Most members of the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday urged Turkey to bring an end to the numerous human rights violations taking place in the country.
The recommendations to end the likes of arbitrary arrests, gender discrimination and the targeting of the media came at the UN Human Rights Council (OHCHR) session in Geneva.
Three documents formed the basis of the review – the defense submitted by the Turkish government, a compilation from the reports of human rights experts and UN entities, and the work of national rights institutions.
Turkey’s human rights record for the past five years was in the Council’s spotlight along with those of 14 other countries, covering a wide array of rights-related topics ranging from hate crimes and mass arrests of the post-coup crackdown, to press freedom, minority, and LGBT rights.
Turkey reiterates its coup narrative in defense of the country's derogation from human rights obligations.
— IPA NEWS (@ipanews_) January 28, 2020
During the session, Faruk Kaymakci, Ambassador, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs & Director for EU Affairs, reiterated Turkey’s coup narrative and “terror” discourse in defense of the deterioration in the country’s human rights record.
He said the fact that Turkey was allowing UN special rapporteurs to do their jobs demonstrated Turkey’s commitment to its international obligations.
Kaymakci cited the “Judicial Reform Package” of the Turkish government as a step forward. Challenges faced by Turkey are “not adequately understood,” he lamented.
UN member countries’ representatives voiced their recommendations to Turkey during the meeting, several of which pointed out to human rights violation records in the country following the 2016 coup attempt.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) government declared a state of emergency a few days after the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. It remained in effect until July 19, 2018.
The UN reports underline that over 177 media outlets had reportedly been closed since July 15, 2016, 231 journalists had been arrested, nearly 10,000 journalists and media workers had been dismissed, and the press cards of at least 778 journalists had been canceled.
During the meeting in Geneva, Belgium, Australia, Denmark recommended Turkey to adopt anti-discrimination laws and penal code, and ensure press and judicial freedom.
Brazil’s envoy articulated enforced disappearances in Turkey, calling on Ankara to effectively investigate the allegations.
While China recommended Turkey to protect the rights of ethnic minorities and women, Egypt issued a call for ending “torture” in Turkish prisons, a claim that Ankara denied.
According to the UN rapporteurs, at least 152,000 civil servants had been dismissed during this period, and “an additional 22,474 people had lost their jobs due to the closure of private institutions.”
Since the failed coup, Turkish authorities have detained tens of thousands of people while investigating nearly half a million people over terrorism-related charges. Torture allegations have often been expressed by human rights defenders since the clampdown following the failed coup.
Iceland recommended Turkey ensure that human rights defenders work without fear of attack or persecution.
Taking the floor in response to the recommendations, Kaymakci said the Judicial Reform Package includes provisions on Anti-Terror law.
“Freedom of expression is not an absolute right. The propaganda of terrorist organizations is not freedom of expression,” Kaymakci responded to human rights violation accusations.
Luxembourg highlighted the “arbitrary” detention of Osman Kavala, a civil society leader who has been in prison since November 2017. On the same day, a Turkish court ruled on the extension of his detainment, despite an earlier contrary decision by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
The Russian Federation appeared to be the Erdogan government’s only ally in Geneva, with its delegate noting the “fairly stable human rights situation in Turkey.”
Sweden urged Turkey to release the elected officials who were “arbitrarily” detained, referring to the Kurdish mayors.
The United Kingdom recommended Turkey protect freedom of expression by decriminalizing defamation.
Many countries including Canada and Argentine recommended Turkey adopt necessary measures to protect the LGBT community and prevent enforced disappearances.
The United States of America asked Turkey to reform its counter-terrorism law, to end arbitrary arrests of journalists, remained deeply concerned by the removal of elected officials from office.
Regarding the regional topics, Iraq recommended Turkey ratify the international convention protecting all persons from enforced disappearances and respect the borders and sovereignty of neighboring countries.
The Syrian Arab Republic blamed Turkey for “supporting terrorist groups” and urged it to cease doing so. It was an allegation the Turkish envoy categorically rejected.
The rapporteurs, who compiled the UNHRC reports highlighted the practices of incommunicado detention and enforced disappearances, urging the Turkish authorities to effectively investigate the allegations, including the cold cases, in a bid to end the rights violations.
A rapporteur earlier expressed concerns over “the shrinking space for political pluralism,” citing terrorism-related accusations directed against opposition parties.
The official recommendations of the Human Rights Council’s Working Group are expected to be announced on January 30.