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AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL: UK must keep human rights in Turkey a priority ahead of presidential visit

Journalists and other members of civil society have taken the full brunt of Turkey's post-coup crackdown © Amnesty International (Clare Bullen)

Responding to the news reports that Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will visit the UK in the next few days, Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s Director, said:

“This visit is an opportunity for Theresa May to show the President that human rights and a thriving civil society in Turkey are a priority for the UK.

“Under the cloak of a state of emergency, the Turkish authorities have deliberately set about dismantling civil society, locking up human rights defenders, shutting down organisations and creating a suffocating climate of fear.

“Turkey must lift the current state of emergency and other such draconian measures before there is no independent, critical civil society left. This should include the release of human rights defenders, including our Amnesty colleague Taner Kılıç, who has been held for almost a year without a shred of evidence.”

Defending human rights in Turkey’s climate of fear

Amnesty’s latest report – Weathering the storm: Defending human rights in Turkey’s climate of fear – shows how the nationwide crackdown has resulted in mass arrests, a silencing of activists in the country and the near-destruction of Turkey’s legal system.

The state of emergency – declared in July 2016 as a temporary measure following the failed coup attempt – was renewed for a seventh time last month. Together, with more than 30 executive decrees, it goes far beyond legitimate means to combat threats to national security.

Under the clampdown more than 100,000 people have faced criminal investigations and 50,000 remain in prison pending trial. Meanwhile, more than 107,000 public sector employees have been arbitrarily dismissed.

Anti-terrorism laws and trumped-up coup-related charges have been used to target and silence peaceful, legitimate dissent in Turkey. Journalists, academics, human rights activists and many others have been subject to arbitrary detention, prosecutions and prison sentences.

More than 1,300 NGOs have been permanently closed down for unspecified links to “terrorist” organisations. They include organisations that carried out vital work supporting groups such as survivors of sexual and other gender-based violence, displaced people and children.

Ahead of Turkish Presidential and parliamentary elections slated for 24 June, the UN’s Human Rights Chief has questioned how credible elections can be held in an environment where dissenting views and challenges to the ruling party are penalised so severely.

The crackdown on civil society in Turkey exemplifies the recent surge in the repression of human rights defenders around the globe. Amnesty is calling on the UK Government to develop a coherent strategy in response.


(c) 2018 Amnesty International

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