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16 June

Rights groups urge UN body to focus on free speech in Turkey

Article 19 and PEN International deliver joint statement at the UN Human Rights Council on free expression violations in Turkey

Article 19 and PEN International have called on the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to pay closer attention to the “relentless crackdown on freedom of expression and other human rights in Turkey since the failed coup attempt of July 2016,” in a joint statement delivered at the 35th session of the UN body.
 
The statement, presented on June 15 during the HRC session in Geneva, said the HRC must call on Turkey to “immediately release all those held in prison for exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression,” allow reopening and independent operation of closed media outlets, uphold the independence of
judiciary and end the state of emergency.
 
The full text of the statement is as follows:
 
UN Human Rights Council 35th Regular Session
 
Item 4: Human rights situations that require the Council's attention
 
15 June 2017
 
Mr President,
 
PEN International and ARTICLE 19 call the attention of the UN Human Rights Council to the relentless crackdown on freedom of expression and other human rights in Turkey since the failed coup attempt of July 2016. 
 
The Turkish government have used the coup as a pretext to enact authoritarian policies. As noted by the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to freedom of opinion and expression following his November visit to the country, independent mainstream media have been all but silenced. Access to Wikipedia has been blocked since April. Some 1300 associations and 180 media outlets have been closed down and 145,000 public workers have been dismissed. Nuriye Gülmen, an academic and translator, and Semih Özakça, a school teacher, went on hunger-strike in March demanding that their jobs be reinstated. Instead of addressing their plight, the Turkish authorities arrested them last month and they remain in detention. Tomorrow marks the 100th day of their hunger-strike. Instead of teaching their students now they are facing death.
 
Turkey is turning into one big prison. More than 40,000 people are languishing behind bars following the failed coup, including members of the parliamentary opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP).  Allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in police custody have spread while national human rights groups have recently published the names of 11 people who they said have disappeared. At least 8 people detained after the coup have committed suicide in prison.
 
Turkey’s Kurdish population continues to be disproportionately affected, with arrests of Kurdish journalists and closures of pro-Kurdish media outlets and the forced replacement of elected local officials.
 
Turkey’s judicial system has come under extraordinary attack since the failed coup. What judicial independence existed has been eviscerated as the courts are packed with political appointees. The removal of judges who have granted bail to journalists demonstrates the pressure judges are under to make politically motivated rulings. The trials of journalists detained since the coup are about to begin. Seventeen journalists, including Ahmet and Mehmet Altan, will stand trial on 19 June. Cumhuriyet staff will appear before the court on 24 July, after spending almost a year in pre-trial detention. We are profoundly concerned about the quality of justice which journalists can expect to face.
 
Mr President, these statistics are more than just numbers. These are people whose lives have been shattered as the Turkish authorities continue to abuse the state of emergency to stifle criticism and silent dissent.
 
We urge this Council, its members and observer states, to call on the Turkish authorities to:
 
- Immediately release all those held in prison for exercising their rights to freedom of opinion and expression;
- Permit the reopening and independent operation of closed media outlets and halt executive interference with independent news organisations;
- Uphold the independence of the judiciary. Anyone who has been victim of unlawful arrest, detention or dismissal must have an enforceable right to review and remedy;
- End the state of emergency. 

Thank you Mr President.

Tags: Article 19 , PEN International , UN Human Rights Council , Turkey

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