Turkey in perpetual state of emergency, human rights organizations say

The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) and the Human Rights Association’s (İHD) have released a joint statement on Turkey’s 2023 human rights track record and drew attention to the perpetual state of emergency practices that tarnished the rule of law. 

Duvar English

Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV) and the Human Rights Association (İHD) issued a joint statement for the 75th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights on Dec. 10. The report drew attention to the worrisome increase in human rights violations in Turkey due to the de facto state of emergency still prevailing in Turkish politics. 

Their report stated that a state-of-emergency (OHAL) regime still ran Turkey, although the decree was officially lifted on July 19, 2018. The process has led to the abandonment of fundamental constraints on governmental power, constitutionalism, and the rule of law.

“Thus arbitrariness and obscurity have become defining features of the political arena,” added the report.  

Right to Life Violations

The report considered the deaths in the Feb. 6 earthquakes as the Turkish government’s violation of the right to life, as negligent policies were influential in the size of the destruction. Over 50,000 people died because of the earthquake according to official numbers. 

The report documented further violations of the right to life in Turkey during the first 11 months of 2023. 12 people died as a result of extrajudicial killing by law enforcement. Six people died under suspicious circumstances in custody. 

Law enforcement vehicles crashed into and injured at least three children, at least 43 inmates died in prison from illness, suicide, violence, or negligence, 13 died and 24 were injured from hate crimes against immigrants, Kurds, LGBTI+’s, Alewis, and non-Muslims. 

The report stated that at least 1,772 workers died from occupational accidents according to the Workers’ Health and Work Safety Assembly (İSİG) data. Men killed at least 303 women and 27 children according to Bianet data. Furthermore, at least 396 people were subjected to torture and other maltreatment in official detainment quarters according to the İHD Documentation Unit.

The TİHV Documentation Unit data showed that Turkish law enforcement detained at least 3,679 people, 58 of whom were children, with torture and maltreatment during peaceful demonstrations.

Right to Freedom of Speech and Expression Violations

The report’s section on freedom of thought and expression stated that 41 journalists/press workers were imprisoned as of Dec. 4, 2023. Additionally, 84 journalists were detained and 19 were arrested.

1,731 people, 4 of whom were children were detained because of their social media posts, and 457 people were arrested. 

Data further showed that at least 33 people were tried for allegedly insulting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and three of them were arrested. 

Right to Protest Violations

With regards to the freedom to protest, TİHV data found that Turkish governorships and municipalities banned all protests and events 94 times in 24 different provinces. 

Law enforcement intervened in 29 of the Saturday Mothers’ press statements and detained 689 people in total. Local authorities banned 16 cultural events such as concerts, festivals, tournaments, and plays. 

In the scope of Pride Month, the report stated that three provinces and one district banned all events. Four additional events were banned by other authorities. Governors of İzmir and Istanbul announced the cancellation of Pride events through their social media accounts.

Police violently repressed at least nine protests and events, and detained at least 205 people.

Children’s Rights Violations

The İSİG found that at least 888 children died between 2013 and 2023 while working. Justice Ministry data showed that 2541 children are in prison.