As is always the case, the AI report gives quite a balanced view of the developments and shortcoming of the human rights situation in Turkey.
I took some notes while reading the report and would like to share them with you.
The AI report demonstrates a changing dynamic in relation to the torture and ill treatment of prisoners in Turkey; namely, there is no systematic torture in police custody anymore. However, there are growing concerns about quite serious police violence during demonstrations and while people are being taken into custody.
Although some segments of the Turkish media present a picture of Turkey as if the most serious human rights violation occur in relation to the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer cases, there is no mention of these cases in the AI report. Instead, the AI report focuses on how the Counterterrorism Law (TMK) is being abused by the judiciary to limit freedom of expression, especially in Kurdish cases.
As it has done before, AI considers armed groups to be actors and their actions to be human rights violations. The report cited a few attacks by the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) as examples of these violations.
The report highlights that Turkey still does not recognize or tackle discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
No progress has been made in recognizing the right to conscientious objection despite the fact that Turkey has previously been found guilty of failing to do so by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
I did not find any comment or statement about freedom of religion in Turkey, which I know is excluded from AI reports. I think this is one of the shortcomings of AI reports because for many countries, including Turkey, of course, the situation of freedom of religion presents invaluable information in acquiring a deeper understating about the democratization of that country.
The AI report’s section on Turkey starts with the following paragraph:
“Promised constitutional and other legal reforms did not occur. Instead, the right to freedom of expression was threatened and protesters faced increased police violence. Thousands of prosecutions brought under flawed anti-terrorism laws routinely failed fair trial standards.”
As for the question of impunity, we read the following:
“Investigations into alleged human rights abuses by state officials remained ineffective. … Although a Children’s Court in July convicted Ogun Samast of shooting Hrant Dink, doubt remained whether the full circumstances around the killing, including the issue of collusion by state officials, would be investigated.”
Freedom of expression is, of course, quite problematic.
“A large number of prosecutions were brought which threatened individuals’ right to freedom of expression. In particular, critical journalists, Kurdish political activists, and others risked unfair prosecution when speaking out on the situation of Kurds in Turkey, or criticizing the armed forces.”
Torture and ill treatment of prisoners persists.
“Allegations of torture and other ill treatment in and during transfer to police stations and prisons persisted. Police routinely used excessive force during demonstrations, notably during protests before and after the June elections. In many cases, demonstrations became violent following police intervention and the use of pepper gas, water cannon and plastic bullets.”
The fairness of trials is problematic.
“Thousands of prosecutions were brought during the year under overly broad and vague anti-terrorism laws, the vast majority for membership of a terrorist organization, provisions which have led to additional abuses. Many of those prosecuted were political activists, among them students, journalists, writers, lawyers and academics. Prosecutors routinely interrogated suspects regarding conduct protected by the right to freedom of expression or other internationally guaranteed rights.” I wish we could have made better progress in the field of human rights and I wish these kinds of objective reports were taken more seriously by the authorities in Turkey. I of course only mention the parts related to Turkey, but this huge report actually criticizes countries all over the world. It is a good read for anyone who really cares about the situation of human rights in their respective country.