Turkey: 2008 human rights report of US Department of State
- 26/02/2009 00:00:00
Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
2008 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
February 25, 2009
Turkey, with a population of approximately 71.5 million, is a constitutional republic with a multiparty parliamentary system. The country has a president with limited powers elected, as of an October 2007 referendum, by popular vote for a maximum of two five-year terms. President Abdullah Gul was elected in August 2007 by the single-chamber parliament, the Turkish Grand National Assembly. In July 2007 parliamentary elections, considered free and fair, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) won the majority of seats and formed a one-party government under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. There were six opposition parties and five independent members in parliament. Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces.
The government generally respected the human rights of its citizens; however, serious problems remained in some areas. During the year human rights organizations documented a rise in cases of torture, beatings, and abuse by security forces. Security forces committed unlawful killings; the number of arrests and prosecutions in these cases was low compared with the number of incidents, and convictions remained rare. Prison conditions remained poor, with chronic overcrowding and insufficient staff training. Law enforcement officials did not always provide detainees immediate access to attorneys as required by law. There were reports that some officials in the elected government and state bureaucracy at times attempted to undermine the judiciary's independence. The overly close relationship of judges and prosecutors continued to hinder the right to a fair trial. Excessively long trials were a problem. The government limited freedom of expression through the use of constitutional restrictions and numerous laws, including articles of the penal code prohibiting insults to the government, the state, the "Turkish nation," or the institution and symbols of the republic. Limitations on freedom of expression applied to the Internet, and courts and an independent board ordered telecommunications providers to block access to Web sites on approximately 1,475 occasions. Non-Muslim religious groups continued to face restrictions on practicing their religion openly, owning property, and training leaders. Violence against women, including honor killings and rape, remained a widespread problem. Child marriage persisted. Incidents of police corruption contributed to trafficking in persons for labor and sexual exploitation.
In April the government reduced limitations on freedom of expression by amending Article 301 of the penal code to more narrowly define the circumstances under which speech may be criminalized and prosecuted. In June the government amended the law to reduce restrictions on non-Turkish language broadcasts on state-owned television. On December 25, the government expanded Kurdish language broadcasts with the introduction of a pilot, 24-hour state television channel in the Kurdish language. The government took initial steps during the year to recognize and address the concerns of the Alevi population. In February the parliament amended the Foundations Law, expanding the ability of minority religious groups to acquire new property and recover confiscated property.
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2008 Human Rights Report: Turkey
- 26/02/2009 00:00:00