention in line with their own ideologies, through reservations or declarations in the process of signature or ratification. However, it is unacceptable for Turkey refer to Poland’s stance, and other hesitant countries to legitimize its withdrawal from the convention. In order to prevent the violation of basic principles of the EU such as the rule of law, sanctions can be put in place for EU member states. However, this is not the case for Turkey.
In order to combat all forms of violence against women and domestic violence, the Government and notably the Turkish Grand National Assembly are obliged to implement the Istanbul Convention. The Istanbul Convention is a guarantee for women’s and LGBTI+’s human rights. The government must cease their targeting against LGBTI+ communities to excuse their withdrawal from the Convention and the government officials must stop the hate speech, gender and sexual orientation-based discrimination The clear provisions of the Constitution of Turkey must not be ignored and violated. Despite the Presidency degree published in the Official Gazette on 20 March 2021, withdraw from the Convention is null and void under the Turkish Constitution and should be recalled imminently.
The decision to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention is manifestly contrary to the domestic law as well as international law in accordance with Vienna Convention’s Article 46. There is no other example, neither in the world nor in the Council of Europe, of withdrawing from a fundamental human rights convention which takes its name from the city where it was drafted and first signed, in a manner that is manifestly contrary to domestic and international law. As stated in the Statute of the Council of Europe, Article 1, one of the main aims of the Council is to maintain and realize human rights and fundamental freedoms. Withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention which is one of the most basic human rights conventions of the Council of Europe, which aims to eliminate gender-based violence and maintain gender equality, is in clear contradiction to the Statute of the Council of Europe, itself.
We call all the members of the Council of Europe and State Parties of the Istanbul Convention for immediate action under the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties, namely under the Article 57, 58 and 59. We emphasize that the Presidential Executive Order to withdraw from the Istanbul Convention is manifestly unlawful under both domestic as well as international law. Therefore, we call upon all authorities to stop Turkey to withdraw from the Convention by putting all legal and political measures into force.
* (Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden).
** The Istanbul Convention needs to be ratified by six EU member states that do not do this (Bulgaria, Czechia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia).