CoE Human Rights body criticizes Turkish politicians over hate speech

CoE Human Rights body criticizes Turkish politicians over hate speech

CoE Human Rights body criticizes Turkish politicians over hate speech The Council of Europe’s human rights body European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) has reported its concern about increasing hate speech and violence against religious, sexual, and ethnic minority groups in Turkey, indicating that the usage of hate speech by senior representatives of the state was a major concern.  
“ECRI is highly concerned about the fact that hate speech is expressed increasingly by officials and other public figures, including senior representatives of the state and some members of the opposition,” said the report released by ECRI on Oct 4.

Referring to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s televised statement in August 2014, “They have said I am Georgian […] they have said even uglier things – they have called me – pardon my language – Armenian, but I am a Turk,” the report follows with several recommendations.

“ECRI strongly recommends that officials and political leaders at all levels stop using hate speech. The parliament and the government should adopt codes of conduct prohibiting hate speech and the authorities should encourage political parties to do likewise,” it said.

Examining the current situation in terms of legal provisions and reflecting the implementation process of the existent legal provisions and instruments in Turkey, ECRI indicated that the negative impact of hate speech damages social cohesion and underlined the problem of impunity regarding hate crimes due to the fact that there is no strong official reaction to such rhetoric. 

“There is even reason to conclude that hate speech legislation is used to silence vulnerable groups,” the report said, indicating that disciplinary measures and verdicts against law enforcement officers remained limited and many alleged hate crimes were concluded without adequate investigation and sentencing. 

Referring to data transmitted by Turkish officials, ECRI underlined that “658 cases were prosecuted in 2014 (compared with 535 cases in 2013 and 497 in 2012) and 202 received sentences (compared with 334 cases in 2013 and 158 in 2012).”

ECRI also emphasized that hate speech was widely used by public figures and intellectuals and in media coverage. Referring to the Hrant Dink Foundation’s annual reports, ECRI reported that hate speech in Turkish print media had substantially increased in recent years. According to the report, the number of hate speech items recorded in the last four reports rose from 141 to 313. The report concluded that the most frequent arenas for hate speech were ethnic origin (46.98 percent), religion (20.92 percent), national identity (13.2 percent), sexual orientation (5 percent), social status (4.69 percent) and sexual identity (2.87 percent).

Discussing how public hate speech has deepened existing divisions and damaged social cohesion, ECRI referred to new research showing that 70 percent of respondents had negative views and attitudes toward Jews and Armenians. Some 39.1 percent had similarly negative attitudes toward Arabs, while another 35 percent had similar distaste for Europeans.

In response to ECRI recommendations, Turkey issued an answer to CoE officials that was included in the report. Indicating that the Law on a Turkish Human Rights and Equality Institution was adopted by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Ankara said: “The law provides a comprehensive legal framework for the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of gender, race, color, language, religion, faith, philosophical and political views, ethnic origin, sect, wealth, birth, civil status, condition of health, disability and age. The ground ethnic origin is included explicitly in the law.”

In addition Turkey indicated that, “all racist and homo/transphobic incidents are throughly investigated by police and prosecution authorities. Within the scope of the related legislation, the police forces, without making any discrimination among citizens, are responsible for making a thorough, diligent and swift investigation and referring to judicial authorities.”