Turkey’s rule of law framework is under significant threat following President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s re-election in 2023, according to Human Rights Watch’s recently released annual World Report.
The HRW’s 2023 report found that the aftermath of Erdoğan’s third term victory has seen a surge in politically motivated court decisions and signs of power struggles within the judiciary. The report underlines the deep erosion of human rights and the rule of law in the country, with the media subject to censorship and independent news outlets facing arbitrary fines and prosecution.
“Erdoğan’s victory at the polls was rapidly followed by power struggles in the judiciary and politicized decisions by courts, demonstrating the deep erosion of human rights and the rule of law in the country”, Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, stated.
According to the 740-page report, which surveys human rights practices in more than 100 countries:
Throughout 2023, Turkey experienced a range of rights violations, including restrictions on the media, online censorship, bans on protests, and abuse of criminal proceedings against journalists, human rights defenders, politicians, social media users, and others. Incidents of torture and ill-treatment by police and gendarmerie increased in the aftermath of the deadly earthquakes in the country’s southeastern provinces in February 2023.
The government’s use of hateful rhetoric against the LGBTQ+ community in the run-up to the May elections, the prolonged detention of Kurdish politicians on politically motivated charges, and increased deportations of refugees and migrants further raised concerns about Turkey’s commitment to human rights.
One notable incident highlighted by HRW occurred in September, when the Turkish Court of Cassation upheld the convictions of human rights defender Osman Kavala and four others for their alleged involvement in the 2013 Gezi Park protests. The court’s defiance of the European Court of Human Rights and disregard for a ruling by the Constitutional Court raised concerns about the independence and integrity of Turkey’s judiciary.