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US Human Rights Report: Turkish Courts imprisoned tens of thousands of persons with little clarity on charges

Ilhan Tanır

2016 US Human Rights Report which was prepared during the Obama administration’s final year, was published on Friday in the Trump term.

The publication of the report was made in contrast to the long-standing traditions of the US institutions.

The report, which was announced with a press conference and a serious announcement under the leadership of the US Secretary of State during Obama term and the previous periods, this time was made a mere email announcement via a tele-conference method. There wasn’t much an advance notice. The US State Department officials this time appeared as if trying hard not to attract any attention to the report.

Secretary of State Tillerson did not attend the publication ceremony of this report prepared for 199 countries as AFP aptly called it: ”Top US diplomat snubs launch of own rights report” It was an unnamed senior official who spoke about the report by teleconferencing method.

Full report on Turkey can be found here. Some striking parts of the report about Turkey are:

  • The July 15 coup attempt has a lot of references in the report, naturally. Report states that at least 140 journalists arrested with the accusation of being linked to Gülen or the PKK. Last year’s report, number of arrested Turkish journalists was about 30.
  • The report identified Fethullah Gulen as “cleric” and referred to him as “Fethullah Gulen Movement” and stated that the Turkish government declared it a terrorist movement. Therefore, in US terms, Gulen seems to be accepted as ”cleric” and his group is called ”movement”. Neither of those terms would be liked by Erdogan.
  • It is remarked in the report that the government-affiliated security forces have failed to take adequate measures to protect civilians in combat with the terrorist organization PKK.
  • It is emphasized that the government took limited steps in investigating, punishing and drafting indictments against security forces accused of human rights violations.
  • The 73-page Turkey report in 2015 was 75 pages this year. It was 44 pages in 2011, 48 pages in 2012, 51 pages in 2013, and 63 pages in 2014. Thus, every year the US Department of State has steadily given more page to document breaches in Turkey for the last 7 years.
  • Same report has 57 pages on Syria, 58 on Saudi Arabia, 59 on Egypt, 48 on Iran, 65 on Iraq, 44 on Azerbaijan
Some striking parts from report

  • Courts imprisoned tens of thousands of persons accused of supporting the coup or terrorist groups, in many cases with little clarity on the charges and evidence against them.Government decrees issued under the state of emergency restricted suspects’ access to legal assistance, allowed suspects to be held without charge for up to a month, and in some cases froze the assets of suspended or fired civil servants or their family members. (pg 1)

    Government interference with freedom of expression: The government restricted freedom of expression, media, and the internet, intensifying pressure on the media following the failed coup attempt. Authorities arrested at least 140 journalists, most accused of affiliation with the Gulen movement or connections with the PKK. The government also exerted pressure on media, closing media outlets and publishing associations; conducting raids on media companies; confiscating publications with allegedly objectionable material; instigating criminal investigations of journalists and editors for alleged support of terrorist groups; banning books; instigating gag orders on terrorism-related stories; and blocking internet sites. Self-censorship was widespread amid fear that criticizing the government could prompt reprisals. The closure of nearly all Kurdish-language media outlets reduced vulnerable populations’ access to information and alternative viewpoints. The government impeded access by international media and observers to conflict areas, limiting independent reporting about condition. (pg. 2)

    Inadequate protection of civilians: In fighting the terrorist PKK, government security forces failed to take sufficient measures to protect civilians. Hundreds of thousands of residents of the Southeast were forced to flee their homes and most remained internally displaced at year’s end. Upwards of 200 civilians were killed in the fighting. Human rights groups reported that security forces killed and injured persons who attempted to cross illegally from Syria into Turkey and documented reports of torture and abuse of prisoners following the coup attempt. (pg 2)

     

Translation from WHattı Turkish report by Veysel Karacabeyli

 

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