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    Turkey: Crackdown on Human Rights

    © AFP/Getty Images

    Following the failed coup on July 15th, 2016 the Turkish government embarked on a crackdown of exceptional proportions, targeting people accused of being linked to Fethullah Gülen - a Turkish cleric in exile in the US, who the government accused of being the coup's mastermind. 

    More than 10,000 people were detained immediately following the attempted coup and Amnesty International has evidence that many of those people were subjected to beatings and torture, including rape, in official and unofficial detention centres in the country. 

    Despite chilling images and videos of torture that have been widely broadcast, the government has remained silent on the abuse.

    Evidence of torture and rape

    Amnesty International representatives spoke to lawyers, doctors and a person on duty in a detention facility about the conditions of detention. There were also multiple reports of detainees being held in unofficial locations such as sports centres and even a stable. Some detainees, including at least three judges, were held in the corridors of courthouses. According to these accounts, police held detainees in stress positions, denied them food, water and medical treatment, verbally abused and threatened them and subjected them to beatings and torture, including rape and sexual assault.

    State of emergency

    President Erdogan announced a three-month state of emergency, (which was renewed for an additional 3 moths) and the Turkish government suspended the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). The President has refused to rule out the use of the death penalty.

    On July 23rd, the Turkish government issued its first decree under new powers authorised by its declaration of a state of emergency. The decree dramatically increased the amount of time detainees can be held without being charged from four to 30 days. This change risks exposing detainees to further torture and other ill-treatment.

    The decree also allows for officials to observe or even record meetings between pre-trial detainees and lawyers. Detainees are restricted in who they can choose to represent them, further undermining the right to a fair trial.

    Crackdown on Freedom of Expression and Rule of Law

    During the first two and a half months of the state of emergency, authorities closed around 150 media outlets and publishing companies, leaving over 2,300 journalists and media workers without jobs.  Emergency provisions were also been used to harass family members of journalists who have fled abroad or gone into hiding, including by cancelling their passports or detaining them in the stead of those accused. At least 2,745 judges and prosecutors were suspended according to Habertürk, a mainstream pro-government Turkish television news channel.

    Over 15,000 people were suspened from the Ministry of Education and are under investigation for links to Fethullah Gülen. 1,577 university deans were also asked to resign by the Council of Higher Education (YÖK). The Ministry of Education has also suspended the right of academics to conduct research abroad and called back academics who were working abroad.

    In November 2016, 375 registered associations and NGOs were permanently closed according to an executive decree. The suspensions and closures were disproportionate and cannot be justified even under a state of emergency.   The decree includes the full list of NGOs permanently closed, including dozens of national and local human rights organizations, women’s rights organizations, local cultural associations, associations providing support to people living in poverty, students and business associations and even sports clubs. The suspensions and closures occurred without individualized reasoning or the possibility of appeal or judicial remedy , and are in violation of the rights to freedom of expression and association, guaranteed under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which Turkey is a party.

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    Turkey Could Be Taking A Big Step Backwards In Human Rights