What is happening in Turkey. National security or clampdown on dissent?

After the military coup, Turkey’s government has launched an impressive crackdown that undermines human rights, Amnesty International warns.

State of emergency could threaten human rights

In response to the failure of the military coup that took place on the 15th of July, the Turkish government has begun a series of crackdown measures. These include declaring a three-month long state of emergency and suspending the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

Thousands of Turkish citizens, from academics to soldiers and judges, have been detained or removed from their positions for suspected links with Fethullah Gulen – a former imam accused by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of being behind last week’s putsch.

National authorities affirm that the fundamentals of democracy are being guaranteed. But international NGOs express their concern, and have invited the government not to roll back human rights and use the state of emergency as a pretext to clampdown on peaceful dissent.

Istanbul © Martina Rogato

Crackdown in Turkey: fact and figures

Over 60,000 Turkish citizens including soldiers, police, judges, civil servants and teachers have been suspended, detained or put under investigation.

On the 23rd of July the Turkish Foreign Minister also announced further restrictions related to prisoners’ rights and people in police custody. According to the new government’s decree, for example, police have the right to detain people in custody up to thirty days without a court’s validation. In addition, contact between prisoners and their lawyers may be limited or recorded for security reasons.

Furthermore, Turkish authorities have decided to close around 2,000 institutions including universities, trade unions, foundations, associations and hospitals. 24 radios and televisions have been shut down and 34 Turkish journalists’ media accreditations have been revoked by order of the Turkish Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTÜK). On the 25th of July Turkey’s authorities issued detention warrants for 42 journalists accused of supporting the Fethullah Gulen network.

blue mosque
Istanbul’s Blue Mosque © Martina Rogato

Amnesty International worried about human rights

After the declaration of the state of emergency, Amnesty International expressed its concern with regards to human rights violations in Turkey. It has invoked the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) to intervene to monitor detention conditions. According to the NGO there is credible evidence that detainees are being subject to beatings and torture, including rape, in official and unofficial detention centres around the country. According to Andrew Gardner, a researcher on Turkey for Amnesty International:

In the wake of the violence surrounding the attempted coup, taking measures prioritising public security is understandable. But emergency measures must respect Turkey’s obligations under international law, should not discard hard won freedoms and human rights safeguards.

Over the years, Turkey has represented a unique example of coexistence between cultures and traditions, and a privileged gateway to the Black Sea and Muslim world. Yet the suspension of the European Convention on Human Rights increases the risk of radicalisation and if Ankara expands its crackdown measures it will compromise its key role as a “bridge” between Asia and Europe. And a new geopolitical balance will have go be redesigned.


Featured image: Erdogan supporters © Kursat Bayhan/Getty Images

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