Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Human Rights Watch World Report released on January 22, 2012.

The report reveals the recent violations of freedom of expression under the AKP government. It suggests that “the government has not prioritized human rights reforms since 2005, and freedom of expression and association have both been damaged by the ongoing prosecution and incarceration of journalists, writers, and hundreds of Kurdish political activists.”

Freedom of Expression,Association, and Assembly

“While the last decade has demonstrated momentum in Turkey for increasingly open debate on even controversial issues, Turkey’s laws, prosecutors, judges, and politicians still lag behind. Turkey’s over broad definition of terrorism still allows for arbitrary imposition of the harshest terrorism charges against individuals about whom there is little evidence of logistical or material support for terrorism or of involvement in plotting violent activities. Prosecutors frequently prosecute individuals for non-violent speeches and writings. Politicians sue their critics for criminal defamation. Courts convict with insufficient consideration for the obligation to protect freedom of expression. A comprehensive review of all existing laws that restrict freedom of expression is overdue.

Particularly concerning was the March arrest and imprisonment on terrorism charges of two journalists, Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener, and of academic Büşra Ersanlı and publisher Ragip Zarakolu in October.Şık and Şener are charged with aiding and abetting the Ergenekon organization, a criminal gang charged with coup-plotting against the AKP government. The sole evidence against Şık and Şener is their non-violent writing, in Şık’s case consisting of an unpublished manuscript. At this writing the two had spent eight months in pre-trial detention, awaiting their November trial.

Ersanlı and Zarakolu will face trial in 2012 foralleged links with the Unıon of Kurdistan Communities (KCK/TM), a body associated with the PKK leadership. They were arrested during a clamp-down on the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party’s (BDP) legal political activity, which began in April 2009 and intensified in 2011. Hundreds remain in pre-trial detention and thousands are on trial on terrorism charges after waves of arrests of officials and activist members of the BDP (which won 36 independent seats in the June 2011 general election) for alleged KCK links.

There was little progress in the main Diyarbakir KCK trial of 153 defendants, which included six BDP mayors and a human rights defender held in pre-trial detention for 22 months. Defendants insisted on conducting their defence in Kurdish but this was rejected by the court.

In August the government revised a plan to impose obligatory filtering packages on all internet users and delayed implementation of optional filtering packages, following forceful public opposition in Turkey and by international bodies, including the OSCE and the Council of Europe. However, the practice of blocking an estimated 15,000 websites in Turkey—most of which have pornographic content but some of which are restricted for pro-Kurdish or other political content by order of the Telecommunications Ministry and court decisions—raises concerns about restrictions on the right to freedom of expression and access to information.”

To read the text in full and have full access to the report itself, please visit: