Turkey suffering 'rights rollback' under Erdoğan: HRW

Turkey suffering 'rights rollback' under Erdoğan: HRW

Turkey suffering rights rollback under Erdoğan: HRW

Human Rights Watch accused the government over the last nine months of seeking to curb the independence of the judiciary and weaken the rule of law in a bid to halt corruption probes. AA Photo

Turkey is undergoing a “worrying rollback” on human rights as the government is taking “far-reaching steps to weaken the rule of law, control the media and Internet, and clamp down on critics and protestors,” Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported Sept. 29.

HRW accused the government of seeking to curb the independence of the judiciary and weaken the rule of law in a bid to halt a corruption probe over the past nine months.

“Turkey is undergoing a worrying rollback of human rights,” HRW said in its report on Turkey, accusing the government of “increasing intolerance of political opposition, public protest and critical media.”
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has also shown no mood for compromise following pro-tests last year sparked by plans to redevelop Gezi Park in Istanbul, the report emphasized.

“The government feels no hesitancy to intervene in the criminal justice system when its interests are threatened,” said HRW, pointing to the replacement of thousands of employ-ees in the security forces and legal system who were alleged members of a “parallel state,” a term used by the government to define those who work in state institutions and use their duties to benefit the Gülen movement. The authorities have gone on the offensive against opponents after corruption allegations, blaming them on U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fe-thullah Gülen, the report said.

“Turkey is unlikely to succeed in moving closer to Europe unless Turkey’s leaders take steps to reverse the rollback on rights and strengthen the rule of law,” said HRW’s Turkey researcher and author of the report, Emma Sinclair-Webb.

“Over the past year, Erdoğan’s AKP has responded to political opposition by tearing up the rule book, silencing critical voices, and wielding a stick,” said Sinclair-Webb. “For the sake of Turkey’s future and the rights of its citizens, the government needs to change course and protect rights instead of attacking them.”

The New York-based rights group said there had been “near impunity” for police violence in the 2013 protests, with the jailing this month for almost eight years of a policeman who killed a protester in Ankara a “rare moment of accountability.”

Meanwhile, at least 5,500 people have been put on trial across the country for their in-volvement in the protests. The report recommended Turkey drop cases against Taksim Sol-idarity representatives and others who participated in Gezi Park protests, exercising their right to free assembly and expression, and also drop coup charges and other charges against 35 individuals associated with the çArşı football fan group for exercising their right to free assembly and expression during the May-June 2013 Gezi protests. It also called on the government to end the excessive use and misuse of tear gas while policing protests and hold to account officers who bear responsibility for either conduct.

HRW also expressed alarm at an April 2014 law granting immunity to personnel of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) unless the organization gives express permission for it to be removed.
There has also been impunity for past abuses by the authorities, notably the lack of pros-ecutions over a December 2011 air strike that killed 34 villagers who were wrongly sus-pected of being outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants.

Investigations into a wave of killings and disappearances of Kurds that took place from 1993 to 1995 will soon fall under a 20-year statute of limitations.

Under Erdoğan’s rule, large parts of the media, and in particular television, have followed a pro-government line and do nothing to challenge it, HRW reported.

“The space for independent, nonaligned and critical journalism in Turkey has shrunk,” HRW said, pointing to the case of two journalists for daily Taraf, who were prosecuted for leaking details of a secret meeting in a Nov. 13, 2013, report.

While Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have won successive elections with large majorities, the authorities “appear to take the view that majoritarian power takes precedence over the rule of law,” the report said.

The report stressed that reforms were needed to support the Kurdish peace process, strengthen the independence of the criminal justice system, combat violence against wom-en and impunity for serious human rights abuses, and improve Turkey’s record on free speech, media freedom and the rights to assembly and association.