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PACE committee worried over recent developments in Turkey

The Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), meeting today in Strasbourg, is worried about a number of recent developments in Turkey. It declared:

“Recent restrictions of access to internet services by Google, Twitter and YouTube, during election time, are patent violations of the right to freedom of expression and information protected by Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights. The Committee commends the Turkish Constitutional Court for finding these restrictions also unconstitutional.

Also, as recently noted by the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, overly restrictive measures have impeded peaceful protests, also in the beginning of 2014 in the context of the election campaign. Excessive use of force by the police and the effective impunity of the perpetrators is incompatible with the Convention.

In addition, the Committee is worried about the prosecution of peaceful opponents under overly broad and unclear anti-terrorism legislation. The duration of such criminal proceedings, their secrecy and contradictions regarding evidence used, as well as the excessive length of pre-trial detention in such cases, are incompatible with European standards. The case of Füsun Erdoğan provides a particularly troubling example.

Finally, the instances of substantial pressure on judges, prosecutors and police officers investigating allegations of corruption against leading politicians observed in recent months may undermine public trust in the independence of the judiciary, which is the basis for the rule of law.

The committee therefore calls on Turkey to step back from the repressive measures already taken or threatened, and, in particular, to restore and protect the independence of the courts and the impartiality and objectivity of the criminal justice system, including in cases involving allegations of wrongdoings against persons in positions of power. It welcomes the cooperation in this respect between Turkey and the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission”).