Amnesty report highlights deep flaws in Turkey's judicial system, baseless prosecutions

Turkey has failed to address deep flaws in the judicial system as opposition politicians, journalists, human rights defenders continue to face baseless prosecutions and convictions, according to the Amnesty International Report 2021/22 published on Tuesday.

Ankara curtailed freedom of peaceful assembly amid serious allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in the country’s prisons, according to the report, which examines the human rights situation across 154 countries in 2021.

Turkey’s new Human Rights Action Plan and two Judicial Reform Packages prepared by the Ministry of Justice “failed to address deep flaws in the judiciary,” according to the report, which pointed to investigations targeting members of bar associations and a July bill, which extends emergency powers for the dismissal of public servants over alleged links to “terrorist” organizations without the possibility of judicial review.

Turkey enacted the emergency rule after the 2016 coup attempt, in which more than 250 people died. The measures paved the way for the Turkish government to sack more than 150,000 officials in purges since the failed putsch, while sending to jail pending trial over 50,000 people including soldiers, police, civil servants, mostly on terror charges. In July, Turkish parliament approved a bill that includes measures to extend state-of-emergency powers three more years.  

Women, journalists, human rights defenders, members of Turkey’s LGBTI community and refugees face rights violations in Turkey in 2021, according to the report, which said that with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government failing to take measures to prevent them.

While Turkey has not passed laws criminalising homosexual acts since the establishment of the republic in 1923, negative attitudes are prevalent in society and have worsened under President Recep Tayyip  Erdoğan’s Islamist governments of the last 19 years, according to critics, with government officials targeting the group. 

The Amnesty report pointed to a tweet by Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu in January 2021, in which he referred to four Boğazici University students as “LGBT perverts” in addition to Ankara’s withdrawal justification from the Istanbul Convention by claiming the treaty looked to “normalize homosexuality” and was “incompatible with Turkey’s social and family values”.

Turkey’s withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention, which is the Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women, the Amnesty report said, “coincided with a surge in domestic violence cases during the Covid-19 pandemic, and sparked countrywide protests.”

At least 339 women were killed by men in Turkey last year, according to independent Turkish news website Bianet’s Male Violence Monitoring Report, marking the highest number of femicide in Bianet’s annual monitoring reports, accounted for since 2010.

The report highlighted rising anti-refugee rhetoric in Turkey, with an increase in physical attacks against refugees and migrants last year.

Turkey is home to more than 4 million migrants, including some 3.7 million Syriansfacing increasing discrimination as figures across the political spectrum blame them for the country's ailing economy.

The report highlighted torture allegations from inmates in Turkey, including Mehmet Sıddık Meşe who is behind bars in the southeaster province of Diyarbakir, and Garibe Gezer, who held on terrorism-related charges in Kandira prison in northwest Turkey and found dead in an alleged suicide in her cell while in solitary confinement in December. The prosecutor’s office had dismissed an investigation into her reports of being systematically tortured and sexually assaulted by prison guards, it said.

Following the failed putsch, inmates reported increased cases of ill-treatment and torture across Turkish detention centres. Earlier this month, the head of the Ankara Bar Association, Kemal Koranel, resigned following a string of resignations from the association over its failure to publish a report by the bar’s human rights committee on allegations of torture by detainees held at a police detention centre in January.

Lawyers, including two vice chairs of the centre who stepped down, accused the bar’s administration of "staying silent to several violations of human rights" and of "censorship", Bianet news site reported. 

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