Erdoğan unveils human rights action plan, leading to skepticism

At a time when Turkey is the subject of harsh criticism due to gross human rights violations in the country, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Tuesday announced a human rights action plan that led to widespread skepticism and even ridicule due to the government’s poor record on human rights, Turkish Minute reported.

Erdoğan said the human rights action plan was based on 11 principles, nine aims and 50 goals and consists of 393 activities that will be put into action in a span of two years.

“The final goal of our action plan is a new and civilian constitution,” said Erdoğan, repeating his Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) plans to press ahead with a new charter for Turkey.

The principles in the human rights action plan place individual rights and freedoms as well as human dignity under state protection. According to these principles, everyone is equal before the law no matter their religion, language, ethnicity, gender, political views or beliefs; public services should be offered to all in an objective and fair manner; public authorities are obliged to obey the law; the state protects the right to work and free enterprise; the presumption of innocence must dominate all judicial proceedings; nobody can be deprived of their freedoms due to their criticism of others; rights and freedoms are exercised in all areas as a guarantee of a state of law; and everyone who has been subjected to rights violations can easily access judicial mechanisms to seek justice.

Erdoğan’s human rights action plan received little appreciation, apparently because thousands of people including intellectuals, politicians and journalists are behind bars despite rulings from the European Court of Human Rights for their immediate release, such as Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş and businessman Osman Kavala.

Following a failed coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016, Erdoğan launched a massive crackdown on non-loyalist citizens under the pretext of an anti-coup fight, which led to the prosecution of thousands of people on trumped-up terrorism or coup charges.

Turkish social media users were quick to voice their skepticism about the plan and even make fun of it.

Former Turkish ambassador to the US Namık Tan also voiced his skepticism about the new plan, tweeting, “When you lose your credibility, your promises and words are of no importance.”

Kerem Altıparmak, a lawyer specializing in human rights issues, was among the skeptics of the plan, tweeting tongue in cheek: “The human rights action plan is one that will finally bring solutions to all our problems. Since we will be left with nothing to do, we can go into seclusion and begin to write our memoirs. I will begin mine like this: My whole life changed with the introduction of the human rights action plan on March 2, 2021.”

Orhan Kemal Cengiz, a prominent human rights lawyer, said it is impossible to take any reform promises seriously without enforcing the ECtHR decisions.

Bünyamin Güler, a journalist from Milli Gazete, used Erdoğan’s words while expressing his views about the new action plan. “I look at actions, not words,” he tweeted.

Members of the opposition also received Erdoğan’s pledges on Tuesday with a healthy dose of skepticism.

Erdoğan “listed the issues on which his [ruling] AKP set Turkey back. It sounded like a confession,” CHP lawmaker Onursal Adıgüzel tweeted.

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