“Victory at the polls is no excuse for the Turkish government and President Erdoğan to roll back the reforms of the past decade and erode the institutions that make Turkey a democracy.”
This statement of Human Rights Watch (HRW) Turkey researcher Emma Sinclair-Webb featured on the press release posted on the organization’s website, condemns Turkey, and more specifically President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
In HRW’s 656-page World report, where 90 countries were reviewed, Turkey receives a high level of criticism. “A tamed justice system, enhanced and unchecked police powers, and a muzzled press have hurt Turkey’s citizens and dented its international reputation,” expressed Sinclair-Webb.
Harsh crackdown on the 2013 Gezi Park protesters, the December 14 raid on outspoken Daily Zaman newspaper, subsequent terror charges and detainment of journalists, over comments on social media outlets such as Twitter and Facebook, has taken its toll, and emphasized in the following terms of the statement;
“Over the year, there was an increase in prosecutions of individuals for “insulting” public officials for critical statements about government corruption or intolerance, and on occasion people were placed in pretrial detention for “insult.” At the end of the year, Hidayet Karaca, the head of Samanyolu TV, was imprisoned pending the completion of a criminal investigation against him on dubious terrorism charges.”
Recent authoritarian laws, and purges in the judiciary and police force were also underlined, noting that “The changes are likely to worsen impunity for abuses by state officials against civilians.” A new national security law allows the detainment of individuals as well as seizure of assets on ‘reasonable doubt’ against the vaguely defined, and even more controversial terrorism charges. Such charges were indeed the pretext for the arrest of Samanyolu’s Karaca.
HRW also echoes the notion that much of the government’s ‘harsh stance’ against freedoms and rights has increased since the 2013 December 17-25 corruption, which implicated high level figures of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party).
The AK Party’s response was the purges, blaming Hizmet movement, consisting of followers and sympathizers of Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, for orchestrating the probe in plot to over throw the government. The rhetoric and subsequent changes in law and the judiciary have been slammed universally as a government attempt to cover-up corruption allegations.
Indeed the case on 53 corruption suspects was dropped in October, while an AK Party dominated parliament voted against try four ex ministers in the case in the country’s highest court.
While President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has expressed his backing of public support, demonstrated in repeated victories in elections leading to the continuing reign of the AK Party, over a decade, as well as Erdoğan’s presidency, the HRW rejects this justification; stating “Victory at the polls is no excuse for the Turkish government and President “Erdoğan to roll back the reforms of the past decade and erode the institutions that make Turkey a democracy.”
Published on BGNNews, 29 January 2015, Thursday