Constitutionality of COVID-19 Related Curfews in Turkey

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Aslan V.

İstanbul hukuk mecmuası, vol.78, no.2, pp.809-835, 2020 (National Refreed University Journal)

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 78 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Doi Number: 10.26650/mecmua.2020.78.2.0018
  • Journal Name: İstanbul hukuk mecmuası
  • Journal Indexes: Emerging Sources Citation Index, TR DİZİN (ULAKBİM)
  • Page Numbers: pp.809-835


Constitutionality of COVID-19 Related Curfews in Turkey The Turkish Government issued several acts with the intent of preventing the spread of the virus after announcing the first confirmed case of COVID-19 on March 11, 2020. Moreover, a valid ground emerged for the declaration of a state of emergency: Article 119 of the Turkish Constitution empowers the President of the Republic to declare a state of emergency in the event of the serious deterioration of public order caused by the outbreak of dangerous pandemics. However, the state of emergency was not declared and the government chose to use its ordinary powers instead. Therefore, the Interior Ministry issued directives banning people over the age of 65, people with chronic diseases, and people under the age of 20 from leaving their homes. General curfews were also imposed in big cities on weekends more than ten times with these directives. Serious questions have been raised regarding the constitutionality of the restrictions as these directives lack explicit statutory authorization and the state of emergency has not been declared. Basic rights and freedom could be restricted for the reasons specified in Article 13 of the Turkish Constitution. Moreover, the restrictions should be based on laws accepted by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. These laws have to be certain and accessible. Therefore, “laws accepted by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey” should be interpreted in a nuanced way: Laws have to contain content-wise qualities such as clarity, obviousness, and predictability. Only under these conditions, the requirements of legality could be met. The recent curfews in Turkey are grounded on Article 11/C of the Law on Provincial Administration and Article 27 and 72 of the Law on General Protection of Public Health. According to Article 11/C of the Law on Provincial Administration, Duties of the provincial governors include exercising preventive police patrols, providing and preserving peace, security, personal inviolability, freedom of action and public welfare within the cities. To ensure these duties, the governor must take necessary measures. In cases where there is a risk of deterioration of public order and safety in such a way that ordinary life is threatened, the governor may restrict entries and exits to the city for persons who are suspected of having the potential to disrupt public order or public security, regulate or restrict roaming or gathering of people and navigation of vehicles in certain places or hours, prohibit bearing or transportation of all types of weapons and bullets including the registered ones. These measures cannot exceed fifteen days. Article 27 of the Law on General Protection of Public Health regulates general duties of public hygiene assemblies. Moreover, Article 72 of the law regulates measures mostly applicable to infected citizens, infected animals, and danger zones. Restriction of rights of the “noninfected cases” is not regulated in both the articles. As it is seen, neither the Law on Provincial Administration nor the Law on General Protection of Public Health empowers the government to impose general limitations on basic rights. General curfews cannot be imposed based on these laws under these circumstances. It could be said that lawful curfews could be imposed only after declaring an official state of emergency considering the current legislation in Turkey. However, the government does not want to declare an official state of emergency and prefer to manage the crisis with ordinary legislation. Hence, laws restricting basic rights are interpreted widely, and unusual competences are justified under the cover of fighting against the COVID-19 pandemic. Therefore, there is an urgent need to adopt new and detailed laws to be applied during pandemics. Otherwise, the only way to legalize curfews could be declaring a state of emergency. It could be concluded that general curfews imposed in Turkey due to the COVID-19 pandemic are unconstitutional under these conditions (also see Volkan Aslan, “Turkey’s Struggle Against COVID-19 and the New Reign-by-Administrative-Act” [IACL-IADC Blog 2020] <>).

Türkiye’de COVID-19 salgınıyla mücadele kapsamında iki ayı aşkın süredir sokağa çıkma kısıtlamaları uygulanmaktadır. İçişleri Bakanlığı tarafından çıkarılan genelgelerle öngörülen bu kısıtlamaların dayanağı olarak İl İdaresi Kanunu ile Umumi Hıfzısıhha Kanunu gösterilmektedir. Ancak söz konusu kanunlarda yer alan düzenlemelerin sokağa çıkma kısıtlamalarına dayanak olması mümkün değildir. Resmi olarak ilân edilmiş bir olağanüstü hâl söz konusu olmadığından olağan dönemde temel hak ve hürriyetleri sınırlandıran önlemlerin alınabilmesi, 1982 Anayasası’nın 13. maddesinde sayılan koşullara uyulmasını gerektirmektedir. Salgın sebebiyle uygulanan sokağa çıkma kısıtlamalarının 1982 Anayasası’nın ilgili maddelerinde belirtilen sebeplere bağlı olduğu ileri sürülebilirse de 13. maddenin aradığı diğer bir koşul olan kanunilik ilkesinin gereklerine uyulmadığı görülmektedir. Nitekim temel hak ve hürriyetleri sınırlandırırken uyulması gereken kanunilik ilkesi gereğince, kanunların sınırlama ile ilgili belirli hususları açıkça düzenlemesi gerekmektedir. Sokağa çıkma kısıtlamalarına dayanak olarak gösterilen kanunlarda ise sokağa çıkma kısıtlamaları açıkça zikredilmediği gibi kısıtlamaların kapsamı, biçimi, süresi ve uygulanacak güvenceler gibi temel konulara da yer verilmediği görülmektedir.