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UN to scrutinize Turkey’s human rights record in Geneva

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) will review Turkey’s human rights record for the past five years on Tuesday.

The meeting in Geneva will take place as part of Universal Periodic Review (UPR), in which a working group examines the country for the third time over the past decade.

Three documents form 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.

The Council will examine Turkey’s conduct during the past five years, with regards to 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.

The briefs submitted to the UN pointed at increasing reports of hate crimes against ethnic and religious minorities and torture and ill-treatment by the law enforcement officials, politically motivated prosecution under the auspices of the country’s “broad and vague” definition of terrorism, and the control of executive branch over the judiciary.

A rapporteur expressed concerns over “the shrinking space for political pluralism,” citing terrorism-related accusations directed against opposition parties.

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.

The documents also contained detailed accounts of rights violations against alleged members of the Gulen movement, saying that the conduct of the Turkish state amounts to rights abuses against spouses and children of the alleged Gulenists.

Led by US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of masterminding the failed 2016 coup, the organization is designated as a terrorist group in the country.

Ankara claimed in its national report submitted for the review that in order to “accurately reflect” on the period under scrutiny, one must “put things into their full context,” defending the country’s actions citing a “grave national security threat” posed by the Gulenists.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s governing AK Party government declared a state of emergency a few days after the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016, which 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.

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 detained tens of thousands of people while investigating nearly half a million people over terrorism-related charges.

According to Turkish rights advocate MP Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, “a total of 1,5 million people together with their family members are affected” by the mass crackdown after the failed coup.

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