(Jan. 27, 2021) On December 27, 2020, Turkey’s Parliament passed Law No. 7262 on the Suppression of the Financing of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation.
The explanatory memorandum of the draft bill that became Law No. 7262 states that the bill was created in response to the Financial Action Task Force’s (FATF’s) 2019 Turkey Mutual Assessment Report that found Turkey noncompliant with FATF’s Recommendations 7 and 12, which relate to financial sanctions connected with weapons of mass destruction proliferation and financial due diligence measures regarding politically exposed persons, respectively. Turkey ratified the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism in 2002, but the FATF may increase monitoring of countries (place them on the “grey list”) that it finds to have strategic deficiencies in countering money laundering, terrorist financing, and proliferation financing.
Contents of the Law
Law No. 7262 bans persons designated in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolutions on the suppression of weapons of mass destruction financing and persons associated with nuclear and ballistic missile programs banned by these resolutions from entering into business partnerships and other commercial relationships in Turkey. It also forbids the collection of funds in Turkey by these persons or on their behalf. (Law No. 7262, art. 2(1).) Furthermore, the law bans the export, import, and transit of material, products, or equipment designated by the UNSC resolutions; the transfer of designated technologies; and the provision of any kind of assistance to designated nuclear activities or to the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems. (Art. 2(3).) The law also includes provisions regarding the freezing of assets of designated persons or persons acting on their behalf in connection with banned activities (art. 3) and criminal sanctions for the violation of the bans (art. 5).
In addition, the law includes a number of provisions amending, inter alia, the Law on the Collection of Charitable Aid (Law No. 2860) and the Law on Associations (Law No. 5253). The amendment to Law No. 2860 authorizes the provincial governorship or the Ministry of Internal Affairs to request that the relevant content or hosting provider remove internet content related to the unauthorized collection of monetary donations. If the content is not removed within 24 hours of the notification, the governorship or the ministry may request that a court block the content. The court must rule on the request within 24 hours and without a hearing. (Law No. 7262, art. 7.)
Law No. 7262 makes three significant amendments to Law No. 5253. A new provision stipulates that persons who were convicted of crimes provided in Law No. 6415 on the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism; the crimes of producing and trading in narcotics or psychotropic substances (Turkish Penal Code (TPC) art. 188); or the crime of laundering the assets acquired from such offenses (TPC art. 282) are now banned from holding positions as officers in organs of civil associations other than the general assembly, even if the regular period of suspension of civil privileges of persons convicted of an intentional crime under TPC article 53 (which is generally coterminous with the prison term) has ended (Law No. 7262, art. 12). Furthermore, the minister of internal affairs is authorized to temporarily suspend persons who are indicted for these crimes in pending criminal procedures from their roles as officers in civil associations. The minister is authorized to temporarily suspend the operations of a civil association in cases where the suspension of the relevant person alone is insufficient and immediate action is necessary. The minister must apply to a court within 48 hours of his or her decision to suspend the operations of the association; the court will either quash the decision or sustain it and continue adjudication under article 89 of the Turkish Civil Code, which authorizes a court to suspend the operation of or dissolve civil associations whose purposes have become illegal (Law No. 7262, art. 15). Lastly, the amendments regularize financial audits of civil associations that were previously done on an ad hoc basis, and authorizes inspectors to request the disclosure of information and documentation related to the audits from relevant public and private institutions, including banks, which are now charged with a duty to disclose. (Law No. 7262, art. 13.)
Criticism of the Law
The amendments made to the Law on Associations in particular were heavily criticized by opposition parties in the parliament. Members from the three opposition parties that have parliamentary groups in the general assembly (the CHP, IP, and HDP) wrote dissenting opinions to the parliamentary standing committee report on the draft law, arguing that the amendments to the Law on Association were irrelevant to the purposes of suppressing the financing of weapons of mass destruction proliferation but were rather aimed at the suppression of civil society. In addition, the opposition argued that the government was not sincere in its regulation efforts because all the relevant provisions were addressing FATF Recommendation 7 but not Recommendation 12 on “politically exposed persons,” which would require rules regarding the monitoring of finances of public officials and entities that had close relations with the government. The ruling AKP’s parliamentary group defended the bill by arguing that its contents were compliant with the FATF’s Turkey Mutual Assessment Report, FATF’s Recommendations, and the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights. The Ministry of Internal Affairs published a press statement explaining and defending the amendments to the Law on Associations and Law on Collection of Charitable Aid.