Human rights in Turkey: 2020 in review

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This report highlights the most important developments in the area of human rights in Turkey during the year 2020. Rising pressure on the Kurdish political movement, the crackdown on the Gülen movement, the arrest of journalists and deteriorating press freedom, the spread of hate speech and hate crimes targeting ethnic and religious minorities and refugees, systematic torture and ill-treatment and an increase in rights violations against women were the defining topics of the year.

Turkey has been experiencing a deepening human rights crisis over the past seven years. With the aim of consolidating his one-man rule, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been systematically undermining the fundamental pillars of Turkey’s already imperfect democracy. These include amendments to the constitution that increased the power of the Turkish presidency and fundamentally eroded checks and balances on the executive, erosion of the rule of law, and increased executive control over the judiciary.

Political and civil rights in Turkey have deteriorated so severely under President Erdoğan that according to Freedom House Turkey is no longer a free country and scores the lowest among NATO members. Turkey’s country score is in fact lower than such countries as Pakistan, Kyrgyzstan, Bangladesh and Haiti, which are categorized as “partly free.”

In its 2020 Report on Turkey European Commission, executive branch of the European Union, said serious backsliding in the respect for democratic standards, the rule of law and fundamental freedoms continued in Turkey in the absence of an effective checks and balances mechanism.

According to human rights watchdogs, Turkish courts systematically accept bogus indictments, detain and convict without compelling evidence of criminal activity individuals and groups the Erdoğan government regards as political opponents. Among these are journalists, opposition politicians, activists and human rights defenders.

Erdoğan government has been involved in human rights violations beyond its own territory as well. In a statement in September, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet warned that the human rights situation in parts of northern Syria under the control of Turkish forces and Turkish-affiliated armed groups as “grim, with violence and criminality rife.”

SCF is a non-profit advocacy organization that promotes the rule of law, democracy and human rights with a special focus on Turkey.

Committed to serving as a reference source by providing a broad perspective on rights violations in Turkey, SCF monitors daily developments, documents individual cases of the infringement of fundamental rights and publishes comprehensive reports on human rights issues.

SCF is a member of the Alliance Against Genocide, an international coalition working to exert pressure on the UN, regional organizations and national governments to act on early warning signs and take action to prevent genocide.

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