AI’s Vanderlinden: Erdogan abuses coup attempt as opportunity to silence all dissident voices

Amnesty International’s (AI) Turkey Coordinator Jenny Vanderlinden. (with the courtesy of Vocal Europe)

International human rights organization Amnesty International’s (AI) Turkey Coordinator Jenny Vanderlinden has said that the failed coup on July 15, 2016 has been an opportunity for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to silence all dissident voices in Turkey.

In an interview to Vocal Europe, AI’s Vanderlinden stated that “at a first stage people being accused to have links with the Gülen movement have been dismissed and/or arrested arbitrarily. But today all AKP opponents are being targeted and any criticism is a reason to jail people under terrorism offences.”

BLEAK PICTURE OF TURKEY’S MASSIVE HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS

Also, describing bleak picture of Turkey’s massive human rights violations, Vanderlinden said the human rights situation in Turkey deteriorated dramatically since the coup attempt. She added: “Even if the country is now returning to normal, it is a new normal, where the respect for human rights is exceptionally low. A normal where lot of people live in fear to be arrested and do not dare to speak out. I’m working since a long time on human rights in Turkey and never knew such a desperate situation. In the early days after the coup attempt, our organization had the opportunity to talk to lawyers, doctors and even people working in detention centers. Detainees have been subjected to torture and ill-treatment either to obtain confessions or to punish them. Detainees have been held in stress positions, denied from water, food and medical treatment, subjected to beatings, rape and sexual assault.”

Reminding that some people are detained without even knowing the charges against them, they have restricted access to lawyers, they cannot choose their lawyer, at best interviews with lawyers are recorded or happening in presence of police, Vanderlinden concluded that “This will obviously all lead to unfair trials.”

THE CONDITIONS IN PRISONS ARE EXTREMELY DIFFICULT

“The conditions in prisons are extremely difficult,” said Vanderlinden and continued: “Some prisoners are not allowed to receive letters or books from the outside, only closed relatives can visit them once a week and no contact with other prisoners is allowed except with those held in the same cell. Some prisoners having health problems do not receive their medication. Prisons are overpopulated, sometimes 5 prisoners are held in a cell for two, forcing people to sleep on the ground. Cells are dirty and cold. This is not human.”

Giving reference to AI’s press release following coup attempt on July 15, 2016, Vanderlinden reminded that “We gathered credible evidence that detainees in Turkey are being subjected to beatings and torture in official and unofficial detention centers in the country. For speaking out about this we have been immediately targeted by the government on Twitter and in speeches by President Erdogan and others…

Many other NGO’s, national and local one, are facing more problems than we do. On 22 November 2016, 375 NGOs were permanently closed following an executive decree stating that these associations are linked to terrorist organizations or against the national security. It includes human rights organizations, women’s rights organizations, local cultural associations, associations providing support to people living in poverty, students and business associations and even sports clubs. The closure of these NGOs is obviously disproportionate and cannot be justified even under the state of emergency. This is in violation of the rights to freedom of expression and association.”

CALL FOR EU COUNTRIES FOR QUICK RESPONSE TO TURKISH ASYLUM SEEKERS

Talking about AI’s initiative to urge Turkish government to bring those responsible for the failed coup to justice but that the response of the government should be proportionate, for a legitimate purpose and in respect of the rule of law even under the state of emergency, Vanderlinden said that “We know today by the massive crackdown that the Turkish government failed in this.” According to Vanderlinden, the high number of suspensions and dismissals suggests a country wide witch hunt, in which public servants are being punished without due process.

Pointing out the problems of Turkish asylum seekers especially in EU member countries and criticizing slow responses by the host countries, Vanderlinden has stated that “Many people still try to flee Turkey… These people claim their innocence and feel they are on the ‘black list’ because they share European values, criticized their government, and do not agree with President Erdogan’s authoritarian attitude. They are judges, journalists, NATO officers, academics, diplomats and lot of them had high ranking jobs. The Turkish government issued a legislative decree under the state of emergency early January 2017, which stipulates that Turkish people abroad who are wanted on arrest warrants and do return home within three months after being officially asked will lose their citizenship. It means that they have two options: either return home and be jailed or be at risk of becoming stateless.”

Feb. 20, 2017

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