Amnesty letter urges Turkey to respect freedom of expression


In a letter addressed to Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Ar?nç, Amnesty International has urged Turkish authorities to bring their national law in line with international human rights standards by showing their commitment to freedom of expression.

“A package of reforms before Turkey’s Parliament risks being a missed opportunity to bring the country’s laws in line with international human rights standards and leaves vulnerable a range of abuses including jail for just expressing an opinion,” the human rights group said in the letter, sent to Ar?nç on Wednesday.

Amnesty released a report last month titled “Turkey: Decriminalize dissent: Time to deliver on the right to freedom of expression” in which it analyzed the current law and practice related to the 10 most problematic articles threatening freedom of expression in the Turkish legal system.

“I would like to bring your urgent attention Amnesty International’s report,” Friedhelm Kuhl from the German office of the human rights group said in the letter.
In a list of recommendations, the group urged the Turkish government to repeal Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) on denigrating the Turkish nation, notably used to prosecute and convict murdered journalist Hrant Dink, as well as Article 318, on “alienating the public from military service,” used to prosecute support for the right to conscientious objection.

The watchdog also calls on Turkey to amend its “overly broad and vague” definition of terrorism and end the abuses in prosecutions for “membership in a terrorist organization.

“Recent years have seen increasingly arbitrary use of anti-terrorism laws to prosecute legitimate activities including political speeches, critical writing, attendance of demonstrations and association with recognized political groups and organizations in violation of the rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly,” Kuhl said in the letter, urging the authorities to allow peaceful discussion of Kurdish rights and politics. He also called on Turkey to allow conscientious objection to military service in Turkey as part of the right to freedom of expression.

In its report, Amnesty International examined a number of cases in Turkey in which it says freedom of expression was violated, including that of Temel Demirer, who was prosecuted for saying that Hrant Dink had been killed because he was Armenian and for making allegations about the state’s role in his killing; that of conscientious objector Halil Savda, who has been convicted on multiple occasions for publicly supporting the right to conscientious objection and accused of “alienating the public from military service”; and that of 62-year-old Sultani Ac?buca, a member of a group of mothers who have lost their sons or seen them imprisoned as part of the conflict between the Turkish state and the terrorist Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), who was convicted of being a member of a terrorist organization for calling for peace and an end to the conflict.

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