At this juncture in time, Turkey has been transformed into a country where demonization, accusation, pointing as a target, repressing different segments of the society by means of judicial oppression is actually unexceptional.
Journalists who set sight on informing the public, endeavour for the public’s right to obtainment of information, academics who aim for training and educating deliberative, questioning young generations, students and non-governmental organizations which declare and document that such implementations are inconsistent with the international conventions ratified by Turkey, the Constitution and legislation one and all have become unconditioned targeted scapegoats of the political power ruling the country.
These segments of society who have been targeted with false and unfounded accusations face the threat of being silenced through instrumentalization of the judiciary.
Human Rights Association (İHD) being one of the long-established and effective establishments in Turkey had its share of the aforementioned aggression. We interpret Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu’s attribution to İHD by using the phrase “canı çıkasıcalar” (a curse commonly used wishing great evil, misery and death befall on someone connoting that life is taken out of İHD and its executives) and his misleading and unfounded allegation that İHD kept silent about the civilian massacres as inadmissible during his addressing to the members of the parliament at the Grand National Assembly of Turkey’s plenary where İHD as the addressee did not have the opportunity to exercise the right of reply.
Awareness on human rights advanced in accordance with İHD’s pioneering accomplishments which was established prior to the government agencies concerned with human rights. The association which has been unconditionally advocating and upholding the right to life since its establishment had been the torch bearer in the direction of hope for peace in Turkey.
The recent judicial repression directed towards two dignified members of the human rights movement sets another example of this attitude. Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı was sentenced to a judicial fine of 7,080 lira for “insulting a public official” based on a social media post she made during the Gezi Park protests. Furthermore, on the grounds that Dr. Korur Fincancı participated in the Editor-in-Chief on Duty campaign launched with the aim of solidarity with Özgür Gündem newspaper; she had been put on trial with Reporters Without Borders (RSF) Representative to Turkey Erol Önderoğlu and writer Ahmet Nesin and they were previously acquitted by the local court yet retrial had been commenced claiming for years of imprisonment upon the verdict of reversal of acquittals ruled by the court of appeal. Having made valuable contributions to the human rights movement, Dr. Korur Fincancı, spent many years as the President of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey. She is currently the elected Chair of the Central Committee of the Turkish Medical Association (TTB).
Eren Keskin, who is a renowned human rights lawyer active in the human rights movement for 30 years was sentenced to 6 years and 3 months in prison on grounds of “membership of an armed terrorist organization” in the Özgür Gündem trial pursuant to her support for freedom of press and expression. This is just one of more than 100 prosecutions filed against Eren Keskin. The prominent lawyer Keskin is still serving as the Co-Chair of İHD.
Judicial repression targeting human rights defenders is including but not limited to the aforementioned people. Civil society organizations and human rights defenders are already under duress due to overly-broad and unbounded regulations, including the arbitrary enforcement of the Anti-Terrorism Law and relevant legislation, and the ambiguous definition of “terror” in legal texts. The right to peaceful assembly and protest is restrained by the disproportionate and unlawful intervention of the security forces against those who exercise their rights, and the prohibition of concerned District Governorships or Governorships. Civil society employees and executives are under pressure imposed by the judiciary under the pretense of the reports and press releases they prepare within the scope of the activities of the associations.
The rights defenders were sentenced to imprisonment upon verdict of Büyükada trial and rights defenders who were previously acquitted in the Gezi trial are faced with a retrial alleging grave accusations in the sequel of the verdict on reversal of acquittals concluded by the court of appeal. İHD executives, trade union executives, administrators of medical chambers, a vast number of civil society workers, environmental activists, journalists, lawyers and medical doctors are either still on trial or serving their time behind the bars.
The intolerance against the human rights movement is including but not limited to human rights associations and their defenders; MPs who are committed to advocate human rights are also targeted. HDP deputies Hüda Kaya and Ömer Faruk Gergerlioğlu who play a significant role in bringing up violations of rights to the agenda of the Parliament and the public are incessantly targeted by the government. Gergerlioğlu was sentenced to 2 years and 6 months in prison in the trial carried out due to a social media post, and the removal of his parliamentary immunity remains on the agenda in accordance with the definitive judgment. A summary of proceedings had been issued by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office against Kaya along with 8 other HDP deputies that demanded the legislative assembly to lift parliamentary immunity of nine HDP deputies.
Furthermore, unlawful interventions directed to peaceful assembly and protest of university students, police brutality and violence enforced upon students, unlawful and arbitrary detentions, arrests and judicial measures to which the students are subjected, use of hate speech including the groundless accusation of students by referring to them as “terrorists”, provoking the segments of society against each other on the basis of religious values, intensifying hate speech against LGBTI+s -one of the components who have been playing a key role in ongoing demonstrations-, declaring LGBTI+s as a “terrorist group” had recently become the widely-used discourse of the political power.
Under these circumstances, we, as components of the Solidarity Network for Human Rights Defenders demand:
- Immediate end to repression and intimidation of human rights defenders;
- Government officials to put an end to discriminatory discourse targeting and slandering rights defenders, LGBTI+s, non-governmental organizations and students;
- Put an end to criminalization and restraint of rights to peaceful assembly and demonstration march executed by the ruling political power which are in effect under constitutional assurance;
- Immediate release of all students who have been arrested and sentenced to house arrest subsequent to participating in protests against the appointment of the rector to Boğaziçi University;
- Immediate cease and prevention of police intervention to peaceful assembly and protests and ensuring prompt and effective investigation of those responsible for unlawful intervention;
- Investigation for torture and ill-treatment allegations of students who were detained following the peaceful assembly and demonstration marchs and responsible law enforcement officers to be brought to justice and penalized.
We are still here, we will always be here, we are not going anywhere either!
Solidarity Network for Human Rights Defenders:
Civil Rights Defenders, Association for Monitoring Equal Rights, The Rights Initiative Association, Truth Justice Memory Center, Human Rights Agenda Association, Kaos GL, Media and Law Studies Association, Association of Lawyers for Freedom, Punto 24 Association for Independent Journalism, Research Institute on Turkey, Civic Space Studies Association, Turkey Litigation Support Project, Turkish-German Forum of Culture, Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, Foundation for Society and Legal Studies, Life Memory Freedom Association, Citizens’ Assembly Turkey