Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Nil Muiznieks visited the Committee on Human Rights Inquiry on April 13, 2016 and met with the chair of the Committee Mustafa Yeneroğlu as part of his official visit to Turkey. During the meeting, Mr. Yeneroğlu gave a briefing to Mr. Muiznieks on security and human rights issues within the context of the operations carried out in the South East region of the country; freedom of expression, judicial independence, institutionalisation of human rights, and the works of the Committee.
After his meetings in Turkey, Mr. Muiznieks made a statement regarding the deterioration of human rights in the context of fight against terrorism and his concerns on freedom of expression and judicial independence.
It is important to emphasize, as has been previously mentioned in the meeting, that Turkey is a country which has been struggling with terrorism for a very long time. In recent years, this threat of terror has increased with the on-going conflicts of the neighbouring countries which know no boundaries and have affected our borders. Turkey is fighting against simultaneous, vicious attacks of many terrorist organisations such as the PKK, ISIS and DHKP-C. The difficulty of this situation must be acknowledged.
Protecting citizens, and maintaining public security and order are the fundamental responsibilities of the state. Utmost effort is given to ensure the freedom-security balance during the fight terrorism. One of the clearest indicators of this is the length of such operations.
On the other hand, while violations of human rights is inevitable in a region where military operations and curfews take place, it should not be forgotten that the primary object of these operations is to establish a secure environment promptly in order to apply basic human rights for civilians.
All safety measures in the region are taken within a legal framework. As it is well known, the applications on interim injunction have been made to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) regarding lifting curfews and aiding the wounded in the Southeastern districts where operations are continuing. The ECHR has dismissed requests for an interim injunction and has steered these applicants towards national remedies and in particular, appeal to the Constitutional Court. Thus, the ECHR has confirmed that Turkey has taken effective measures at the national level with regard to preventing human rights during the fight against terrorism.
Again, lack of flow on genuine information from the region also allows the terrorist organisations to misuse the events for propaganda purposes. It is important to remember that this is often used in European public opinion. For this reason, analysing and reflecting the events objectively is very significant. In another respect, when taking into account the European countries’ support to terrorist organisations, it is important to note once again that these countries are also responsible for the current security situation of Turkey and they must do their share as well.
With regards to freedom of expression and freedom of the press that Mr. Muiznieks has stated his concerns in his statement, it is important to recall that freedom of expression is secured in the Constitution and other relevant legislation with the other fundamental rights and freedoms. There are many television and radio channels that freely broadcast in Turkey. Currently there are 39 broadcasting cooperation which have legal authority to broadcast for citizens who use different languages and accents other than Turkish.
However, disregarding the rights of others and violating legal boundaries and public order while executing freedoms can result in actions of law by the judicial authorities within the framework of international standards. The lawsuits filed concerning these reasons, are also carried out in accordance with the rule of law principal by the independent judiciary.
Also, it should not be forgotten that the reason of imprisonment of the people referred to as the “arrested journalists” were not related to journalistic activities. Furthermore, within our national law system all legal applications, including the right to individual application to the Constitutional Court, are transparent and functioning.
With regards to the “Academics for Peace” declaration and criminal proceedings mentioned by Mr. Muiznieks in his statement, it is vital to mention that the declaration in question contained criminal elements in regards to the Turkish Criminal Law and Anti-Terror Law. The concerned Prosecution Offices launched investigations within this context. The continuing investigations are not related to the academic freedoms that are secured under the Constitution.
Lastly, huge steps have been taken concerning the institutionalisation for the protection and promotion of human rights in our country. Within this framework, it is important to point out the recently established Personal Data Protection Institution and Human Rights and Equality Institution. Additionally, the draft law to establish Law Enforcement Supervision Commission in order to receive complaints about police mistreatments is at the Plenary of the Grand National Assembly. With new institutionalisation, the object is to construct pluralistic units that will independently inquiry human rights violations and impose the necessary sanctions.