Turkey: Nils Muižnieks criticises Istanbul ban on Pride march

Human rights commissioner Nils Muižnieks regrets the decision by the Governor of Istanbul to ban the 26 June Pride March.

Writing on his Facebook page, Muižnieks states: “Last year, I expressed my shock and disappointment about the banning of the Pride March in Istanbul and the disproportionate use of force against its participants.

“This year, Governor’s Offices in Ankara and Izmir banned similar events. To avert a similar ban in Istanbul for the second year in a row, I wrote to the Governor of Istanbul on 10 June expressing my full support to the event and urging the Turkish authorities to allow and to facilitate the Istanbul Pride March, as well as to take all necessary measures to ensure the safety of its participants if necessary.

“Freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly are fundamental rights protected under the European Convention on Human Rights, and are enjoyed by everyone, including by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) persons.

“Although a demonstration may annoy or cause offence to persons opposed to the ideas or claims it seeks to promote, this is not an admissible ground for banning a peaceful gathering, contrary to what happened last year in Istanbul and this year in Ankara.

“Furthermore, peaceful Pride festivals organised by LGBTI persons and other supporters of their rights are important events in democratic societies for the visibility of this group and are therefore a key component in the fight against the discrimination that they face.

“The Istanbul Pride March, the most important in the country both due to the number of participants and the fact that it took place peacefully for 13 consecutive years before 2015, is hugely significant in this respect.”

The Commissioner for Human Rights adds: “Under European human rights standards, Turkish authorities have a positive obligation to guarantee both public security and the freedoms of expression and assembly.

“I urge the Turkish authorities to reverse the decision to ban the Istanbul Pride March, to facilitate it and to protect its participants. I would regard the failure to do so as yet another blow to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly in an already particularly negative context, as well as a sign of growing intolerance by the Turkish authorities of pluralism and diversity.”

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