The Arab Federation for Human Rights (AFHR) condemns the extension of the state of emergency by the Turkish government yesterday for the seventh time following the failed coup in 2016. The state of emergency is extended for another three months. The Federation highlights that the routine extension of the state of emergency in Turkey has allowed the authorities to suppress and stifle rights and freedoms as well as undermine democracy. This includes but not limited to the arbitrary deprivation of the right to work and freedom of movement, torture and other ill-treatment, arbitrary detention and infringement of freedom of association and freedom of expression.
Over the past few days, protesters have staged demonstrations in Turkey’s 81 provinces to protest against the extension of the state of emergency, denouncing the government’s misuse of the emergency to circumvent parliament, undermine democracy and prosecute government critics. Meanwhile, the Turkish government insists that unusual powers are required during an emergency to deal with security threats.
AFHR believes that the state of emergency has contributed to the decline of human rights and the deterioration of the rule of law in Turkey. Despite the complex challenges faced by Turkey in addressing the coup attempt of July 15, 2016, as well as addressing a number of terrorist attacks, the sheer number and frequency of emergency decrees and their lack of relevance to any national threat seems to indicate the use of power in emergency situations to suppress any criticism or opposition to the government.
The United Nations Office for Human Rights issued a report covering the period from 1 January to 31 December 2017 on the situation in the region, warning that the state of emergency may have long-term consequences on the institutional, social and economic fabric in Turkey. The report indicated that Ankara used successive emergencies to arbitrarily dismissed about 152,000 to 160,000 civil servants, judges, lawyers or judicial judges; suspend media outlets; and block information stations and websites in a bit to undermine human rights.
One of the most serious findings of the report is how the Turkish authorities arrested about 100 pregnant women or who had recently placed their children as partners of their husbands who were suspected of having links with terrorist organizations. Some have even been detained with their children, others have been violently separated from their children, the report stated. AFHR emphasizes that such acts are simply disgraceful, very harsh and never makes the country safer.
The April 2017 referendum, which extended the powers of the executive president – including the legislature and the judiciary and which had serious problems – led to interference in the work of the judiciary and reduced parliamentary oversight of the executive branch. Twenty-two emergency decrees were issued by 2017 (and two more since the report was completed), involving many organizations unrelated to the state of emergency and used to curb a number of actors from civil society as well as prevent them from engaging in various legitimate activities. The report noted that it promoted impunity and granted immunity to administrative authorities operating within the framework of the decrees.
The report cited a number of testimonies given by different individuals who had been dismissed from their jobs for their supposed association with Gulen networks, using certain applications to send text messages, or analyzing their communications on social networking sites. “The decrees refer to a” connection or relationship “with” terrorist organizations “, far from any precision, and without specifying the nature of this association, allowing the authorities to interpret it. The report also pointed out that very serious violations of due process, did not provide arrested individuals with any specific evidence against them nor did they realize that they were under investigation. “
In addition, the report documented the use of torture and ill-treatment against detainees, including severe beatings, threats of sexual abuse and practice, electric shocks and suffocation by police, gendarmes, military police and security forces.
The report further noted that some 300 journalists were arrested on the grounds that their publications included “terrorism-sensitive feelings” or other “verbal abuse” or “affiliation” with terrorist organizations. Also, more than 100,000 websites were blocked in 2017, including a significant number of pro-Kurdish websites and satellite channels.
The report mentioned persistent allegations of human rights violations, particularly in southeastern Turkey, emphasizing patterns of violations involving murder, torture and violence against women, excessive use of force, destruction of homes and cultural heritage, denial of access to emergency health care, clean water and livelihoods, and restricting the right to freedom of expression. It added that Turkey has failed more than once to conduct a credible criminal investigation into the killing of civilians during security operations between 2015 and 2016 in the southeast.
According to the Turkish Defense Minister, about 10,657 terrorists were “neutralized” between July 2015 and June 2017. But the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein, said that the word “neutralization” raise a lot of concern and called on the authorities to provide detailed information about the fate of these individuals.
The Arab Federation for Human Rights stresses that procedures restricting rights during emergencies must remain limited as required by the current situation, in other words to remain limited and proportionate to the necessary conditions, in terms of their duration, geographical coverage and physical scope.
The Federation strongly recommends that Turkey immediately lift the state of emergency, restore the functioning of the institutions, revoke and repeal all legislation that does not comply with Turkey’s international human rights obligations, including emergency decrees. It also stresses the need to review cases of detention, arbitrary dismissal and compensation for victims in an independent and individual manner.
Arab Federation for Human Rights
Geneva, April 19th, 2018