HRW urges Turkey, Germany to promote protection of civilians in Gaza during Erdoğan’s visit

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a NATO summit in Vilnius on July 11, 2023 (AFP)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has released a statement calling on German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to work on measures to protect civilians in Gaza at risk of mass atrocities, during Erdoğan’s visit to Berlin on Friday.

“Scholz, who has claimed Israel is abiding by international law, should condemn Israeli authorities’ cutting of food, water, fuel, and electricity to the civilian population of Gaza and call on authorities to refrain from unlawful indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks,” HRW said.

HRW also urged Erdoğan to condemn Hamas’s October 7 attacks on civilians and subsequent indiscriminate rocket attacks and to press Hamas and other Palestinian groups to release civilians held hostage immediately.

Erdoğan is visiting the German capital for talks with Scholz and his counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

The two countries have adopted opposing views on the conflict in the Middle East, with Berlin extending unconditional support for Israel and Ankara openly endorsing Hamas after initial restraint and neutrality.

HRW also said the meetings should address Turkey’s “domestic human rights and rule of law crisis,” including Ankara’s noncompliance with key European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgments.

Turkey has been refusing to implement ECtHR orders for the release of Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş and civil society leader Osman Kavala.

The disregard of binding higher court orders is not limited to noncompliance with Strasbourg. Last week, Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals openly defied a Constitutional Court order for the release of imprisoned opposition MP Can Atalay, who was kept behind bars despite gaining parliamentary immunity in the country’s parliamentary elections earlier this year.

The Turkish judiciary faces widespread criticism for its perceived lack of independence. Critics accuse Erdoğan of exerting control over the judiciary and establishing one-man rule in the country, particularly after a coup attempt in 2016, following which he launched a massive crackdown on non-loyalist citizens and the country’s subsequent transition to a presidential system of governance, which granted him vast powers.

Many say there is no longer a separation of powers in the country and that members of the judiciary are under the absolute control of the government and cannot make judgments based on law.

In a development that validated the critics, Turkey was ranked 117th among 142 countries in the rule of law index published by the World Justice Project (WJP) in October, dropping one rank in comparison to last year.

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