Hundreds of activists and victims of Turkey’s post-coup crackdown, joined by 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 Friday to protest rights violations in Turkey and ask the ECtHR to take swift action against them.
The top European human rights reviewing body is accused by the victims of human rights violations in Turkey that culminated after an abortive putsch in 2016, when the government launched a crackdown on non-loyalist citizens under the pretext of an anti-coup fight, of not expeditiously processing applications from the victims or of issuing rulings in favor of the Turkish government in some cases.
The Peaceful Actions Platform, an umbrella organization consisting of 24 civil society groups, organized the protest.
The platform said in a press release that the ECtHR is turning a blind eye to the human rights violations taking place in Turkey under the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“The court has had several opportunities to establish the facts regarding gross human rights violations in Turkey and compel the regime to respect the basic tenets of the European Convention on Human Rights. However, it failed in the execution of its duties and displayed incompetence, especially regarding the systematic violations of the rights of a specific group, the Gülen movement. As the victims number in the hundreds of thousands, the violations constitute clear crimes against humanity,” the press release said.
The Turkish government and Erdoğan accuse the Gülen movement, inspired by the views of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, of masterminding the failed coup on July 15, 2016 and has designated the group as a terrorist organization. The movement denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
The crowd, around 1,500 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.”
On behalf of the Peaceful Actions Platform, former Turkish diplomat Rumi Ünal submitted two letters to the Council of Europe (CoE), addressed to CoE Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatović and CoE Secretary General Marija Pejčinović Burić.
Mijatovic, one of the most powerful Bosnians and Herzegovinians, is an elected Commissioner for Human Rights by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, and one of her messages from the beginning of the mandate reads: “My role as Commissioner for Human Rights is to keep states alert to the problems that may restrict people’s ability to enjoy their rights, and to help them find solutions to improve human rights protection and implementation. To achieve this goal, I intend to work closely with all those who can make a difference -governments, national authorities, human rights defenders, journalists, NGOs, and educators…Each of us must engage in the everyday implementation of human rights.”
The outcome of the protest of one thousand and five hundred persons in Strasbourg, will show whether commissioner Mijatovic is capable of doing her job and adhering to messages she stated during the beginning of her mandate, and hence, take the letter submitted to her by protesters.
Ünal, who is among the more than 130,000 civil servants purged by the Turkish government in the aftermath of the coup attempt, said the letters include complaints about the CoE’s “indifferent” attitude regarding the human rights violations in Turkey as well as the victims’ expectations from the council to speak up for them.
Relatives of victims of alleged enforced disappearances perpetrated by Turkey were among the protestors, and some of them addressed the crowd.
‘Show that there are judges in Strasbourg’
Members of the European Parliament Marie Arena (Belgium), Costas Mavrides (Greece) and Pierrette Herzberger Fofona (Germany), PACE members Catarina Rocha Ferreria (Portugal), Hannah Bardell (UK), former Turkish soccer player Hakan Şükür and former NBA player Enes Kanter took part in the protest via video messages.
Şükür and Kanter, who both live outside Turkey, are among the victims of the crackdown on the Gülen movement due to their affiliation with the group and face prison sentences in Turkey on bogus terrorism charges.
In his video message Şükür, who described himself as “one of the victims of the current regime” in Turkey, said he and his family began to be targeted by the Turkish government after he sided with the law and justice against the government’s unlawful actions and were subjected to various acts oppression at the hands of the government.
Şükür said he as well as thousands of others had high expectations from the judges of the ECtHR to “fulfill their duty without delay” and to side with justice.
“Humanity needs this,” he added.
Following the abortive putsch, 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, including 4,156 judges and prosecutors, as well as 29,444 members of the armed forces 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 319,587 people have been detained and 99,962 arrested in operations against supporters of the Gülen movement since the coup attempt, Turkey’s Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said in November.
In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.
Some of these people had to take illegal and risky journeys in dinghies to Greece because their passports had been revoked by the government, Turkish Minute writes.