UN human rights commissioner says ‘climate of fear’ dominates Turkey

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United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein. / AFP PHOTO / FABRICE COFFRINI

“A climate of fear” now reigns in Turkey, said UN Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein on Monday, expressing deep concern over the mass arrests and firing of civil servants recently carried out under emergency decrees by the Turkish government.

According to a Reuters report, al-Hussein told reporters in Geneva that Ankara had to respond to violent attacks but must not violate human rights in doing so. “Yes, the terror attacks need to be tackled, but not at the expense of human rights,” he said.

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15 that killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the faith-based Gülen movement despite the lack of any evidence to that effect.

The movement and its inspiration, US based cleric Fethullah Gülen, strongly deny any involvement.

Early on Wednesday, Turkish prosecutors issued detention warrants for 4,900 members of the police force, taking over 1,100 into custody, due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement, while the government also on Wednesday suspended 9,103 police officers, alleging ties to the movement.

On Saturday, the government issued two new decrees under an ongoing state of emergency declared immediately after the failed coup that dismissed 3,974 public employees from their jobs at state institutions.

“With such a large number, it is highly unlikely that the suspensions and detentions will have met due process standards,” al-Hussein told journalists, according to Reuters.

Over 140,000 people, including 4,272 judges and prosecutors, have been purged from state jobs due to their real or alleged connection to the Gülen movement,

The UN commissioner also expressed concern about the three-times-extended state of emergency in Turkey as well as the climate of fear in the country.

“Journalism is not a crime in Turkey,” said al-Husein, yet there are currently 151 journalists in jail, mainly incarcerated following the coup attempt, according to the International Press Institute, which calls Turkey the leading jailer of journalists worldwide.

“[This is] an issue which we believe the government must pay deeper attention to,” he said.

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