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Amnesty report: Turkey failed to address deep flaws in judicial system in 2021

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Looking back on human rights violations that took place in Turkey throughout 2021, Amnesty International on Tuesday said in its annual report that the Turkish government had failed to address “deep flaws in the judicial system” last year.

The Amnesty International Report 2021/22, which highlights the human rights situation in 154 countries in 2021, said the new Human Rights Action Plan and two judicial reform packages prepared by the Ministry of Justice last year failed to address deep flaws in the judiciary in Turkey.

According to the report, women, opposition politicians, journalists, human rights defenders, LGBTI individuals and refugees in the country continued to face rights violations in 2021, with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government failing to take the necessary steps to prevent them.

The report said opposition politicians –- mainly former and current members of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) — journalists, human rights defenders and others were the subjects of baseless investigations, prosecutions and convictions last year.

Amnesty further said Turkey’s withdrawal by a presidential decision from the CoE Convention on combating and preventing violence against women and domestic violence, better known as the Istanbul Convention, coincided with a surge in domestic violence cases during the COVID-19 pandemic and sparked countrywide protests.

“According to independent women’s rights organizations, 280 women were killed during the year as a result of gender-based violence and 217 women were found suspiciously dead,” the report said.

Officials from the ruling AKP continued to target LGBTI individuals with homophobic rhetoric, the report said, adding that the government attempted to justify the withdrawal from the Istanbul Convention by claiming that the convention was instrumentalized to “normalize homosexuality” and that this was “incompatible with Turkey’s social and family values.”

The report further cited serious and credible allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in Turkey last year, referring to the case of Garibe Gezer, who was held on terrorism-related charges in Kandıra Prison and was found dead in an alleged suicide in her cell while in solitary confinement in December.

“She had reported being systematically tortured and sexually assaulted by prison guards prior to her death. The prosecutor’s office had dismissed an investigation into the allegations,” Amnesty said.

It was also stated in the report that in the context of rising anti-refugee rhetoric, there was an increase in physical attacks against refugees and migrants last year in Turkey, a country that hosted some 5.2 million refugees and migrants as of November, including 3.7 million Syrians with temporary protection status, according to Turkish immigration authorities.

The report also mentioned the incidents of enforced disappearance in the country, saying that Hüseyin Galip Küçüközyiğit, former legal adviser at the Prime Ministry accused of links to the Gülen movement, reappeared in an Ankara prison in September, nine months after he was forcibly disappeared.

“The authorities had denied that he was in official custody. Details of his fate and whereabouts during those months remained unknown at the end of the year,” the report said, adding that the fate and whereabouts of Yusuf Bilge Tunç, missing since August 2019, also remained unknown in 2021.

Dozens of enforced disappearances have been reported in Turkey since an abortive putsch in 2016, with more than 20 of the victims reporting, after they were found, that they were subjected to torture during the time they were “missing.”

The victims of those enforced disappearance cases were mostly alleged followers of the Gülen movement, which is inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen and has been targeted by the president since the corruption investigations of Dec. 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

The war against the movement culminated after the attempted coup because Erdoğan and his AKP government accused the movement of masterminding the abortive putsch and initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

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