Turkey – Human Rights Council – Civil and Political Rights – July 2019

The Advocates for Human Rights submitted a stakeholder report on arbitrary detention, torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, interference with the judiciary, and restrictions on freedom of expression in Turkey for the 35th Session of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review.

Following the attempted coup of 2016, the Turkish government issued several emergency decrees dismissing more than 120,000 public officials, including 4,000 judges and prosecutors, as well as a wide variety of journalists, politicians, lawyers, and teachers. Many of these individuals have been arbitrarily detained, convicted of terrorist affiliations, tortured, subjected to solitary confinement, or even killed. Human rights defenders insist that the newly expanded Anti-Terror law is used by government officials as a summery tool for disbanding political opposition, as evidenced by the recent detentions. The executive branch has significant influence over the judiciary, while individual judges have sweeping powers that undermine due process. Lastly, accused individuals have no access to confidential legal advice and lawyers risk prosecution themselves if they choose to represent an accused individual.

During the 2nd UPR review, Turkey accepted a number of recommendations concerning the prevention of arbitrary detention, elimination of inhumane treatment, ending impunity, and improving detention conditions. Moreover, Turkey’s constitution recognizes the independence of the judiciary and fundamental human rights including the right to a fair trial and protection against torture. The Turkish government thus fails to meet its obligations to the international community and the constitution as it continues to arbitrarily detain individuals, and subject individuals to torture or cruel and inhuman treatment. Turkey also fails to meet international standards regarding judicial independence from the executive and fair trials.

This stakeholder report suggests the following recommendations or the Government of Turkey, including:

  • Guarantee freedom of opinion and expression by ending surveillance, elimination threats, and ending arbitrary arrests of lawyers, judges, and prosecutors.
  • Amend the Anti-Terror Law to ensure that an individual cannot be prosecuted for defending people accused of terrorism offenses or for expressing opinions critical of the government
  • Establish independent mechanisms or reporting and investigation of allegations of unlawful detention, torture, and inhumain treatment at the hands of police and security forces
  • Ensure the independence of the judiciary and prohibit executive branch interference with or attempts to exert influence over the judiciary
  • Ensure that individuals have the right to appeal decisions of a criminal peace judge to a higher tribunal with appellate authority