‘Turkey shows little progress in freedom’

‘Turkey shows little progress in freedom’

‘Turkey shows little progress in freedom’

Amnesty International Turkey branch director Murat Çekiç (L) says Turkey has 'progressed' in terms of freedom of expression, despite persistent nagging problems. Daily News Photo, Emrah Gürel

Amnesty International has criticized Turkey for lack of progress in its human rights issues in its annual report, while cautiously praising the “progress” made in freedom of expression.

“Taboo issues now are being debated. I cannot say this new situation is at the level of international freedom of expression, but its progress,” the director of AI’s Turkey branch, Murat Çekiç, told the Hürriyet Daily News yesterday.

He emphasized that investigations were still being opened into individuals who voiced challenging opinions.

Çekiç also praised Turkey’s newly adopted law on “Foreigners and International Protection,” which introduced significant changes in terms of the human rights of immigrants and foreigners.

The Turkish police use excessive force to break up peaceful demonstrations; and investigations and prosecutions into alleged human rights abuses by state officials are flawed, the human rights group said in its 2013 report that is aired today.

Allegations of torture and ill-treatment in detention places persisted, according to the report, which added that the national human rights institution lacked guarantees of independence. “Independent mechanisms promised by the government, such as a police complaints procedure, were not established,” the report stated.

Unfair trials persisted, particularly with respect to prosecutions under anti-terrorism legislation before Special Heavy Penal Courts, the report says. Secret witness statements that could not be challenged have been used in court and convictions continued to be issued in cases lacking reliable and substantive evidence.

Conscientious objectors

Meanwhile, the report also said that no reforms had been introduced to recognize the right of conscientious objection or to prevent the repeated criminal prosecution of conscientious objectors for their refusal to perform military service. “People publicly supporting the right to conscientious objection faced criminal prosecution,” it said.

The report also touched upon gay rights in Turkey. The government rejected civil society calls to include sexual orientation and gender identity as prohibited discrimination grounds in the new Constitution, the report said. “No progress was made in adopting comprehensive non-discrimination legislation.” it read.

Turkey ratified the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence, passing a law that strengthened protections and allowed for direct application of the Convention. At the end of the year there were only 103 shelters for survivors of domestic violence, far below the number required by law, the Amnesty report claimed.