Wednesday, March 17, 2010

State Department Releases Annual Human Rights Report

The U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Democracy. Human Rights, and Labor has released its annual report on human rights in Turkey for the year 2009. Excerpted here is the overview:
There were reports of a number of human rights problems and abuses in the country. Security forces committed unlawful killings; the number of arrests and prosecutions in these cases was low compared with the number of incidents, and convictions remained rare. During the year human rights organizations reported cases of torture, beatings, and abuse by security forces. Prison conditions improved but remained poor, with chronic overcrowding and insufficient staff training. Law enforcement officials did not always provide detainees immediate access to attorneys as required by law. There were reports that some officials in the elected government and state bureaucracy at times made statements that some observers believed influenced the independence of the judiciary. The overly close relationship of judges and prosecutors continued to hinder the right to a fair trial. Excessively long trials were a problem. The government limited freedom of expression through the use of constitutional restrictions and numerous laws and through the application of tax fines against media conglomerates. There were limitations on Internet freedom. Courts and an independent board ordered telecommunications providers to block access to websites on numerous occasions. Some religious groups were restricted from practicing their religion openly, owning property, and training leaders. Violence against women, including honor killings and rape, remained a widespread problem. Child marriage persisted, despite laws prohibiting it. Some cases of official corruption contributed to trafficking in persons for labor and sexual exploitation.

The government amended the penal code on June 26 to prohibit trials of civilians in military courts. There were also positive developments during the year with respect to freedom of expression and the use of Kurdish and other non-Turkish languages, including the following: a substantial decrease in the number of prosecutions and convictions based on article 301, which prohibits insults to the "Turkish state"; the formal launch of a 24-hour Kurdish-language state television station on January 1; broadcasts in Armenian on state television for half an hour twice a day on April 2; new regulations on November 13 allowing for 24-hour private television stations to broadcast in languages other than Turkish; new prison regulations in November allowing prisoners to speak languages other than Turkish with their visitors; and approval in September of a university department to teach the Kurdish language among other "living" languages.

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