June 19, 2014

Amnesty condemns Turkey's 'brutal' crackdown on summer protests

Amnesty condemns Turkey's 'brutal' crackdown on protests -

 

The army of police, the limits on freedom of transport, the deserted center of the city.  A year after Gezi, this is the face of the new Turkey, where dissent is stifled withoverwhelming force and massive police presence.

Clearly, the Turkish government has learned lessons from the protests which shook the country a year ago.  Unfortunately, they are the wrong ones: it has only redoubled its efforts to crush dissent and has learned to employ overwhelming police force to prevent outbreaks of dissent in locales that are accessible to international media.

With the shocking images of last year’s crackdown fading from the world’s memory, attention has slowly shifted elsewhere.  Amnesty International, in a lengthy and well-researched report issued today, entitled Turkey: Adding injustice to injury: One year on from the Gezi Park protests in Turkeyensures that the true nature of Turkey’s post-Gezi crackdown are clear.

“One year on from the Gezi Park protests, the Turkish authorities seem to be firmly set on the path of intolerance, conflict and polarization. Unless checked, this will lead to further violations of human rights in the country,” said Salil Shetty, Amnesty International’s Secretary General.

In the coming days, I will highlight central issues raised by the report.  For now, however, these are the key issues:

  •  The repression of peaceful protest and the use of abusive force by police continues unabated one year after the Gezi Park protests
  • Across Turkey, more than 5,500 people have been prosecuted in connection with the Gezi Park protests
  • Only five prosecutions have been brought against nine police officers, despite hundreds of complaints of police abuses
  • Medical associations, doctors and other civil servants have faced sanction for their alleged support for the protests
  • Social media users are on trial for sharing information about the protests
  • New laws restrict access to social media and criminalize the provision of emergency medical care during protests
Rather than changing course after Gezi, Turkish authorities redoubled their efforts to stifle dissent and found new means to assert their control.  According to Amnesty:

In a crude violation of the right to freedom of expression, criminal investigations have been started against commentators who documented the protests. They were followed by random prosecutions of people posting opinions on social media during the protests. Increased powers to shut down websites have been introduced.

The government has moved forward with thousands of cases against protestors and enacted new laws aimed at restricting civil society and ensuring state control.  Meanwhile, gross abuses by police have gone unpunished.

Turkey has continued its crackdown, but has been able to do so largely away from the eye of international media.  Amnesty’s report, issued today, demonstrates that these abuses will not be forgotten and highlights just how dire the human rights situation in Turkey has become.

Howard Eissenstat
St. Lawrence University

         
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