Turkey: an escalating human rights crisis
Police have detained two leaders of Amnesty International within the space of a month.
Taner Kiliç, the Chair of Amnesty International Turkey, was taken into police custody on June 6 along with 22 other lawyers and charged three days later. Taner is wrongly accused of membership of the “Fethullah Gülen Terror Organization”, which the authorities blame for an attempted coup in July 2016. He was denied bail and remains in detention pending trial.
Idil Eser, Amnesty Turkey’s Director, was arrested on July 5 along with two trainers and seven other human rights defenders while attending a workshop in Istanbul. Idil Eser, as well as five other human rights defenders have been imprisoned pending trial on the suspicion of “assisting an armed terrorist organisation”. Another four have been released on bail, but are still under investigation.
The accusations against Taner, Idil and the others are ridiculous and baseless. The Turkish authorities must immediately and unconditionally release all of the detainees.
These arrests are just the latest in an escalating human rights crisis.
Thousands, including political activists, lawyers, journalists and others critical of government policy in Turkey are facing criminal prosecutions on trumped up terrorism charges.
An attempted coup in July 2016 prompted a massive government crackdown on both civil servants and civil society in Turkey. Those accused of links to the Fethullah Gülen movement – the group blamed for the attempted coup – were the main target. At least 47,000 people have been detained, and there was evidence of torture in the wake of the coup attempt. Over 100,000 civil servants have been dismissed. Hundreds of media outlets and NGOs were closed down.
Journalists under attack
Globally, one third of all imprisoned journalists, media workers and executives are in Turkey’s prisons, with the vast majority among them waiting to be brought to trial.
In post-coup Turkey journalists have been targeted in an unprecedented crackdown on all strands of opposition media. Together with the closure of more than 160 media outlets the space for dissent is ever-shrinking and speaking out comes at an immeasurable cost.
Currently more than 130 journalists and other media workers are imprisoned, and thousands more unemployed following the closure of over 160 media outlets. Independent journalism in Turkey is at the edge of the precipice. The fear of imprisonment for criticizing the authorities now means that newspaper columns and current affairs discussion programs, very popular in Turkey, contain little vocal dissent nor strongly diverse views.
The erosion of media freedom is not new in Turkey. In 2013 when huge Gezi Park protests erupted in Istanbul, a prominent news channel broadcasted a documentary about penguins rather than covering the protests. Journalists lost their jobs for displeasing the authorities. Critical media outlets were taken over and their editorial line changed to a more compliant one.
READ MORE > The media crackdown in Turkey and journalists currently at risk
Armed conflict and the EU “migration deal”
In 2016/17, violations of human rights by security forces continued with impunity, especially in the predominantly Kurdish southeast of the country, where urban populations were held under 24-hour curfew. Up to half a million people were displaced in the country. The EU and Turkey agreed a “migration deal” to prevent irregular migration to the EU. This led to the return of hundreds of refugees and asylum-seekers and less criticism by EU bodies of Turkey’s human rights record.
Jailing of activists, including Amnesty director, a crushing blow for rights in Turkey (19 July 2017)
Turkey: Free Human Rights Defenders - Download a petition (19 July 2017)
Turkey: Imprisonment of Amnesty Chair is a devastating injustice (9 June 2017)
Turkey: “Professional annihilation” of 100,000 public sector workers in post-coup attempt purge (22 May 2017)
Turkey: UN findings of mass displacement of Kurds confirm Amnesty International research (10 March 2017)
Turkey: Curfews and crackdown force hundreds of thousands of Kurds from their homes (6 December 2016)
Turkey: Latest detention of journalists a “blatant misuse of powers” (31 October 2016)
Joint Statement: State of emergency provisions in Turkey violate human rights and should be revoked (19 October 2016)
Turkey: Amnesty International Annual Report: State of Human Rights 2015/2016