Friday, November 2, 2012

UN Human Rights Committee censures Turkey’s human rights record

UN Human Rights Council meeting (file photo)

Source: Press TV

The United Nations has censured Turkey for its vague Anti-Terrorism Law, which allows the authorities to prosecute many activists, lawyers and journalists, and even detain them for a long time before their trials with no access to a lawyer.

A panel of 18 independent experts at the UN Human Rights Committee reviewed Turkey’s human rights record for the first time, saying on Thursday that some of the provisions within the country’s counterterrorism law do not match with international law and that the law is limiting the right to due process.

Michael O’Flaherty, the chairman of the UN committee, stressed that the world body was worried about “the vagueness of the definition of the terrorist act in the 1991 law and the very far-reaching, unacceptable restrictions on the right of due process for accused people and the high number of cases in which human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists and even children are charged under the anti-terrorism law.”

“Not for terrorism, but for the free expression of their opinions and ideas, in particular in the context of non-violent discussion of the Kurdish issue,” O’Flaherty said.

The UN committee called on Istanbul to provide changes in its law so that it works according to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a pact which was endorsed by 147 countries including Turkey.

More than 100 journalists are serving in Turkish prisons, together with thousands of activists, military officers, politicians, and lawyers. Most of the prisoners are accused of supporting Kurdish militants and plotting against the government.

The panel expressed concerns about the fact that the prisoners do not have access to a lawyer for the first 24 hours, when they believed the risk of torture was very high.

"Detainees do not have access to an effective mechanism to challenge the lawfulness of their pre-trial detention and do not always in practice have prompt access to a lawyer,” the experts also said.

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