WITCH HUNT IN TURKEY: Stop Mass Arrests!

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STATEMENT : 18th October 2022, Concerning Mass Detentions in Turkey

For almost 7 years, mass arrests have been carried out in Turkey against the Gülen movement. Since 2014, more than 5,800[1] police operations have been carried out and, according to official figures, more than 300,000 people have been arrested. On average, at least 70 people are arrested every day.

Thousands of people continue to be detained on charges that do not constitute crimes under the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and United Nations human rights bodies.

Today (October 18, 20222) a new stage of unlawful arrests was launched, detention sentences were issued against 704 people -men, women, young and old- on the grounds that they were “trying to help the families of those in prison or released from them”.

The Minister of Interior Süleyman Soylu[2] stated, “… we have found that about 150 to 300 euros is distributed to these families, and these operations are carried out to arrest the donors and recipients of this aid…”.  

In an environment where nearly two million people have been declared terrorists in the last five years[3] , tens of thousands of people are being fired and as many are being arbitrarily arrested, now those who help the affected families and their loved ones are also being imprisoned.

Widespread and systematic human rights violations in Turkey, currently targeting  a specific social/religious group – the Gülen movement and its members – as well as other ethnic or religious groups such as the Kurdish minority and the Alevis, are actually the result of chronic and deep-rooted problems in the system and Turkey’s unwillingness to live up to its obligations preserved in regional and international human rights conventions.

The recent statement[4] of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in relation to Turkey states,

…that the Working Group has noted a significant increase in the number of cases involving arbitrary detention in Turkey over the past three years. The Working Group expresses grave concern about the pattern followed by all these cases and recalls that, in certain circumstances, widespread or systematic detention or other severe deprivation of liberty in violation of fundamental rules of international law may be considered a crime against humanity….

 Against this background, we call on the Turkish government to

  • Immediately cease systematic and arbitrary arrest, prosecution, and detention of political opponents and human rights defenders; drop charges against arbitrarily accused persons, including those detainees who have not been charged in accordance with international standards and against whom there is no credible evidence.
  • Amend laws governing the use of force by law enforcement officers to comply with international legal standards,
  • Initiate relevant amendments to the Criminal Code that prohibit arbitrary detention,
  • Comply with the demands of the UN Human Rights Committee and the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention and release arbitrarily detained persons and take legal action against those responsible,
  • Amend Article 314 of the Turkish Penal Code and Law No. 3713 (Anti-Terror Law) to be in line with ECtHR jurisprudence,
  • Adopt necessary legislative and judicial reforms to prevent further violations of Articles 5, 6, 7, and 10 of the ECHR.

We call on the UN Working Group Against Arbitrary Detention to

  • to conduct a country visit to Turkey, as a significant period of time has passed since the last visit to Turkey in October 2006.

We call upon the Secretary General of the Council of Europe to

  • Launch a special investigation to uncover the reasons for the non-implementation of the ECtHR rulings.

We call on the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to

  • Act more decisively in implementing and enforcing the ECtHR’s rulings.

We call on CoE member states to

  • to consider initiating “infringement proceedings” against Turkey, thus demonstrating its determination against political persecution.

We call on the European Union

  • Consider initiating sanctions against those responsible for serious human rights violations in Turkey under the newly adopted human rights sanctions regime,
  • Anchor the modernization of the Customs Union to concrete improvements in democratic reforms in the areas of democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms, as well as the rule of law and a liberal civil society and pluralism.

We call on international NGOs to

  • Provide more resources to document ongoing human rights violations and practices in Turkey,
  • Consider forming a justice initiative to hold perpetrators accountable under the principle of global justice.
  • advocate before the European Union that perpetrators be sanctioned under the Union’s human rights sanctions regime.

[1] https://humanrights-ev.com/hexenjag-auf-die-gulen-bewegung/

[2] https://www.cnnturk.com/turkiye/son-dakika-ankarada-feto-operasyonu-bakan-soylu-543-kisi-yakalandi

[3] https://twitter.com/myeneroglu/status/1463974412311568386?s=20&t=wckLUQmrW70jYQZ6Fi8lGQ

[4]https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Detention/Opinions/Session89/A_HRC_WGAD_2020_66.pdf Par.67

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