Solidarity with Human Rights Defenders From Turkey

Justice and the Rule of Law, Kurdish issue, Report, Shrinking Space for Civil Society, Turkey

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Updated report (7/6/2016): READ THE FULL REPORT HERE

Brussels, 24/02/16 – Concerned about reports of escalating violence and serious human rights violations in Turkey, as well as imposition of curfews in the South-East of the country, EuroMed Rights and FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) organised a joint high-level mission to the country from 20 to 24 January 2016. The mission aimed to show solidarity with human rights defenders and civil society activists in Turkey and gather information on the situation. We present here the main conclusions of our report.

On the one hand, the violence that intensified in South-eastern Turkey over the past months, the death toll, including civilian casualties, and the ever-larger number of people affected by military operations (including the enforcement of round-the-clock curfews) lead our organisations to believe the conflict may have gone beyond internal strife, attaining the threshold of an internal armed conflict.

The Turkish government is disregarding basic international obligations in its conduct of military operations and their aftermath on inhabitants living in the affected areas, subjected to collective punishment.

The PKK and affiliated forces appear to have committed as well a number of human rights violations, such as civilians’ right to life (including medical staff) and have allegedly recruited minors for combat.

On the other hand, we are appalled by the expansion of Turkey’s repression toolkit in silencing independent voices. While being formally a democracy, Turkey is increasingly marked by an authoritarian rule. The judiciary seems particularly affected by political interference, serving as a tool to crack-down on human rights defenders, journalists, trade unionists and all voices who express different opinions. At this stage, any opposition to the AKP government is conflated with betrayal and terrorism. The Turkish government’s increased repression and disregard for human rights and pluralism is clearly threatening the rule of law.

EuroMed Rights and the FIDH believe no military solution to the Kurdish issue can be found. Parties should urgently agree to a cease-fire and to a peaceful and negotiated settlement that recognizes the right to self-determination for Kurds. Rebuilding political dialogue also means accepting different opinions and a plurality of views to be peacefully expressed.

International pressure is needed to push the Turkish government towards greater respect for human rights and the rule of law and towards resuming negotiations to find a political solution to the Kurdish conflict.

We urge the international community, and in particular the EU, not to turn a blind eye to Turkey’s deteriorating human rights record. The fight against terrorism and the presence on Turkish territory of a large number of refugees have been used as bargaining chips by the Turkish authorities. However, the current situation, linked with looming Turkey’s direct engagement in the Syria conflict, can only feed the spiral of violence and bring further regional destabilization.

Watch the video of the press conference organised in Ankara on 23 January: