Saturday, February 2, 2008

HRW Releases Human Rights Report

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released its annual report on the status of human rights throughout the world and its assessment of human rights in Turkey is quite grim. From the report:
Recent trends in human rights protection in Turkey have been retrograde. 2007 saw an intensification of speech-related prosecutions and convictions, controversial rulings by the judiciary in defiance of international human rights law, harassment of pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party (DTP) officials and deputies, and a rise in reports of police brutality. The state authorities’ intolerance of difference or dissenting opinion has created an environment in which there have been instances of violence against minority groups. In January 2007 Turkish-Armenian journalist and human rights defender Hrant Dink was murdered. Armed clashes between the military and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rose in the lead-up to elections in July and intensified yet further in the second half of the year, with heavy loss of life; some attacks—such as a suspected PKK bombing in Ankara in May—have targeted civilians.
Although the report notes the success of Turkish citizens in staving off a military coup last July, Kenneth Roth notes in the broader report's introduction that the effort was owed much more to the actions taken by Turkish citizens than to denuniciation by the EU. HRW joins many others in expressing concern that the leverage the EU once had in protecting human rights in Turkey is waning thanks to the rhetoric of some EU politicians who have made the Turkish public much more skeptical about the eventuality of ever being accepted as a full member.

The report cites the significant increase in speech code prosecutions, including their possible use to reduce the political power of DTP in the face of upcoming elections; the continuing occurrence of police brutality and extrajudicial killings, including concern about the new "stop and search" law; the impunity of security forces, in particular in the Şemdinli case, the acquittal of four police officers accused of murdering two people in Kızıltepe in 2004, the killing of 10 protesters in Diyarbakır in 2006; and the continued harrassment of civil society organizations, such as the gay rights organization, Lambdaistanbul.

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