IOHR organizes int’l conference on unprecedented threat to human rights in Turkey

The International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR) has announced that it holding an international conference on Nov. 2, 2018 in Geneva to highlight the unprecedented threat to human rights in Turkey.

In a rare gathering, families of Turkish prisoners currently behind bars, prominent Turkish journalists and lawyers living in exile and active members of civil society will come together to speak on the ongoing witch-hunt and unjustified jailing of Turkish citizens.

Outspoken members of the British, Swiss and Dutch parliaments who have been working on the Turkish crisis will talk about the lack of due process and the travesty of justice those prisoners and their families face on a daily basis.

The conference will address the role of the European Court of Justice, the United Nations and the Council of Europe in protecting citizens and pushing for legislative reforms and basic respect for human rights.

Turkey is now ranked as the worst jailer of journalists worldwide. Turkey is ranked 157th among 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). If Turkey falls two more places, it will make it to the list of countries on the blacklist, which have the poorest record in press freedom.

The most recent figures documented by SCF show that 237 journalists and media workers were in jail as of October 17, 2018, most in pretrial detention. Of those in prison 169 were under arrest pending trial while only 68 journalists have been convicted and are serving their time. Detention warrants are outstanding for 148 journalists who are living in exile or remain at large in Turkey.

Detaining tens of thousands of people over alleged links to the Gülen movement, the government also closed down some 200 media outlets, including Kurdish news agencies and newspapers, after a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

Overall Turkey has also the second highest proportion of prisoners out of the 47 participating member states of the Council of Europe, with 244,6 per 100,000 inhabitants imprisoned. Data released in an annual Council of Europe report have revealed an explosion in the prison population of Turkey, a record increase of 161,7 percent in just 10 years.

An American who was jailed in Turkey will speak on the fate of American prisoners unjustly jailed in Turkey and how the current regime uses them as bargaining chips for political gain.

According to the IOHR’s announcement, the speakers at the conference are Takis Hadjigeorgiou, Member of the European Parliament, Vice-President, EP Delegation for relations with Turkey; Julie Ward, MEP, Member of the European Parliament for the North West of England, Member of the Culture and Education Committee; Laurence Fehlmann Rielle, MP, Vice-chair of the Legal Affairs Committee of the Swiss Parliament; Annie van Wezel, Former Co-Chair, EESC EU-Turkey Joint Consultative Committee; Natacha Bracq, Programme Lawyer, the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute; Yasemin Aydın, main representative of the Journalists and Writers Foundation in Europe; Abdullah Bozkurt, President of the Stockholm Centre for Freedom, journalist and author; Professor Dr Hüseyin Demir, Professor of Human Rights and Constitutional Law; Lindsey Snell, award winning journalist; and Dr Salih Önder, lawyer and author.

IOHR is also going to organize a “peaceful stand of solidarity” outside the United Nations office in Geneva at 4:00 p.m. on Nov. 1 to protest the unprecedented threat to human rights, due process and press freedom in Turkey.

Members of press freedom NGOs, human rights practitioners, students and activists will gather to call on the United Nations to establish a special committee to investigate the unprecedented human rights abuses against journalists, lawyers, judges and members of civil society in Turkey.

Hundreds of thousands of people in Turkey have been the subject of legal proceedings in the last two years on charges of membership in the Gülen movement since a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, a Turkish Justice Ministry official told a symposium on July 19, 2018.

“Legal proceedings have been carried out against 445,000 members of this organization,” Turkey’s pro-government Islamist news agency İLKHA quoted Turkish Justice Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Ömer Faruk Aydıner as saying.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016, that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed about 170,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15, 2016. On December 13, 2017, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018, that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016, and April 11, 2018, over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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