Turkey to ratify 8-year-old security deal with Cameroon allowing joint operations against dissidents

Levent Kenez/Stockholm

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan sent a security agreement signed with Cameroon in 2014 to parliament on February 13, 2022, starting the approval process. The agreement, which includes extensive cooperation against terrorism, joint police operations and intelligence sharing, puts on the agenda the possibility of further kidnappings or illegal deportations of Turkish citizens as the Erdoğan government continuously treats political opponents of “terrorists”.

Turkish intelligence services previously abducted a significant number of opponents of Erdoğan in violation of international law as part of a witch hunt launched following a failed coup in 2016.

Similar to previous security agreements, the text of the agreement, obtained by Nordic Monitor, contains ambiguous phrases that could be used by the Turkish government to crack down on opponents living in exile and critics outside the country.

English, Turkish and French text of the agreement:

Cameroon Security Agreement

Article 3(1)(a) of the Agreement allows the Parties to exchange operational information to prevent and combat transnational crime, terrorist acts and terrorist groups.

In addition to UN Security Council resolutions, Article 3(2) of the agreement refers to local laws as to what should be defined as a terrorist act, saying: “Parties should also cooperate to prevent and suppress terrorist acts and the financing of terrorism in accordance with their national laws in force…” the European Union and the United States have repeatedly criticized Turkey for interpreting the provisions of its anti-terrorism law too broadly in a way that has silenced dissenters using national security as a pretext.

Article 3(1.b) of the agreement also authorizes joint police operations, stating that the parties “in accordance with their national laws agree to conduct joint police operations. The relevant operational procedures shall be agreed by the authorities of both parties, as indicated in article 7 of this agreement. »

Previous research conducted by Nordic Monitor shows that the content of security agreements has changed in parallel with the transformation of national legislation; that the new documents contain ambiguous cut-and-paste phrases designed to suppress government opponents outside the country; and that the number of agreements has increased since the Gezi uprising.

The Gezi protests erupted in May 2013 against a government plan to destroy and redevelop a park near the famous Taksim Square in central Istanbul. Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets in Turkey to protest Erdogan’s authoritarian policies. The Gezi protests were one of the largest in modern Turkish history.

Erdoğan’s strategy of suppressing critics and journalists and destroying the freedoms guaranteed by the Turkish constitution and relevant national laws accelerated after the Gezi protests. Turkey’s anti-democratic process gained new momentum after the corruption scandals incriminating Erdoğan became public between December 17 and 25, 2013.

Turkey’s violation of the rights of its citizens, through security agreements and secret agreements with other states, has also been put on the agenda by the United Nations. A joint letter from the UN dated May 5, 2020 pointed out that the Turkish government had signed bilateral security cooperation agreements with several states that were ambiguously worded to allow for the deportation or abduction of Turkish nationals living abroad.

“[The Turkish] The government has signed bilateral security cooperation agreements with several states that reportedly contain broad and vague references to countering terrorism and transnational crime. Sources say the agreements were ambiguously worded to allow for the deportation or abduction of anyone considered a “security risk” from third-party countries party to the agreements. There appears to be a clear connection in the timing of the alleged operations – most, if not all, were carried out within two years of the agreements entering into force. For example, allegations are made that Turkey signed secret agreements with several states, including Azerbaijan, Albania, Cambodia and Gabon, where several operations allegedly took place,” the letter said.

According to the letter, the UN rapporteurs asked these countries to investigate those responsible for their role in Turkey’s kidnapping operations and to reveal the secret agreements signed with Turkey in this regard.

Independent global media organization Open democracy reported that since the July 2016 coup attempt, 16 cases of domestic abductions have been checked in – mainly individuals accused of being supporters of Fethullah Gülen, a fierce critic of the Erdoğan government, but also suspected supporters of the banned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

These kidnappings are no longer limited to the borders of Turkey. Since 2016, 107 people, mostly accused of being Gulenists, have been brought back to Turkey from at least 16 countries, including Azerbaijan, Gabon, Kosovo, Malaysia, Moldova, Burma, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Orhan İnandı’s wife, Reyhan, said photos showing her husband in handcuffs showed the torture he had suffered. “It is obvious that they tortured my husband. He lost so much weight,” she said.

More recently, educator Orhan İnandı was abducted in Kyrgyzstan on May 31 and illegally brought to Turkey by Turkish intelligence agency MIT. İnandı, who had lived in Kyrgyzstan for almost 30 years, was arrested on July 12 for membership in a terrorist organization.

Nordic monitor reported that Turkish diplomats in Cameroon profiled the critics, after which these Turkish nationals were included in a terrorism investigation on fabricated charges by a Turkish prosecutor in 2018.

Sharon P. Juarez