Human Rights Violations in Turkey
- Articles/NewsHome Page SliderHuman RightsReport
- October 6, 2021
- 22 minutes read
Since the massive corruption investigation on 17/25 December 2013, Turkey has started to move away from democracy rapidly with the hands of Erdogan and AKP. Immediately after the dubious coup attempt on July 15, 2016, the government has declared a state of emergency. Furthermore, the Turkish government has announced that obligations arising from the basic human rights conventions such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights have been suspended. As a result, fundamental human rights began to become vulnerable. Thus, the process of moving away from democracy has evolved into totalitarianism. Erdogan and AKP together eliminated all opposition elements in the bureaucracy by dismissing them or pacified them by intimidation. Parliamentary democracy was abandoned and replaced by a party presidential system. On this occasion, the pluralistic participation of other political parties in politics was prevented. Moreover, HDP linked politicians who succeeded in getting votes from Turkish people despite coming out of the Kurdish movement were imprisoned. The change in this direction caused racist rhetoric to ignite in the political arena, and the opposition understanding suffered the right to speak on the country’s agenda.
The State of Emergency declared after July 15, 2016, was lifted only in July 2018. Dozens of regulations directly related to fundamental rights and freedoms were made with the executive orders enacted during the state of emergency. These practices were not terminated after the state of emergency, and unlawful practices, which became commonplace during an emergency, continue at full speed today.
Volunteers of the Gülen Movement, Kurdish people, and the entire opposition community were targeted for the violations of rights, which continued to increase after 2014 and became intense and systematic after July 15, 2016.
Below is summary and numerical information regarding the recent violations of rights in Turkey.
- The right to life is the most fundamental right that cannot be restricted or interfered with under any circumstances.
- Since 17/25 December 2013, thousands of people have been deprived of their right to life in Turkey.
- Erdogan’s party, AKP, lost its chance to come to power on its own in the elections held on June 7, 2015. For the first time, Kurdish politicians received more than 13% of the votes with acquiring votes from the Turkish population and obtained the right to be represented in the parliament with 80 deputies. After this election, the country suddenly turned into a bloodbath. Hundreds of people died due to dubious terrorist attacks, in which the PKK or ISIS are blamed, as appropriate. In this process, Erdogan, who is supposed to be an impartial President regarding the Constitution, by resorting to racism to save his party and maintain his power, intervened in the election and openly declared war on the Kurds. The war broke out in the cities of the East and Southeast region. Because of this, more than 5,000 people, including innocent women and children, died in the conflict. Hundreds of thousands of people left their cities. The corpses of civilians were tied behind military vehicles and dragged to the ground. Finally, after the renewed elections on November 1, 2015, Erdogan and the AKP once again achieved their goals as a majority for the sole government.
- Erdogan maintained tension in the country to make people forget the political wound he received on 17/25 December. While there were endless acts of terrorism and deaths in different parts of the country, Erdogan declared his opponents as terrorists. Those who exercised their right to criticize Erdogan faced a so-called “neutral” President who described his critics as a bloody murderer.
- On July 15, 2016, there was a coup attempt, which Erdogan described as “the grace of God” and, in the words of a former chief of staff, which “was clear from the start that it would fail.” While the army had taken control of itself, Erdogan suddenly urged people to take to the streets to protest against what he described as a coup. The civilian population and members of the army suddenly came face to face and found themselves in turmoil. More than 250 people, including soldiers, died. In the trials where those accused of the coup attempt were tried, camera footage emerged showing that plainclothes snipers killed civilians and soldiers. However, those were never taken into evidence because Erdogan intended to “punish the judiciary” rather than provide justice.
- During the state of emergency and its continuation, 649 deaths occurred as of April 7, 2021, only among people associated with the Gülen Movement. These deaths include torture, detention, and willful killings due to deliberate failure to provide medicine and medical support in prison. As well as deaths were occurring on migration routes due to forced flight and occupational fatal accidents occurring during work in difficult and dangerous jobs such as construction works due to retention by the government not to allow for victims performing their professional jobs.
- Many deaths too occurred due to unlawful practices against the Kurdish population and other opposition groups. For example, in the province of Van, where the Kurdish people are the majority, in September 2020, two villagers were first tortured at the gendarmerie station and then thrown from the helicopter. Servet Turgut, who was exposed to such brutal treatment, died in the hospital he was taken to.
- Demanding the right to a fair trial; detained lawyer Ebru Timtik, Grup Yorum member artists Helin Bölek and Mustafa Koçak are only three who lost their lives after hunger strikes as a last resort to make their voices heard in the face of the injustice they were subjected to.
- Despite the fact that all international treaties persistently and resolutely contain provisions on the prevention of torture and the punishment of those responsible, and it is known that torture is among the most severe human rights violations, torture is perpetuated widely and systematically in prisons and police detention centers against Gülen Movement volunteers, Kurds, and dissidents.
- Allegations of torture are reflected in the documents and reports of international institutions and organizations such as the United Nations, the European Union, Amnesty International, and Human Right Watch.
- Turkey requested extradition for a total of 112 persons associated with the Gülen Movement from the authorities of 32 countries, mainly Germany, England, the Netherlands, and Brazil, and all of the extradition requests were rejected. Most of the refusal decisions include the justification that people may be tortured if extradited to Turkey.
Cases of Kidnapping and Disappearance
- In Turkey, some Gülen Movement volunteers and dissidents have been abducted within the country and abroad. In addition, they were subjected to torture by being bereft of the supervision and surveillance of the judiciary and the international organizations.
- To date, 30 people have been abducted only inside Turkey. It turned out that people who could not be found for months were held in police stations. For example, one of the abducted Yusuf Bilge Tunç has been missing since August 6, 2019, and Hüseyin Galip Küçüközyiğit has been missing since December 29, 2020.
- A total of 94 people associated with the Gülen Movement were abducted from 22 countries or forcibly brought to Turkey for other unlawful reasons. Despite the absence of a judicial decision about any of these people following international law norms, they were brought to Turkey illegally and forcibly. The United Nations Human Rights Committee and the European Court of Human Rights have given a violation decision in all individual applications regarding the abductions. The allegations of torture during the abduction process are also included in the violation decisions.
Loss of Independence and Impartiality of the Judiciary
- The judicial power in Turkey has lost its independence and has become an instrument of the executive power.
- In the reports published by the United Nations, the European Union, the Venice Commission, the US Department of State, Amnesty International, and the Human Rights Watch, the judiciary in Turkey has lost its independence and that it is under the control of the executive have been confirmed.
- Prosecutions against Erdogan’s opponents or targets are seen as cases with a tunnel view. As a result, the judiciary is operated to punish the targeted people rather than provide justice. Thus, the courts are entirely subordinate to politics. They have become ignorant of the laws binding on them, even the decisions of superior and international judicial authorities. The trial courts did not comply with the violation decisions given by the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Committee. Even the Constitutional Court and the General Assembly of Criminal Chambers of the Court of Cassation have decided that they do not recognize the European Court of Human Rights decisions.
- Turkey is ranked 107 out of 128 countries according to the Rule Of Law 2020 index prepared by the World Justice Project. The Turkish judicial system has acquired such a poor position for the first time in its recent and distant history.
Mass Detentions and Arrests
- Another of the most severe and widespread violations of rights in Turkey is mass arrests. These mass arrests are made because of pseudo and common accusations against opponents such as “membership of an armed terrorist organization” or “aiding an armed terrorist organization.”
- In a statement made in September 2020 by Deva Party deputy Mustafa Yeneroglu, 1 million 376 thousand people were investigated within the scope of the crime of “armed terrorist organization” during the three years following July 15, 2016 coup attempt.
- In a statement made on July 15, 2020, by Minister of Interior Affairs Suleyman Soylu, within four years after July 15, 2016, 597,783 people were investigated, and 94,975 people were arrested within the scope of the operations carried out only against the Gülen Movement.
- Mass detentions and arrests still continue nowadays in Turkey.
Mass retaliatory and forced dismissals from the employment
- To date, 133,750 public officials have been dismissed in Turkey on the pretextual grounds that they are affiliated with armed terrorist organizations. These people include members of the high judiciary from the Constitutional Court, the Court of Cassation, the Council of State, trial judges, prosecutors, governors, army generals, police chiefs, doctors, engineers, teachers, police officers, and civil servants from various institutions.
- The firings were not only taking place among public institutions and organizations but also tens of thousands of employees in the private sector fired as a result of the confiscation of private companies pursuant to the emergency executive orders or alleged to be associated with groups targeted by Erdogan and AKP.
- In the case of dismissals, these people have been prevented from exercising or even accessing their labor rights.
- Among those dismissed in the public sector are two members of the Constitutional Court, 4340 judges with prosecutors.
Freedom of speech
- As in all other authoritarian governments, the Erdogan regime has made freedom of expression inaccessible and unusable in Turkey.
- With the emergency decrees issued after July 15, 2016, 53 newspapers, 29 publishing houses, 22 radio stations, 20 periodicals, 19 TV channels, and six news agencies were abolished.
- The International Federation of Journalists (IJF), in its report for 2020, has published that 229 journalists are detained worldwide. According to the report, Turkey is ranked as the country with the highest number of imprisoned journalists.
- According to the 2021 Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Turkey ranks 153rd out of 180 countries. However, Turkey was 99th in 2002, the year Erdogan and AKP came to power.
- In the report published by the International Press Institute (IPI) in 2018, it is stated that the AKP regime’s rate of controlling the mass media has reached the level of 95 percent.
- The most critical issue used as a justification for violations of freedom of expression in Turkey is the crime of “insulting the President.” Within the scope of this crime, investigations were carried out against 128,872 people between 2014 and 2019, and 27,717 cases were filed. In these cases, various convictions were given against 9,556 people. Nine hundred three of those who are subject to investigation and trial are children. Journalists and artists are also among those on trial. Almost all of these accusations are based on social media posts such as Twitter and Facebook. The latest victim of this is Turkey’s leading human rights activist, and HDP linked parliamentarian Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu. Gergerlioglu was prosecuted and sentenced for retweeting a video containing a speech in a television program. As a result, he was imprisoned despite his legislative immunity. The video in question is still online, and Gergerlioglu is the only person punished for this video.
Violations of property rights
- With the state of emergency executive orders issued after July 15, 2016, many foundations, associations, and other legal entities belonging to business structures and individuals affiliated with the Gülen Movement were abolished, and their properties were confiscated. In addition, the property of the persons under investigation was automatically seized with a court decision, and people were systematically left to poverty and starvation.
- The closed institutions include universities, schools, dormitories, newspapers, periodicals, televisions, radios, websites, foundations, associations, trade and labor unions, and commercial enterprises.
- To date, 3942 institutions have been closed. As of 2017, the value of the assets seized and transferred to the treasury is constituted 48.5 billion Turkish Liras.
Violations of freedom of movement
- People who Erdogan and AKP have targeted are left to civil and social death. Yet, despite this, they are prevented people from leaving the country and establishing a new life for themselves in different parts of the world.
- The passports, if any, of those being investigated for membership or aiding a so-called terrorist organization are not allowed to obtain new passports. The judicial authorities’ decision enforces this practice, and according to the above figures, 1 million 376 thousand people are banned from traveling abroad for any term length.
- Some of the cancellation practices are enforced directly with the emergency laws, and the passports of those who were dismissed from the profession were canceled without any investigation. Moreover, it also affected the relatives of the passport holders, for whom there was no investigation about these cancellations.
Violations of freedom of association
- The right of society to organize, which is the most fundamental element of democracy, has been destroyed in Turkey.
- One thousand four hundred ten associations, 109 foundations, 19 unions, 19 NGO Federations, 4 NGO Confederations have been closed since July 15, 2016.
- People in Turkey are not allowed to protest peacefully on the street, even alone.
Serious violations of rights in prisons
- According to the Turkish Statistical Institute (TURKSTAT) data, the prison population was 291.546 on December 31, 2019, and the number of beds available as of the same date was 230.210. This means that 61,336 people were not allocated beds. This indicator corresponds to 21% of the total population and means that 1 out of every five prisoners does not have a bed. This confirms that people are either lying on the ground or sleeping in turns with other prisoners.
- This shows that people who were arrested by unlawful and arbitrary methods were not even given a bed.
- Prisoners struggling against these difficult conditions also experience severe deprivation of rights due to the arbitrary powers and practices obtained by the prison administrations during and after the State of Emergency.
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