3,362 people killed, 3,534 mistreated or tortured in Turkey in 2020, opposition MP says

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An annual report on human rights violations in Turkey, drafted by main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkulu, has revealed 3,362 deaths and 3,534 incidents of torture or maltreatment in 2020, with 1,855 of them taking place in prisons, the İleri Haber news website reported on Saturday.

The report by Tanrıkulu, a prominent human rights activist and deputy chair of a parliamentary committee on human rights, said 2,427 workers were among those whose right to life was violated in 2020 in Turkey, where workplace accidents mainly due to low work safety standards are nearly a daily occurrence.

At least 300 women were also reportedly killed by men last year, most of them victims of domestic violence.

Turkey’s women’s rights associations have been trying for years to raise awareness about the spike in cases of domestic violence in the last decade, regarded by many to be linked to the policies and rhetoric of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which has its roots in political Islam.

According to the report, 15 minors were among the 1,679 people who were subjected to mistreatment in Turkey last year, in addition to 1,855 incidents of torture or maltreatment taking place behind bars.

Regarding violations of freedom of speech, the MP’s annual report showed that 719 people were detained, 32 were arrested and 30 were convicted in 2020 for expressing views critical of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his AKP government.

The report also covered violations of press freedom, saying that 21 members of the press were attacked and 27 were arrested last year, while investigations were launched into 53 journalists. It also underlined that there were at least 87 journalists in Turkey’s prisons as of Dec. 4.

Turkish police intervened in 753 demonstrations, public press statements and assemblies last year, detaining at least 2,123 people, including two children, and arresting 44 among those who attended the events. A total of 294 people were convicted in cases related to those activities.

The report further revealed that 226 political party and municipality chairs and members, the majority of them from the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), were arrested, while 52 officials were removed from their posts and replaced with government-appointed trustees in 2020.

Tanrıkulu’s report also said an Ankara court on Dec. 26 rejected a call by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) for the immediate release of Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtaş, who has been behind bars on politically motivated charges since November 2016.

Following appeals from both Turkey and Demirtaş to the court’s original ruling in November 2018, which said Demirtaş’s pre-trial detention was a political act and ordered his release, the ECtHR found Turkey guilty of violating the politician’s rights on five accounts that included freedom of expression in late 2020.

Demirtaş, who was an outspoken critic of Turkey’s AKP and its leader Erdoğan before he was jailed, ran against him in the presidential elections of 2014 and 2018. Demirtaş conducted his election campaign from jail for the 2018 election.

Erdoğan has accused Demirtaş of being a “terrorist” due to his alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and has slammed calls for his release.

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