Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has announced a new ‘Human Rights Action Plan’. The plan, which will be implemented over two years in Turkey, has aroused controversy.
Erdoğan first provided signals of a ‘reform’ in Turkey’s penal system in November last year. Public opinion in Turkey was largely suspicious of this ‘reform’ plan as the Justice and Development Party (AKP) has been much criticised for using the judiciary as a tool to target sections of society since it came to power in 2002.
After his initial announcement of legal ‘reforms’, political operations were undertaken against pro-Kurdish representatives and several politicians and activists of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) were arrested. President Erdoğan unveiled the new government plan on ‘human rights’ in Turkey on 2 March.
The ‘Human Rights Action Plan’ is due to be implemented over the course of two years, said Erdoğan. As part of the “nine-step action plan”, Erdoğan claimed that measures will be undertaken to improve the judicial system, as well as freedom of expression and association in the country. Erdoğan also mentioned the rights of Kurdish people in his speech, even though he has been accused of ignoring the cultural, economic and social rights of the Kurdish people for years.
Critics have accused Erdoğan’s government of applying political pressure on the judiciary, and thousands of people have been jailed for years without any convictions, accusations, or prepared indictments.
No one can be deprived of their freedom because of their thoughts, Erdoğan – who has faced increasing criticisms over his autocratic rule – stated. However, Turkey has also ignored decisions by the European Court of Human Rights for the immediate release of Selahattin Demirtaş, former co-chair of the HDP and Osman Kavala, a philanthropist and businessman.
As Erdoğan defended “free speech” in his announcement, it was reported that more than 63,000 cases have been opened against people who have been charged on the grounds of “assaulting” president Erdoğan over speeches or social media posts that they made.
Even as Erdoğan was on stage providing his ‘good news’ regarding the new ‘human rights’ initiative, Kurdish rights defenders Hatun Aslan (aged 71) and Meryem Soylu (aged 79) were being held in detention, having been there for three days. Both women were then sent to jail based upon accusations against them that they had joined campaigns to raise solidarity with political prisoners. The Supreme Court also started an investigation into the HDP and Mesopotamia Agency’s website was banned for the 28th time.