CoE commissioner, Amnesty International criticize ban on LGBT Pride march in İstanbul

Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks and Amnesty International have criticized Turkey for banning the LGBT Pride march in İstanbul for a third year running, urging them to uphold the right to freedom of assembly.

“As the European Court of Human Rights has repeatedly stressed, although a demonstration may annoy or cause offense to persons opposed to the ideas or claims it seeks to promote, this cannot serve as an admissible ground for prohibiting a peaceful gathering,” Muižnieks said in a statement on his Facebook account on Monday.

The commissioner also said there were “worrying reports of disproportionate use of force” by police against a small number of peaceful demonstrators. “By banning the event, the Turkish authorities have failed to fulfil their positive obligation to guarantee both public security and the freedom of assembly, to which everyone is entitled, including LGBTI persons and other supporters of their rights,” Muižnieks said.

“I call on the Turkish authorities to ensure that the right to freedom of peaceful assembly, as enshrined in Article 11 of the Convention, is effectively enjoyed by LGBTI persons as equal members of society,” he added.

Amnesty International (AI) has also said on Monday that a ban by İstanbul Governor’s Office to İstanbul Pride Parade, which was planned to be held in Taksim square on Sunday, is another example of blow to right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly in Turkey.

In a statement from its website on Monday, AI said “The repeated blocking of the Pride March in recent years is yet another example of the authorities’ intolerance of dissent and difference, the deterioration of the human rights situation in Turkey in general, and the authorities’ failure to uphold LGBTI rights.”

Underlining that Turkish police used “excessive and unnecessary” force against people attempted to march peacefully, AI noted the event had been successfully held annually for over a decade and attracted tens of thousands of participants.

At least 44 poeple including more than 20 LGBT activists were detained on Sunday for attempting to hold the pride march in İstanbul’s famed Taksim square to mark one of the largest organized gay festivals in Turkey.

On Saturday, the İstanbul Governor’s Office banned an LGBTI pride parade scheduled to take place in Taksim on June 25, citing security and public order concerns. “The application for the parade was not properly submitted to our office in accordance with Law 2911. There is also serious criticism of this parade from various segments of society on social media,” said the statement issued by the governor’s office.

“In line with our assessment, and taking into consideration the safety of residents and tourists in the area as well as public order, it will not be permitted to hold the parade or to gather and protest on that day, before that day or after that day.”

The organizing committee for LGBTI pride week reacted to the decision of the İstanbul Governor’s Office, saying banning the march contravenes international conventions, Turkish law and the constitution.

The Alperen Hearths, a right-wing youth organization linked to the nationalist Great Union Party (BBP), had vowed to forcibly prevent the march from taking place even if authorities allowed it. The march had taken place without incident in İstanbul for 13 years, but in June 2015 police intervened against it using tear gas and rubber bullets. (SCF with June 27, 2017 

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