U.S. Department of State Human Rights report slams Turkey, discovers minor loopholes in Greece

The U.S. Department of State issued its annual report on Turkey’s Human Rights Practices for the year 2018. The report begins with recognising that Turkey is run by an executive presidential system and a 600-seat unicameral parliament, the Grand National Assembly.

The report denotes that international observers from the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in most recent elections discovered two disturbing phenomena. Observers spotted state restrictions on media coverage of national elections and a series of unfair treatments to opposition candidates, including the long-term imprisonment of a presidential candidate. In the field of security, the report argued that the armed forces are effectively controlled by the state. This is also evidenced from the dismissal of thousands of officers based on the anti-terror and state of emergency laws which were in place since the foiled coup attempt in July 2016.

Turkey reverted the state of emergency situation on 19 July 2018 – marking two years since its enactment. The presence of such extreme circumstances had led to the issuance of new decrees which compromised major freedoms of citizens, influenced the judiciary and undermined the rule of law. For example, Turkey dismissed approximately 130.000 civil personnel in 2018 and imprisoned roughly 80.000 citizens, and ceased the operation of 1.500 non-governmental organisations (NGOs). The major pretext utilised to legitimise these actions were violations of domestic anti-terror laws or presence of affiliations or ties with the self-exiled Imam Fethullah Gulen and his network, FETO. FETO is characterised as a terrorist organisation by the Turkish government.

With respect to grave humanitarian violations, the report blamed Ankara for arbitrary killings and detention of citizens, forced disappearances and political imprisonments of Kurdish officials, academics, journalists, foreign citizens, minorities, and women. The array of violations also touched upon diplomats, citing the example of the three Turkish nationals working for the U.S. Mission to Turkey before their forced arrest under anti-terror laws.

The report also discusses the security situation in Cyprus. The U.S. does not recognise the Turkish Cypriot breakaway region in the northern part of the island. Only Turkey so far has recognised the breakaway region as an independent republic. The report also denotes that a significant number of garrisoned Turkish forces remains on the island. The Green Line, patrolled by security officials of the U.N. Mission on Cyprus (UNFICYP) effectively splits the island between the Republic of Cyprus and the Turkish Cypriot breakaway region of the north.

Human Rights in Greece

A similar report was also published for Greece. The report begins by recognising the presence of a constitutional republic run by a multiparty parliamentary democracy. The 300-seat unicameral Hellenic Parliament is the most responsible organ for legislative duties and the most recent elections were conducted under a free and fair status. State authorities were argued to exert effective control over the Hellenic Army while the report applauded the government for accommodating human rights abuses perpetrated by individual citizens.

Besides positive remarks, the report also argued that there are some human rights loopholes awaiting to be fixed. Of foremost importance is the progressive de-criminalisation of libel laws. Libel laws are very strict in Greece and envisage criminal penalties including imprisonment for people engaged into public defamation of other individuals. Other incidents entail better accommodation of violent incidents against members of the LGBTI (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, and intersex) community, refugee children and women.

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