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Turkey: Human rights review 2015

This review presents the key human rights events and European court cases affecting Turkey this year.

January

Anti-torture monitors publish their report on Turkey.

Judges rule in favour of a Turkish mum, who complained of a breach of human rights law, following the death of her baby, refused admission to public hospitals.

In a busy month of Turkish cases at the court, Kurdish prisoners ask for the court’s help to have their own language newspapers and a teenager, beaten on the soles of his feet during a police interrogation, is awarded €45,000, after a successful complaint to Strasbourg judges.

March

Turkish authorities’ reaction to a transsexual’s request for gender reassignment surgery comes before the European Court of Human Rights.

The case is cited in a new European court factsheet on gender identity issues.

April

At a Parliamentary Assembly Spring session side event, activists come together to discuss the prejudice that still confronts transgender people across Europe and the legal and social changes needed to overcome widespread bigotry.

Kemal Ordek, of Red Umbrella Turkey, offers his analysis of the situation in Turkey, which, according to research, has Europe’s highest murder rate of transgender people.

May

A prison hunger strike, in protest at plans to reduce cell sizes, led to human rights violations by national authorities, Strasbourg judges rule.

June

Human rights judges listen to legal arguments brought by 203 members of the Alevi faith, who claim they suffer religious discrimination in Turkey.

Observers reveal that Turkey’s parliamentary elections were characterised by high participation and strong and active political but “tainted” by violence.

The help offered to Syrian refugees “puts the rest of Europe to shame,” says Anne Brasseur, President of the Parliamentary Assembly, at the end of a high-profile visit to refugee centres on the Turkish-Syrian border.

By contrast, human rights commissioner Nils Muižnieks is “shocked and disappointed” by a police crack-down at a Pride event.

August

Returning again to one of the year’s defining themes, Parliamentary Assembly President Anne Brasseur condemns terrorist attacks in Sirnak province and in Istanbul. “Terrorism undermines the very foundations of democratic societies and can never be justified,” she says.

Noting the rising tension in the country, Secretary General Thorbjørn Jagland warns that national peace and stability are in danger. “The recent increase of violence in Turkey which has resulted in the deaths of civilians, soldiers and police officers is very worrying. Nobody will gain from this escalation.”

September

Police raids on newsrooms and the arrest of two journalists, place the spotlight on media freedom in the country, according to the Commissioner for Human Rights Nils Muižnieks.

“I am gravely concerned about the recent terrorist attacks and the escalation of violence in Turkey,” says Anne Brasseur, President of the Parliamentary Assembly. “The terrorist attacks against the army and the law enforcement officials are unacceptable. I strongly condemn these and convey condolences to the families of the victims and to the people and authorities of Turkey.”

October

Ahead of elections in the country, Parliamentary Assembly President Anne Brasseur, expresses concern over clampdown against two private television channels.

The European Court of Human Rights rules that in the case of Belek and Velioğlu v. Turkey (application no. 44227/04) a criminal conviction for a press article that did not call for violence or amount to hate speech, did violate Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European convention.

The case concerned the applicants’ conviction by a State Security Court for publishing an article in a daily newspaper containing a statement by an illegal armed organisation.

November

According to an assembly election monitoring delegation, Turkey’s elections were “well conducted” and offered “a wide range of political choices.” However, the delegation regretted that the electoral campaign was “characterised by unfairness” and tarnished by “a challenging security environment,” in particular in the south-east of the country, where “many violent incidents hindered contestants’ ability to campaign freely.”

Ingebjørg Godskesen and Nataša Vuckovic, co-rapporteurs for the assembly’s post-monitoring dialogue with Turkey, question the arrests of two prominent journalists, Can Dündar, editor-in-chief of the Cumhuriyet newspaper and Erdem Gül, its Ankara correspondent, as well as the eight-year sentence facing Bülent Kenes, editor-in-chief of Today’s Zaman, for “insulting the president.”

Over at the European court, relatives of family members, buried alive during Turkey’s 1999 earthquake, will receive awards totalling €158,000, after judges back their human rights complaint.

December

Blocking without a legal basis users’ access to YouTube infringed the right to receive and impart information, Strasbourg judges declare.

later in the month, an informal working group composed of Council of Europe and Turkish Ministry of Justice meets to discuss issues relating to freedom of expression in the country. After the meeting, Secretary General Jagland says: “There was progress today. Now we are looking forward to real change.”

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