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Turkey

    June 21, 2013

    Following weeks of violently suppressed public protests, the Turkish government’s declaration that public assemblies in Istanbul’s central Taksim Square will not be tolerated will put Pride marches at risk over the next two Sundays, Amnesty International warned today.

    The organization believes that not allowing peaceful gatherings in one of Istanbul’s most iconic squares is a serious assault on the right to freedom of assembly, and the Turkish authorities must backpedal from this threatened restriction.

    “Turkey’s lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) community have struggled for years to gain acceptance of and respect for their Pride events, which have gone ahead successfully without police intervention in recent years. To have this derailed now would be a serious step backwards for freedom of assembly in Turkey,” said Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Programme Director John Dalhuisen.

    Turkish LGBTI activists had organized the Pride events for the next two Sundays – 23 and 30 June.

    June 16, 2013

    Police in Turkey are refusing to acknowledge that they have people in custody following mass detentions carried out during the night in Istanbul, Amnesty International said today.   

    More than a hundred are believed to have been detained during Saturday night’s demonstrations in the areas of Taksim, the main focus of the protests, and the nearby districts of Harbiye and Mecidiyekoy.  The actual number is not known but is likely to be significantly higher.

    The Istanbul Bar Association told Amnesty International that they knew of  around 70 named individuals whowere seen being detained by police but whose whereabouts still cannot be verified.  

    "Following a night of shocking police violence, the authorities are now denying due process to those they have detained. The police must released them immediately or disclose their location and allow access to family members and lawyers," said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International's researcher on Turkey, who is currently in Istanbul.   

    June 13, 2013
    Protesters in Istanbul wave Turkish flags

    Text and photographs by Anna Shea, Amnesty International Canada Legal Program Coordinator

    I was expecting to have a great vacation in Turkey. I wasn’t expecting to watch history unfold. Fortunately, however, I happened to be in Istanbul between May 26 and June 5. I had rented a room near Taksim Square, and I was in the square or the adjacent Gezi Park for almost 24 hours a day (it’s impossible to stay home when the world seems to be ending…).

    For me, the beginning of the protests was the most difficult time, because we all felt forgotten. When I returned to the apartment in the middle of the night on Friday May 31, I anticipated frantic emails and phone messages from my family and friends. But no one had been in touch. This was not surprising, since unless you were directly connected with Turkish protesters on Facebook or Twitter, it was impossible to know what was happening. But the feeling of isolation was nonetheless dreadful. It was such a relief when bloggers and the international media started taking notice. Amnesty – the national office in Turkey and the international secretariat – was one of the first organizations to draw attention to the situation. Simply knowing that people were paying attention – especially people overseas, completely unconnected from the action – was incredibly empowering, much more than I could have imagined.

    June 12, 2013

    Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan today said that “We have not responded to punches with punches. From now on security forces will respond differently.”
     
    He also warned the country’s security forces would end demonstrations that have shaken the country for two weeks within the next 24 hours.  

    Andrew Gardner, Turkey researcher at Amnesty International who is currently in Istanbul, responded: “Prime Minister’s Erdogan’s outrageous statement is nothing short of a provocation, only likely to lead to more violence and more injured protesters, particularly as fresh demonstrations are planned this evening in Taksim Square and elsewhere.”

    “It is high time for the international community, and in particular EU countries, to intervene by urging the Turkish government to enter into a meaningful dialogue with the protesters in order to de-escalate the situation and bring and end to the appalling levels of violence we have witnessed in the last two weeks.”

     

    June 11, 2013

    Protests in Turkey are likely to continue to escalate unless authorities engage in meaningful discussions with activists, Amnesty International said after riot police this morning once again used tear gas and water cannon against peaceful protesters in Istanbul’s Taksim Square and Gezi Park.

    The further police action against demonstrators contradicted statements by the Governor of Istanbul this morning that they would not intervene in the park.

    Activists have been protesting against the construction of a shopping centre in Gezi Park adjacent to the square, which is one of downtown Istanbul’s last green spaces.

    In a statement to media, Istanbul’s Governor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu said the intervention in Taksim Square was being carried out to remove banners from the Atatürk statue and the Atatürk Culture Centre on the square and that the police would not intervene in Gezi Park.

    June 06, 2013

    Urgent steps must be taken by the Turkish authorities to prevent further deaths and injuries and allow protesters access to their fundamental rights, as well as ensuring the security of all members of the public, Amnesty International said following reports of more than 1,000 injuries and at least two deaths of protesters in Istanbul.

    Amnesty International kept its office, which is close to the Taksim area of Istanbul, open as a safe haven for protesters escaping police violence throughout the night. Twenty doctors are currently in the office and treating injured protestors. Other civil society organizations have taken similar actions.

    June 03, 2013

    The number of activists injured across Turkey as a result of police abuse will continue to escalate unless the authorities bring police tactics in line with basic human rights standards, Amnesty International said today.

    Demonstrations in cities including Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir continued for a third day amid unprecedented levels of police violence against protesters.

    The authorities have not confirmed the number of people injured, which is believed to be in the thousands, some of whom remain in hospital in critical state.

    “Three days after the start of an unprecedented wave of police repression against protesters, the Turkish authorities have shown little remorse and no indication of a change in police tactics,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Program Director at Amnesty International.

    “It is essential that the Turkish authorities take action to stop police violence and learn the lessons for policing demonstrations in the future. They must also publish a full list of those injured after the protests, the nature of their injuries and ensure those responsible are held accountable.”

    June 01, 2013

    Urgent steps must be taken by the Turkish authorities to prevent further deaths and injuries and allow protestors access to their fundamental rights , as well as ensuring the security of all members of the public, Amnesty International said.

    Amnesty International kept its office, which is close the Taksim area, open as a safe haven for protestors escaping police violence throughout the night. 20 doctors are currently in the office and treating injured protestors. Other civil society organizations have taken similar actions.

    “Excessive use of force by police officers can be routine in Turkey but the excessively heavy-handed response to the entirely peaceful protests in Taksim has been truly disgraceful. It has hugely inflamed the situation on the streets of Istanbul where scores of people have been injured,” said John Dalhusien, Director of Amnesty International for Europe.

    Amnesty International observers at the protests witnessed the use of water cannon against peaceful protestors as well as those throwing stones at police.  

    May 31, 2013

    The Turkish authorities must order police to stop using excessive force against peaceful protesters in Istanbul and immediately investigate alleged abuses, said Amnesty International after more than a hundred people were injured during an ongoing peaceful demonstration in a city centre park. 

    On 30 and 31 May, police officers used water cannon and tear gas to disperse a peaceful protest against the destruction of Gezi Park in central Istanbul. 

    More than a hundred protesters are reported to have been injured during police interventions. Some suffered head injuries and at least two people had to receive emergency surgery. 

    Amnesty International activists who were observing the protest were also hit with truncheons and tear gassed.

    “The use of violence by police on this scale appears designed to deny the right to peaceful protest altogether and to discourage others from taking part” said John Dalhuisen, Director of Europe and Central Asia Programme at Amnesty International. 

    April 30, 2013

    The conviction this month of Fazıl Say, a Turkish pianist for “insulting religious values” is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to how the Turkish authorities could implement a new reform package that has the potential to limit freedom of expression, Amnesty International said.

    The “Fourth judicial package” – a reform bill confirmed yesterday by Turkey’s President and passed into law today, fails to meet the government’s stated aim of bringing Turkish laws into line with international human rights standards, including European Court of Human Rights case law on the right to freedom of expression.

    “This legal reform will go down in the history books as yet another missed opportunity for the government to deliver genuine human rights reform,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe and Central Asia Director.

    “It is a small step in the right direction, but still a long way short of Turkey’s international human rights obligations as well as what the people of Turkey demand from their lawmakers.”

    April 15, 2013

    The conviction of a renowned Turkish pianist for 'denigrating Islam' on Twitter sends a "chilling" message to social media users in the country, Amnesty International said today.

    Fazil Say, who has played in some of the world's leading orchestras, was today given a 10-month suspended sentence for posting tweets mocking religious individuals and Islamic conceptions of heaven in April 2012.

    "The conviction of Fazil Say is a flagrant violation of his freedom of expression, made possible by one of Turkey's most draconian laws," said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s expert on Turkey.

    "This case sends a chilling warning to anyone using Twitter or other social media in Turkey. Namely, that if you express an opinion the authorities don't like, you could be next."

    Charges against Say cited nine tweets on his account, including a re-tweet saying: "I am not sure if you have noticed, but where there's a louse, a non-entity, a lowlife, a thief or a fool, they are all Islamists. Is this a paradox?"

    March 27, 2013

    A package of reforms before Turkey’s Parliament risks being a missed opportunity to bring the country in line with international human rights standards and leaves people vulnerable to a range of abuses including jail just for expressing an opinion, Amnesty International said in a new report out today.

    “The right to freedom of expression is under attack in Turkey. Hundreds of abusive prosecutions are brought against activists, journalists, writers and lawyers. It is one of Turkey’s most entrenched human rights problems,” said John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Director for Europe and Central Asia.

    Amnesty International’s report, Decriminalize dissent: Time to deliver on the right to freedom of expression, analyses the current law and practice related to the ten most problematic articles threatening freedom of expression under the Turkish legal system.

    The reforms – called the “Fourth Judicial Package” – fail to make the necessary legislative amendments to bring national law in line with international human rights standards.  

    March 21, 2013

    The Turkish authorities must act on today’s announcement of ceasefire by the imprisoned Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) leader Abdulah Ocalan, Amnesty International said today.  

    “The Turkish authorities must seize the opportunity created by PKK chief Abdulah Ocalan’s call for a truce and work for a lasting peace based on justice for victims of human rights abuses committed by both sides during  the decades of conflict,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Programme Director.

    “The road to peace will throw up challenges but an atmosphere of openness and free exchange of opinion will provide the surest foundation for the negotiations the Turkish authorities have been having with the PKK in recent months.”

    “Amnesty International has repeatedly called for an end of the violence, an impartial investigation into human rights violations and for the promotion of the economic social and cultural rights of the Kurdish minority.”

    February 01, 2013

    Amnesty International condemns the bomb attack on the Embassy of the United States in Ankara. According to reports, the explosion occurred at around 1.10pm inside one of the entrances to the embassy. According to a statement made by the Turkish authorities, the bombing was carried out by a suicide bomber and resulted in the deaths of two persons, one of them an embassy security guard.  A member of the public was also injured and is receiving treatment in hospital.

    Any attacks of this kind which recklessly cause casualties among the general population or put them at risk demonstrate contempt for the fundamental principles of humanity.

    As yet, no individual or group has claimed responsibility for the bombing. However, the authorities accused the Revolutionary People's Liberation Front (DHKP-C) an armed leftist group of carrying out the attack.

    Amnesty International calls on the authorities to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation and bring those responsible to justice in fair proceedings in line with international human rights standards.

    January 18, 2013

    Overnight police raids in several Turkish cities have resulted in the arrest of 15 human rights lawyers known for defending individuals’ right to freedom of speech and victims of police violence, Amnesty International said.
     
    The police operation, which was reportedly aimed at clamping down on a banned left-wing group, included arrests in Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir and targeted residential addresses as well as law offices. Headquarters and branches of the Contemporary Lawyers’ Association (ÇHD) and the Peoples’ Law Office in Istanbul were among the addresses included in the raids.

    According to information received by Amnesty International, police searched the People’s Law Office without having a prosecutor and bar association representative present, as required by law. 

    “The detention of prominent human rights lawyers and the apparent illegal search of their offices add to a pattern of prosecutions apparently cracking down on dissenting voices,” said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty International’s researcher on Turkey.

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