UN experts call on Turkish government to end harassment and intimidation human rights defenders

ANKARA — Five independent human rights experts appointed by the released a report highlighting the systematic intimidation, harassment, and arrest of human rights defenders by Turkish authorities. There are widespread concerted efforts by the government to impede their work using counter-terrorism laws to detain civil society actors under flimsy pretexts, according to the report.

The UN report comes shortly following the arrest of the president of the Turkish Medical Association (Türk Tabipleri Birliği, TTB), Şebnem Korur Fincancı, by Turkish authorities after she called for an investigation into the possible illegal use of chemical agents by the Turkish Army during military operations against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

In their report, the experts called on Turkish authorities to immediately release Fincancı, other civil society actors, and other political detainees.

Fincancı arrest is part of a deliberate pattern of the intentional misapplication of counter-terrorism legislation which aims at discrediting human rights defenders and organizations and disrupting vital human rights work, said the report.

The report documented several cases in which Turkey used counter-terrorism laws to condemn and detain civil society actors on false grounds. They also warned that these practices reduce safe civic space, undermine the rule of law, and infringe on fundamental freedoms and democratic values.

It is noteworthy that Fincancı is a forensic doctor and expert on torture who assisted the development and documentation of the United Nations benchmarks for the investigation of torture cases.