Turkey: Defend Human Rights Defenders

In particular with the reforms since 2001 as part of the harmonization procedure with the European Union (EU) Turkey has taken positive steps to develop and institutionalize human rights and basic freedoms. The reforms led to positive developments in law and in practice. Besides the reforms to adapt law to European standards the reforms that were introduced in line with the judgments of the European Court of Human Right (ECtHR) brought about some positive results. At the same time serious problems have arisen since 2006 that led to tension in the relations with the EU. This development is frequently described with the metaphor of a “train accident”.

The most concrete sign of this tension is the fact that during the previous election all political parties used potential membership in the EU as their slogan while during the last election all political parties put their opposition to the EU up front. The reforms stopped and parallel to this development laws were passed that restrict basic rights and freedoms. Increases were seen in many problematic areas: police brutality, torture, ill-treatment and degrading and inhuman punishment; extreme nationalist violence, violations of the freedom of expression, and abuses of the right to life; and pressure, violence, demoralization and intimidation of human rights activists.

This report of the Human Rights Agenda Association (HRAA) concentrates on violence against and intimidation of human rights activists and, while comparing the situation to the past, aims at forming a reaction and finding concrete solutions concerning pressure, violence, demoralization and intimidation of human rights activists.

In this context the HRAA wishes to express its approval of the positive steps the government has taken concerning “freedom of headscarves”. At the same time the HRAA is concerned that in the discussion on this subject the basic arguments on human rights and freedoms are missing. The discussion between the government and the opposition has turned into a debate about the regime. It can be surmised that basic rights and freedoms are at risk. The increase of actions related to pressure, violence, demoralization and intimidation of human rights activists are a concrete sign to that effect.

The HRAA believes that not only the Turkish government but also the international community and the cooperation among organizations of civil society are responsible for correcting negative developments and creating solutions.

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