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US: Concerned by detentions and the use of force against Istanbul Pride

Ilhan Tanir, Washington DC

US says it is concerned by detentions and the use of force against peaceful demonstrators on Sunday Istanbul Pride events.

A spokesperson from US State Department, sending an email to Washington Hatti, emphasized the fact that US “strongly supports the right of Turkish citizens, including LGBTI individuals, to assemble peacefully and express themselves freely without fear of arrest, violence, or retribution.”

Activists gathered for gay Pride in Istanbul Sunday in defiance of a ban by authorities, and despite riot police who used tear gas to disperse crowds.

There were more than two dozen arrests, activists according to NBC News, including at least one member of the media trying to cover the event.

All day Sunday social media accounts shared stream of videos and photos showing Istanbul police forces detaining and confronting demonstrations.

Photo: Bulent Kilic – AFP

Here is the full statement from US State Department spokesperson:

“We are concerned by reports of detentions and the use of force against peaceful demonstrators at this weekend’s pride events in Istanbul.  The United States strongly supports the right of Turkish citizens, including LGBTI individuals, to assemble peacefully and express themselves freely without fear of arrest, violence, or retribution.”

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muiznieks also issued statement and expressed his regrets regarding disproportionate police. His statement:

I regret that for the third consecutive year, the Turkish authorities once again prevented the Istanbul Pride March yesterday. This event, which had been celebrated peacefully for many years before 2015, was banned once again by the Istanbul Governor’s Office, who advanced inter alia concerns relating to the safety of the participants themselves, due to “very serious reactions expressed against the event by different segments of the population”.

I reiterate once more that where the authorities have genuine reasons to fear for the security of the demonstrators, they should take all necessary precautions to protect the latter from any attempts to disturb their enjoyment of freedom of assembly. As the European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly stressed, although a demonstration may annoy or cause offence to persons opposed to the ideas or claims it seeks to promote, this cannot serve as an admissible ground for prohibiting a peaceful gathering. By banning the event, the Turkish authorities have failed to fulfill their positive obligation to guarantee both public security and the freedom of assembly, to which everyone is entitled, including LGBTI persons and other supporters of their rights.

Moreover, there have been worrying reports of disproportionate use of force by the police against a small number of peaceful demonstrators who nevertheless attempted to hold a Pride March.

I call on the Turkish authorities to ensure that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, as enshrined in Article 11 of the Convention, is effectively enjoyed by LGBTI persons as equal members of society.

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