May 13 2018

U.K. should use Erdoğan visit to voice human rights concerns - analysis

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s state visit to Britain next week provides the perfect platform for Britain to speak up on the Turkish government’s brutal crackdown on opponents and critics, particularly during the state of emergency implemented following the July 2016 coup attempt, says David Mepham in his analysis for Human Rights Watch.

President Erdoğan is scheduled to visit the U.K. from May 13-15, where he will be meeting Queen Elizabeth II and British Prime Minister Theresa May. Investment, trade and Syria are expected to be at the forefront of topics of discussion during the meetings.

 In a Turkey where Erdoğan looking to renew his presidency, this time with vastly enhanced powers, on  June 24, when Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections are set to take place, media freedom continues to be decimated, Mepham writes, adding:

 ‘’Journalists and critics on social media are being prosecuted and more than 170 reporters, writers, and media workers are in jail, most of them awaiting verdicts. The crackdown, along with takeovers and closures of media outlets, means that most of the media – especially television – is now a propaganda machine for Erdogan’s ruling AKP party and the government.’’

The article points to the large hurdles facing opposition parties. Nine of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) - the second largest party in parliament- deputies are in prison and 11 have been stripped of their parliamentary seats; even their presidential candidate will be running in the race from behind bars.

Civil society and human rights defenders are also in trouble, with “terrorism” trials and convictions. ‘’Defenders like Amnesty International Turkey’s chair Taner Kılıç behind bars already for nearly a year, and some women’s rights associations arbitrarily closed down by the government,’’ the article says.

According to the author it is time for Theresa May to show some backbone and press Erdoğan to put an end to such abuses while making clear Britain will stop licensing military equipment for Turkey that might be used in violating human rights.