Human Rights in Turkey: 2023 in Review

The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) today released its latest report “Human Rights in Turkey: 2023 in Review,” which highlights the most important developments in the area of human rights in Turkey during the year 2023.

The May 2023 re-election of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the victory of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in parliamentary elections consolidated his authoritarian rule in Turkey and increased pressure on perceived critics and political opponents.

The increasing repression of the Kurdish political movement, the crackdown on the Gülen movement, new methods of transnational repression, 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 this year as in previous years.

Turkish courts continued to systematically accept bogus indictments, convicting without compelling evidence of criminal activity individuals and groups the Erdoğan government regarded as political opponents. Among them were journalists, opposition politicians, activists and human rights defenders.

The ongoing decay of rule of law and democracy in Turkey has been reflected in the reports of different international organizations and non-profits. In its 2023 Report on Turkey, the European Commission, the executive branch of the European Union, said there were “serious deficiencies” in the functioning of Turkey’s democratic institutions, underlining continuing democratic backsliding and structural deficiencies in the presidential system.

Turkey was ranked 117th among 140 countries in the rule of law index published by the World Justice Project in October. The country ranked 137th in terms of constraints on government powers and 133rd in terms of fundamental rights.

According to European Court of Human Rights’ (ECtHR) 2023 statistics Turkey topped the list of countries with cases awaiting judgment with 23,397 applications, corresponding to 34.2 percent of the total.

According to Freedom House, Turkey remained “not free” with a score of 30/100 in 2023. Turkey was among the top jailers of journalists in the 2023 prison census of the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), and a global leader in terms of legal harassment of female journalists in a report released by the Coalition for Women in Journalism (CFWIJ).

Similarly, Turkey fell dramatically in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2023 World Press Freedom Index, slipping 16 places and ranking 165th among 180 countries, not far from North Korea, which occupies the bottom of the list.

Erdoğan government has been involved in human rights violations beyond its own territory as well. According to a resolution adopted in June by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) the Turkish government perpetrated transnational repression using a variety of tactics including “renditions, abuse of extradition proceedings, Interpol Red Notices, anti-terror financing measures, and co-opting other States to deport or transfer persons unlawfully.”

About Stockholm Center for Freedom

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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