In January 2020, the UN Office in Geneva will hold the 3rd cycle of Turkey’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR).
The UPR is a unique process by which each UN Member State’s human rights record is brought to light every five years. During the process, other member States make observations and recommendations aimed at improving the human rights situation in the country being reviewed.
Within the scope of the UPR, the UN receives the contributions of NGOs who wish to report on human rights issues in the country in question, as well as the national report prepared by the government of that country.
As Solidarity with OTHERS, we have made our contribution to the process by submitting two reports on Turkey, both of which were published by the UN Human Rights Council.
The first report, titled “Violations of Rights in Consulates,” mainly deals with the Turkish consular missions’ unlawful and discriminatory practices against Turkish citizens, which has led to a number of human rights violations, particularly since July 2016.
Some of our findings in this report were confirmed by another NGO report, submitted jointly by the Institute on Statelessness and Inclusion and European Network on Statelessness.
The “Summary of Stakeholders’ submissions on Turkey” released by the UN mentioned the findings of our report.
Secondly, we have submitted, jointly with the European Professionals Network, a report focusing on the Turkish government’s practice of arbitrary passport cancellations carried out against Turkish citizens in clear violation of the freedom of travel enshrined in the international human rights documents.
As part of the process, the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has submitted Turkey’s “National Report” to provide the Turkish government’s perspective on the human rights issues in the country.
While the document claims a supposed commitment to human rights principles on the part of the Turkish government, it fails miserably to address the terrible degradation of its human rights record since the last UPR cycle five years ago, as well as the issues that have been repeatedly brought up by relevant agencies of international organizations as well as NGOs around the world.
For instance, the national report makes no mention of the “legal basis” of the forcible returns of citizens from abroad through intelligence operations, such as the forcible deportation of six Turkish citizens from Kosovo, or seven others from Moldova, which the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has found to be in breach of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Nor does it deal with the concerns of Nils Melzer, the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, that the Turkish police have reportedly subjected detainees to brutal interrogation techniques aimed at extracting forced confessions.
The Special Rapporteur also underlined in February 2018 that “no serious measures appeared to have been taken by the authorities to investigate these allegations or to hold perpetrators accountable,” which clearly contradicts the assertion in Turkey’s national report that “all allegations of torture and ill-treatment are immediately brought to the attention of the authorities.”
While the national report reiterates Turkey’s so-called “zero-tolerance against torture” policy since 2003, allegations of torture against detainees, particularly those held in detention on account of their links with the Gülen movement or Kurdish political groups, continued to appear without prompting any investigations or public condemnation by the authorities.
The Human Rights Watch in 2017 released a report on the systematic police torture in custody in Turkey.
It is worth noting that these developments have come on the heels of the election of a former Turkish Ambassador, Mr. Erdoğan İşcan, to the UN Committee Against Torture, which is an utterly disgraceful spectacle and a horrible irony for anyone with a slightest understanding of human rights.
Turkey’s national report also has a section on freedom of expression and the media, which somehow manages to treat the issue without even touching on the fact that Turkey has repeatedly been described in the reports as the “world’s biggest jailer of journalists,” including by the Council of Europe’s press freedom report, or that the country has ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index published by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
As a staggering number of people in Turkey continue to experience deprivation of many of their fundamental rights on a daily basis, we trust member States to bring these issues up in their recommendations to Turkey in January 2020.