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UN to Turkey: End state of emergency, torture, ban on dismissed civil servants

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The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Tuesday called on the Turkish government to promptly end an ongoing state of emergency, torture and passport cancellation as well as a ban imposed on dismissed public servants from rejoining the civil service.

In a 28-page report issued on Tuesday the OHCHR called on Turkey to take all necessary measures to ensure an enabling environment for independent media and civil society organizations to operate safely and freely; immediately release journalists, writers, judges and academics who have been detained pursuant to counterterrorism legislation and emergency decrees; and ensure an independent, individualized review of their cases.

In the report the OHCHR provided an overview of key human rights concerns in Turkey in the period between January and December 2017, with a focus on the consequences of the state of emergency on the enjoyment of human rights.

In its report the OHCHR concluded:

“The prolonged state of emergency has led to a continued erosion of the rule of law and deterioration of the human rights situation in Turkey.

“In September 2017, the High Commissioner urged the Government not to renew the state of emergency and to allow adequate administrative and judicial oversight over all related procedures, including by ensuring that the Commission of Inquiry for State of Emergency Practices be fully functional and independent.

“OHCHR reiterates that any measures restricting the rights that have been subjected to a derogation should be limited to the extent strictly required by the exigencies of the situation, meaning that they must be proportional and limited to what is necessary in terms of duration, geographic coverage and material scope. OHCHR recalls that the tests of necessity and proportionality are not suspended during a period of derogation linked with a state of emergency. OHCHR stresses that even during states of emergency, there are non-derogable rights which must be upheld at all times in order for Turkey to comply with its legal obligations under international human rights law.

“Allegations of human rights violations and abuses in South-East Turkey are massive and serious, and require efficient and prompt investigations at the national level and independent verification from international observers. The High Commissioner calls for a full and unfettered access to be able to directly, independently and objectively assess the human rights situation there.

“OHCHR acknowledges the leading and exemplary role of Turkey in hosting the largest refugee population; Turkey’s contribution to United Nations peacekeeping operations; its support to the United Nations reform agenda; and its acceptance of obligations under the United Nations human rights treaties.

“However, OHCHR notes with concern that the deterioration of the domestic human rights situation and the shrinking of the political and civic space require immediate steps for Turkey to be compliant with its obligations under international human rights law.”

OHCHR also made the following recommendations to the government of Turkey:

“Promptly end the state of emergency and restore the normal functioning of institutions and the rule of law;

“Conduct necessary reforms to ensure the independence of the legislative and judicial branches of power;

“Revise and repeal all legislation that is not compliant with Turkey’s international human rights obligations, including the emergency decrees;

“Enforce the proclaimed policy of zero tolerance for torture, including by ensuring independent investigations of all allegations, effective prosecution, training of staff, and independent monitoring visits to all places of deprivation of liberty;

“End the practice of detaining pregnant and postpartum women, and consider using non-custodial measures for sentenced pregnant women and those with young children;

“Reverse the ban imposed on dismissed civil servants from rejoining the public service; ensure that all individuals who were dismissed from civil service and the private sector, or lost their jobs due to the closure of private entities, have the right to have their cases reviewed by an independent judicial and administrative body in accordance with international standards; and to compensation for the material and moral damage caused by their arbitrary dismissal;

“Ensure that any restriction on the right to freedom of expression during the state of emergency is strictly proportionate to the exigency of the situation; take all the necessary measures to ensure an enabling environment for independent media and civil society organizations to operate safely and freely; immediately release journalists, writers, judges and academics who are detained pursuant to counter-terrorism legislation and emergency decrees; and ensure an independent individualized review of their cases;

“Rescind passport cancellation orders and deprivation of citizenship procedures, and enable full freedom of movement;

“Regarding South-East Turkey, renew efforts to secure a peaceful end to the situation; and to ensure that every loss of life that occurred in the course of security operations is duly investigated, and that perpetrators of unlawful killings and other human rights violations and abuses are brought to justice.”

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