Justice minister draws criticism, ridicule after praising Turkey’s human rights track record

Turkey's Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül

Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül has been the subject of criticism and ridicule on social media since he praised Turkey’s human rights track record in a tweet, saying that the country is setting an example to the world with its success in protecting human rights, Turkish Minute reported.

“We respect the right of everyone to express, live, spread, learn and teach their beliefs as a whole, regardless of what they believe or their origin,” Gül tweeted on Wednesday, sharing photos from the 1st International Symposium on Media and Islamophobia held in Ankara on May 25-26.

“Turkey sets an example to the world with its success in providing them [an environment where] they can [exercise] their rights,” the minister added.

Turkish social media users were quick to voice their criticism about Gül’s statement and even make fun of it.

“Get out of here, you don’t care about anyone who doesn’t obey you, even if that person is a saint,” Hasan Doğancı, a former police chief and one of more than 150,000 public servants fired in the aftermath of a coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) declared a state of emergency soon after the attempted coup and carried out a massive purge of state institutions, dismissing academics, teachers, military personnel, diplomats and police officers among others subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny due to alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations.”

“If the other countries take us as an example in human rights, what else can we do but wish them ‘Get well soon’?” a Twitter user sarcastically asked, while another noted that “a minister shouldn’t be this detached from the society.”

A report authored by Italian judge Luca Perilli titled “Judicial Independence and Access to Justice in Turkey Today,” which was published in March by the Turkey Tribunal -– a civil society-led symbolic international tribunal to review and deliver judgment on Turkey’s human rights record -– showed that fundamental rights are not protected in the country mainly due to political control of the judiciary.

Perilli listed many steps taken by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government following the 2016 abortive putsch, when President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on non-loyalist citizens under the pretext of an anti-coup fight, as reasons that hinder access to justice in Turkey.

Persecution of lawyers and human rights defenders, unjustifiable limitations of the right to a defense, legal and factual impediments to access to evidence by defendants, disruption of fair trial rules and the misuse of detention are among the reasons pointed out in the report.

Turkey also ranked 107th out of 128 countries on the 2020 Rule of Law Index, a comprehensive measure of adherence to the rule of law, released by the US-based World Justice Project (WJP), an independent organization that aims to advance the rule of law around the world.

According to “Freedom in the World 2021,” the annual country-by-country assessment of political rights and civil liberties released in March by Freedom House, Turkey remains “not free” with a score of 32/100, in the same category as Russia, China and Iran.

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