Turkey slams US over human rights report
Turkey has lashed out at the United States over an annual human rights report which harshly criticized the Turkish government for the deterioration of democratic standards and fundamental freedoms while describing the arrested members of the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ) as “political prisoners.”
“The U.S. Department of State’s Turkey 2018 Human Rights Report, published on 13 March 2019, which is one of the customary documents that is submitted to the U.S. Congress on over 190 countries every year, contains unfounded allegations, dubious information and biased interpretations, as it did in previous years,” read a written statement by the Turkish Foreign Ministry on late 13.
“The report has not refrained from portraying our counter-terrorism efforts to ensure national and regional security, executed in full compliance with international law and human rights as human rights violations. We strongly reject this approach,” read the statement, accusing the U.S. of failing to recognize Turkey’s fight against what it sees as terrorist organizations, in particular the PKK, FETÖ, ISIL, and DHKP-C.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry slammed the report’s description of supporters of FETÖ, who had staged the July 2016 failed coup attempt, as “political prisoners,” stating: “Prepared by the country that shelters the head of FETÖ, the report strengthens the perception regarding the identity of those behind the 15 July terrorist coup attempt against our country. We condemn this characterization that serves no other purpose than politicizing human rights and thereby impairing the efforts towards the promotion of human rights principles.”
Recalling that the U.S. argued there were civilian casualties as a result of the Turkish army’s interventions in Syria, the statement said: “It is absolutely unacceptable for those responsible of thousands of civilian casualties in the course of operations across the world to accuse the Turkish Armed Forces, which have gained even the appreciation of the people of the region that they liberated without harm to any civilians during the Operation Olive Branch, of civilian casualties.”
‘US’ dark history in human rights’
The Turkish reaction against the report also described the U.S. as “a country whose dark history in human rights is known by the entire world and whose mistreatment of migrants including children has been widely reported even in the past year.”
“It is clear that this report, which is far from being objective, has been shaped by political incentives of the U.S. Turkey 2018 Report, as such, is damaging to the credibility of its decades-old tradition of annual country reports on human rights practices, which it claims to serve as a mechanism to monitor globally the situation of human rights,” it added.
Report cites ‘political prisoners’
The annual report said Turkey had lifted a two-year state of emergency in mid-July 2018, but it had “far-reaching effects on the country’s society and institutions, restricting the exercise of many fundamental freedoms.” New laws and decrees codified some provisions from the state of emergency; subsequent anti-terror legislation continued its restrictions on fundamental freedoms and compromised judicial independence and rule of law, it said.
It also listed scores of human rights violations, as well as restrictions in the field of freedom of expression and press.
The report stressed the issue of “political prisoners,” arguing that “the number of political prisoners remained a subject of debate at year’s end.”
“In November the Interior Ministry reported that the government had detained 217,971 persons in connection with the 2016 coup attempt. Of those, the courts had convicted 16,684, and another 14,750 were in prison awaiting trial,” it stated.
“An exact breakdown of numbers of alleged members or supporters of the PKK, ISIS, and ‘FETO’ was not available at year’s end, though in public remarks on December 11, Vice President Fuat Oktay stated that 47,778 individuals remained detained as ‘FETO’ suspects. Some observers considered many of these individuals political prisoners, a charge sharply disputed by the government,” the report said.