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Turkey marks Human Rights Day amid widespread rights violations

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Turkey is celebrating Human Rights Day this year in an environment in which thousands of people have died as a result of human rights abuses and thousands of others have been subjected to torture or ill-treatment, with the majority of the public holding politicians and the media responsible for such incidents.

Human Rights Day is observed by the international community every year on December 10. It commemorates the day the United Nations General Assembly adopted, in 1948, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

The milestone document proclaims the inalienable rights that everyone is entitled to as a human being — regardless of race, color, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

Recent reports and statistics regarding violations of human rights in Turkey reveal that the country is far from fulfilling its obligation to protect people’s rights, which are detailed in the declaration.

A report released by human rights defender and main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Sezgin Tanrıkulu on the occasion of the day revealed that a total of 2,344 people died due to widespread human rights violations in Turkey, while 2,953 more were subjected to torture or ill-treatment in the first 11 months of 2021.

“When the Justice and Development Party [AKP] came to power 19 years ago, they promised to prevent human rights violations, have a ‘zero tolerance’ policy on torture and respect [people’s] right to life. At this point, however, the AKP government has become the perpetrator of human rights violations,” Tanrıkulu said.

Deutsche Welle Turkish service on Thursday reported, citing the results of a survey conducted by the Konda research and polling company, that 73 out of every 100 people in Turkey think the country has a human rights problem, with 56 percent of Turks holding politicians and 32 percent the media responsible for it.

According to the survey, conducted between September 25-26 on 2,402 people in 31 provinces, the groups whose rights are most violated are women, the poor and Kurds, with 45, 30 and 20 percent, respectively.

Turkey saw a drastic deterioration in the field of human rights in 2021, the Union of Turkish Bar Associations (TBB) emphasized in a written statement on Friday.

“This year, the Republic of Turkey unlawfully withdrew from the İstanbul Convention of the Council of Europe, which … is considered the most important international document on violence against women,” the TTB said.

The union also stated that Turkey had declared that it wouldn’t recognize and implement the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), with statements by politicians that disregard the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary.

“This obstinacy and disregard for rules made Turkey a member state for which the Committee of Ministers resorted to infringement proceedings for the second time in the history of the Council of Europe,” the TTB indicated, referring to the European human rights watchdog’s move against Turkey over the latter’s failure to release imprisoned philanthropist Osman Kavala.

A Turkish court in late November extended the imprisonment of Kavala, 64, despite a binding judgment of the ECtHR in December 2019 finding that his detention for allegedly directing and financing the Gezi Park protests of 2013 and for alleged involvement in the failed coup of July 2016 was in pursuance of an “ulterior motive,” that of silencing him as a human rights defender.

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