A damning report written by senior British lawyers has found Turkey’s government inflicts “systematic human rights violations” on its judiciary, police and media. At 95 pages long the dossier sets out allegations that the government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has interfered across Turkey to produce “supine” courts, censored websites, restricted freedom of expression, stifled corruption investigations and subjected detainees to degrading treatment, reports The Guardian.
The report was commissioned by an exiled opponent of President Erdoğan but was produced by senior British lawyers of some repute.
Former Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales Lord Woolf, Conservative MP and former Solicitor General of England and Wales Sir Edward Garnier QC, the Director of the Bingham Centre for the Rule of Law Prof Sir Jeffrey Jowell QC and Sarah Palin, a barrister specialising in human rights and media law all wrote the report.
The project was funded by the U.S.-based Journalist and Writers Foundation whose honorary chairman is the Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen. Once a former ally of Erdoğan he is now a fierce critic.
The report is based on documentary evidence rather than first hand experience or witness interviews, but records repeated breaches of human rights beginning with allegations of corruption made against Erdoğan and his close circle of ministers in December 2013. It estimates approximately 40,000 police officers, civil servants, judges and public prosecutors have been removed from office since the corruption investigation.
Dating the worsening of human rights in Turkey to the government’s response to the Gezi Park demonstrations against the government in 2013 (pictured above), the report states:
“We have analysed the actions taken by the Turkish government and its agents since December 2013 and have unanimously concluded that there has been a distinct reversal in the reform process that had been taking place since Turkey began accession talks with the European Union in 2005…Sir Edward Garnier told the Guardian: “Given the way the [Turkish] courts are being undermined… there’s an absence of any realistic prospect of a remedy in the domestic courts… It’s possible, we believe, for those who are aggrieved to go directly to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).”
“We regard this as a serious setback for Turkish democracy and its respect for human rights, in particular for the freedom of speech and the rule of law.
“From the perspective of international human rights law, we consider that the Turkish government has perpetrated significant human rights violations against supporters of the Gülen movement that would justify legal action before the European Court of Human Rights, in the absence of suitable remedies in Turkey…
“…The arrest and detention of journalists, media executives, police officers, public prosecutors and judges who are perceived to be supporters of the Hizmet [Gülen] movement, and their treatment in custody, has raised serious concerns about violations of their right to liberty and security.”
Last year, Turkey came second to Russia in the number of ECHR judgments confirming human rights violations. Such matters, along with the findings of the report, damage the case for Turkey’s accession to the European Union notwithstanding cheerleaders for that policy such as Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron.
Cameron has said he wants to “pave the road” for Turkey to join the EU, saying the country was “vital for our economy, vital for our security and vital for our diplomacy”. In his opinion a European Union without Turkey at its heart is “not stronger but weaker… not more secure but less… not richer but poorer”.