US mission to OSCE calls on Turkish gov’t to end state of emergency

The US mission to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has called on Turkish government to bring an end to an ongoing state of emergency, expressing deep concern about the deteriorating state of human rights.

“The United States calls on the Turkish government to end the protracted state of emergency, release those detained arbitrarily under emergency authorities, and take concrete steps to safeguard the rule of law, consistent with Turkey’s own domestic and international obligations and commitments,” said Michele M. Siders, chargé d’affaires of the US mission to the OSCE, at a meeting in Vienna on Thursday.

The US mission’s call came after the Turkish government signaled that the state of emergency would be extended for the seventh time next week. Turkey imposed emergency rule following a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

The European Union and Council of Europe (CoE) have also long been voicing concerns over the prolonged state of emergency in Turkey.

“The United States joins the European Union and other delegations in expressing deep concern about the deteriorating state of human rights in Turkey, in particular the Government of Turkey’s continuing efforts to restrict dissent,” Siders stressed, according to a report by the Hürriyet Daily News.

The chargé d’affaires said they were troubled by the ongoing pretrial detention of Amnesty International (AI) Turkey Chairman Taner Kılıç, who has been detained since June 2017. “We are closely following Mr. Kılıç’s case, along with cases against other respected human rights defenders, journalists, civil society leaders, and opposition politicians — all of whose prosecution under the ongoing state of emergency has chilled freedom of expression. These cases raise serious concerns about respect for judicial independence and the fair trial protections enshrined in the Turkish constitution,” Siders stated.

Siders also noted that OSCE participating states were committed “to maintain freedom of expression and freedom of information, consistent with their international obligations and commitments, with a view to enabling public discussion on the observance of human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as on lifting the state of public emergency.”

“We firmly believe that freedom of expression, including for members of the media, strengthens democracy and must be protected, particularly in difficult times,” the diplomat said.

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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