Turkey maintains ‘climate of fear’ despite end of emergency rule – Amnesty

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Turkish government efforts to consolidate draconian powers, silence critics and strip away fundamental freedoms during the country’s two-year state of emergency remain in place despite last year’s lifting of emergency rule, reported Amnesty International.

“Far from being reversed, many of these measures have continued unabated since the end of the state of emergency [in July 2018],” the U.S. rights watchdog said in a report released on Feb. 1. “Turkish authorities have continued to target different groups in society under various provisions in order to crack down on dissent and maintain a climate of fear.”

Human rights defenders have been rounded up, newly qualified doctors have been suspended, and procedures to dismiss public sector workers have been made into law, said Amnesty.

“As many as 123 journalists and other media workers remain in prison while many university students are on trial facing terrorism related charges for merely expressing dissenting views or participating in peaceful protests,” said the report. “The human rights cost of the state of emergency has been massive and the consequences of the government crackdown in the aftermath of the attempted coup of 15 July, 2016, continue to be keenly felt today.”

Since the coup, more than 100,000 public sector workers have been linked to a terrorist organisation and banned from public service for life, and now face destitution and tremendous social stigma, according to Amnesty. Tens of thousands of people are languishing in lengthy and punitive pre-trial detention without credible evidence, like leading Turkish philanthropist Osman Kavala, who has been held for 15 months without indictment.

“As of December 2018, the total number of detainees in prison without an indictment or pending trial is 57,000 — over 20 percent of the total prison population,” said Amnesty.

Nearly 45,000 people are in prison on terrorism-related charges, including journalists, activists, politicians, lawyers and others “caught up in a crackdown that has vastly exceeded the legitimate purpose of investigating and bringing to justice those responsible for the 2016 coup attempt,” said Amnesty.

The report cited Taner Kılıç, the Amnesty Turkey Honourary Chair who spent 432 days in pre-trial detention, and Idil Eser, Amnesty’s former Turkey Director, who are being tried alongside nine other human rights defenders on allegations of membership in a terrorist organisation, for which they could face up to 15 years in jail.

“All 11 human rights defenders are on bail as the trial against them continues, despite the fact that, in six separate hearings, the prosecution failed to produce any credible evidence of the baseless charges levelled at them,” said Amnesty, adding that the next hearing is set for March 21.

Extraordinary powers granted during the state of emergency to fight terrorist organisations have been made into law, such as giving governors the ability to restrict movement and ban public assemblies and extended police custody, said Amnesty.

Hundreds of academics still face persecution for a peace appeal signed in 2016, former co-chair of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtaş, remains in prison despite a European Court of Human rights ruling calling for his release, and only 3,799 of the government’s 129,411 dismissals of public sector workers have been revoked, according to the report.

This last issue is largely because the government commission set up to provide redress to unjustly dismissed workers has been ineffective.

“It acts as a rubber stamp to the vast majority of the government’s original dismissal decisions, with over 100,000 dismissed public sector workers still banned from public service due to alleged links to ‘terrorist’ organisations,” said Amnesty. “Permanently purging people from all work in the public sector or their profession infringes on their right to work, and in the long term may threaten the right to an adequate standard of living.”

Amnesty urges Turkey to release the thousands of people imprisoned on terrorism charges with no credible evidence, end unfair dismissals and reinstate all public sector workers dismissed by emergency decrees, cease unfair prosecutions of rights defenders, ensure the right to public assembly and repeal legal measures added via executive decree during emergency rule.

“The once vibrant human rights civil society in the country is at risk of being eradicated,” said the report. “Turkish authorities must repeal all emergency measures and other legal changes which are not demonstrably necessary and proportionate, or which entail disproportionate restrictions on the exercise of human rights.”

Source: Ahval News

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