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CoE says will pay close attention to human rights situation in Turkey after protest in Strasbourg

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Bünyamin Tekin

The Council of Europe (CoE) will pay close attention to the human rights situation in Turkey, Marija Pejčinović Burić, secretary-general of the council, said in response to a letter from the Peaceful Actions Platform, an umbrella organization consisting of 24 civil society groups that delivered the letter during a protest it organized on June 24, the coordinator of the platform told Turkish Minute.

Hundreds of activists, joined by the former leader of the UK’s Labour Party Jeremy Corbyn and EU parliamentarians, gathered in front of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in Strasbourg on June 24 to protest rights violations in Turkey and ask the ECtHR and CoE to take swift action against them.

The Peaceful Actions Platform submitted two letters to the Council of Europe, one addressed to CoE Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović and the other to Secretary-General Burić. The platform also submitted a letter to the ECtHR.

Yasemin Aydın, coordinator of the platform, answered Turkish Minute’s questions in writing and said the letters concerned widespread frustration with the ECtHR and CoE’s inaction regarding Turkey’s post-coup crackdown.

“We have made it clear in our letters that we painfully observe that these institutions have failed to fulfill the critical duty ascribed to and entrusted to them. In simple terms, they remained silent in the face of what can only be described as an attempt at the eradication of hundreds of thousands of people by the hands of an oppressive regime just because of their affiliation with the Gülen movement,” Aydın said when asked about the content of the letters.

The Gülen movement, inspired by the views of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, is accused by the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of masterminding a coup attempt in 2016 and is labeled a “terrorist organization,” although the movement denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

“As the Erdoğan regime has been turning authoritarian in the last decade it took the Gülen movement as its arch-enemy and mobilized all the state capacity at its disposal to eliminate the movement altogether,” Aydın said.

Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement since the corruption investigations of Decc 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He intensified the crackdown on the movement following the abortive putsch that he accused Gülen of masterminding.

Following the failed coup, the Turkish government declared a state of emergency and carried out a massive purge of state institutions under the pretext of an anti-coup fight. More than 130,000 public servants were summarily removed from their jobs for alleged membership in or relationships with “terrorist organizations” by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny.

A total of 332,467 people have been detained and 101,305 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on June 30.

“To this end, the regime invented crimes such as having a bank account at a perfectly legal bank and sending children to private schools licensed by the state and run by the movement (again on a perfectly legal basis) and enforced them retroactively. As these ridiculous ‘crimes’ were used to incriminate hundreds of thousands of people and jail tens of thousands of them in complete violation of basic human rights the ECtHR watched in silence that is in complete rejection of its founding philosophy,” Aydın said, and added, “The court, as has become evident now, holds a prejudicial discriminatory policy against the Gülen movement both in its conclusions and in its priority policy.”

“As it is still the last resort for justice, we want to be able to trust the court again,” Aydın said.

On June 24 the crowd of protesters, around 1,600 strong, marched toward the ECtHR building in Strasbourg. They chanted slogans and carried banners that said, “ECtHR, stop injustice in Turkey,” “Justice delayed is justice denied,” “Victims are here, where are the judges?” and “ECtHR, stop the purge in Turkey.”

More demonstrations will come

Underlining that the responses to the Strasbourg protest encourage the Peaceful Actions Platform for further work, Aydın said they would organize more demonstrations.

“On a personal level, I can simply say: I am still overwhelmed. We were initially expecting a little more than 800 people, more than 1,600 came. The whole atmosphere, the cohesion, the solidarity, the demand for justice and all in all, raising our voices together for those who have been silenced by the Erdoğan regime in Turkey and skillfully ignored by the Council of Europe, by Ms. Mijatovic, by the European Court of Human Rights, was intoxicating. It was one of those moments when you are most certain that you are doing the right thing for people who simply can’t do it for themselves,” Aydın said.

“I believe that with demonstrations like the one in Strasbourg and the numerous other smaller activities we organized in the last two years, we are on the right track. But there is still a long way to go,” she added.

The ECtHR and CoE are accused by victims of human rights violations in Turkey that culminated after the abortive putsch in 2016, when the government launched a crackdown on non-loyalist citizens under the pretext of an anti-coup fight, of turning a blind eye to the human rights violations taking place in Turkey under the rule of President Erdoğan.

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