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HRW releases World Report 2020


On Jan. 14, Human Rights Watch released its annual World Report. This year’s report highlighted the Chinese government’s intensifying assault on the international human rights system.

In its section regarding Turkey, the publication underlined a number of serious problems in what it described as the country’s “deepening human rights crisis” of the past four years.

Here are some of the concerns raised by the report:

  • Executive control and political influence over the judiciary

  • A total of 69,259 people standing terrorism-related trials based on bogus indictments, 155,560 others under criminal investigation

  • Severe restrictions on the rights to assembly, particularly targeting demonstrations in or concerning the Kurdish southeast and assemblies by LGBTI groups and women’s rights activists

  • Low rate of positive outcome at the state of emergency inquiry commission set up to review individual complaints emanating from emergency rule measures, with only 8,100 positive decisions out of 92,000 cases reviewed

  • Sluggishness of appeals processes for dismissed public sector workers, which are handled by two Ankara administrative courts

  • An estimated 119 journalists and media workers in pre-trial detention or serving sentences, hundreds more on trial though not in prison

  • Disproportionate targeting of journalists working for Kurdish media in Turkey

  • Severe restrictions on critical reporting from the predominantly Kurdish southeast

  • Increased government surveillance and censorship powers over online news broadcasts and streaming services

  • Continued blocking of websites and content by authorities

  • Continued imprisonment of civic leader Osman Kavala, who has been held in pre-trial detention since November 2017

  • Ongoing trial of nine prominent rights defenders from Turkey and two foreign nationals, including Amnesty International Turkey honorary chair Taner Kılıç

  • Prosecutions and convictions of lawyers through abusive use of terrorism charges

  • Rise in allegations of torture and ill-treatment in police custody, specifically targeting Kurds, left-wing groups and alleged members of the Gülen movement

  • Pressures on other countries for the extradition of alleged Gülen supporters, many of them teachers. In some cases, countries bypassed legal procedures and judicial review to comply with Turkey’s requests

  • Government-led removal of elected Kurdish mayors from office and appointment of pro-government trustees to replace them

  • Politically motivated criminal prosecutions targeting Kurdish politicians

  • Refusal to comply with ECtHR order to release imprisoned Kurdish leader Selahattin Demirtaş

  • Unlawful and forcible deportation of Syrian refugees to Syria

The report also said that the Erdoğan presidency’s judicial reform amendment package adopted by parliament in October “was too generalized and vague to offer hopes of genuine measures to address the deep and pervasive deficiencies of Turkey’s justice system.”

In sum, the report provided a brief but striking overview of the deplorable human rights situation in the country.