Jan 18 2018

Turkey deepened crackdown on media, opposition and civil society, HRW says in a damning report

During 2017, Turkey increased restrictions on the media, political opposition, and human rights defenders, New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) said.

Turkey held a constitutional referendum in April 2017, during a state of emergency which “undermined its fairness,” HRW said. The major amendments introduced a presidential system with “insufficient democratic checks and balances against the president’s abuse of power,” it said.

“Everywhere you look, checks and balances that protect human rights and rule of law in Turkey are being eroded,” Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at HRW, said in a statement published on the organisation's website.

“The move to a presidential system, the ongoing state of emergency, and charges against opposition lawmakers have all weakened parliament, the courts are under ever tighter government control, and the crackdown on media and civil society deepens,” Williamson said.

Politically motivated trials of journalists and human rights defenders on terrorism-related charges began in 2017, HRW said, naming Taner Kılıç, the Turkey chair of another rights group Amnesty International, who remains in detention since June 2017.

HRW also labelled Turkish government’s crackdown on Kurdish political opposition in the parliament as an “assault,” noting that the co-leader of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) remains in jail since November 2016. Almost all elected mayors in the Turkey’s Kurdish-majority southeast have been replaced by government appointees, HRW said.

Over 100,000 civil servants have been dismissed and hundreds of media outlets, associations, and other institutions closed down under the state of emergency, which has been extended for more than 18 months, HRW noted.

The Turkey chapter in Human Rights Watch 2018 World Report can be read here.