UN human rights commissioner criticizes Turkey’s Internet law
The protests against the controversial bill, especially in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, were met with harsh police crackdowns. DHA photoThe Office of the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has criticized Turkey for its controversial Internet law, saying it may lead to breaches of human rights.
A statement released by the OHCHR on Feb. 14 criticized the law, which was allowing Turkey’s telecommunications authority (TİB) to block websites without first seeking a court order. The law was adopted Feb. 6 by Parliament and is currently awaiting President Abdullah Gül’s approval.
“We are concerned legislative amendments adopted by the Turkish Parliament last week regulating the use of the Internet may lead to breaches of human rights, in particular the right to freedom of expression and opinion, and the right to privacy,” the statement said.
Law 6518 will also require Internet service providers to store data on web users’ activities for two years and make it available to the authorities upon request without a judicial order, the statement recalled, adding that Internet service providers will face severe penalties if they fail to remove content deemed to be illegal.
“Even before the amendments, Law 5651, enacted in May 2007, placed broad restrictions on Internet use. Since the law came into force, approximately 37,000 websites have reportedly been denied operation by court orders and administrative blocking orders,” the statement said.
The OHCHR said the law was incompatible with Turkey’s international human rights obligations, in particular those related to freedom of expression and the right to privacy.
On Feb. 8, a group of people gathered in several Turkish cities, protesting the amendment’s passing in Parliament. The protests, especially in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, were met with harsh police crackdowns.
The OHCHR called on Turkish authorities “to ensure the police force does not resort to excessive use of force and other human rights violations while performing their duties during demonstrations.”
“Acts of sporadic violence or other punishable acts committed by some individuals in the context of peaceful protests should not be used by the authorities to deprive others of their right to freedom of peaceful assembly,” it said.