UN slams Turkish government over widespread human rights violations

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The United Nations’ annual human rights report, which was released in Geneva on Wednesday, has named Turkey as one of 50 countries in which human rights are under threat, German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle said.

The report also said Turkey’s cross-border military operation in the Syrian district of Afrin represented a threat to the civilian population there and that the domestic human rights situation had deteriorated.

The annual report of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) was announced at a press conference on Wednesday evening. Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein of Jordan, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, highlighted arbitrary arrests and torture in prisons as well as cases in which family members had been punished for the actions of their relatives.

“Respect for fundamental rights continues to deteriorate in Turkey,” al-Hussein said in a speech as he delivered the annual report to the UN Human Rights Council.

About the state of human rights in Turkey, the report said: “The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has reached the reliable information that a vast number of people are arbitrarily discharged from their jobs, civil society organizations are arbitrarily closed, those arbitrarily taken into custody are arrested on general charges in relation to terrorist organizations, the detainees are tortured while in custody, the freedoms of expression and movement are restricted, private property is arbitrarily confiscated and the families of the suspects as a whole are targeted.”

The statement also underlined that “the conflict in Syria has entered a new era of terror” and added that “the operation launched by Turkey in Afrin is threatening a large number of civilians.”

In addition to the main human rights report, the UN will also produce a more detailed report on the human rights situation in Turkey under state of emergency conditions, Deutsche Welle said.

The UN report also had strong criticism for the human rights situation in Libya, Yemen, Syria, the Philippines and Myanmar as well as for the United States and European Union for policies put in place to deter refugees and migrants.

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 autocratic 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 more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and other civil servants since July 2016. Turkey’s interior minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665 people have been arrested. On December 13, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Dec. 2, 2017. “The number of detentions is nearly three times higher,” Soylu told a security meeting in İstanbul and claimed that “even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.”

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