Friday 15 July 2016

Cover-up of human rights abuses and social apartheid against Kurds in southeast Turkey

Carole Ewart, Peter Hunter, Dee Flanigan,
Muharrem Erbey, Mike Dailly and Jillian Merchant
Govan Law Centre (GLC) was honoured to take part in a briefing from Turkey's Kurdish human rights lawyer and Vice-President of the Human Rights Association (IHD), Muharrem Erbey at UNISON Scotland's Glasgow HQ today.

Mr Erbey had been imprisoned without trial for five years under Turkey's 'Anti-Terror Law' since December 2009 on charges of 'membership of an illegal organisation'. He still awaits trial and is facing a further 15 years in prison if convicted; however, the charges against him are linked to his work as a human rights lawyer.

Anyone who democratically exposes or challenges human rights abuses in southeast Turkey is treated as a 'terrorist' and silenced through arrest, prison, intimidation, and fear.

Muharrem Erbey has worked for many years as a human rights lawyer and advocate in the southeast of Turkey, compiling reports on disappearances and extra-judicial killings in the region, while also representing local individuals in provincial, national and international courts (including the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg).

GLC heard oral testimony today which confirms there is wide-scale state suppression of the most grievous of human rights abuses against Kurdish people in southeast Turkey; with cities and infrastructure being destroyed and bombed, local people being unlawfully killed, and Kurdish culture being outlawed in a brutal form of social apartheid.

Over 50 Kurdish lawyers who have stood up against human rights abuses have been imprisoned and/or are awaiting trial; with 33 journalists in prison for trying to report this humanitarian crisis.

In May this year the United Nations human rights chief reported having received a succession of alarming reports about violations allegedly committed by Turkish military and security forces in south-east Turkey over the past few months, and urged the Turkish authorities to give independent investigators, including UN staff, unimpeded access to the area to verify the veracity of such reports. And yet, no-one is allowed to access and report on these human rights abuses.

Clearly, there is a major role for Scottish MSPs, MPs and MEPs to do more to help expose these human right abuses and ensure that Scottish and UK delegations are permitted entry to affected cities and communities in southeast Turkey; as well as using Scotland and the UK's influence to support the UN and EU to use its powers and tools to put pressure on the Government in Turkey to respect the rule of law and the legal, social and cultural rights of minority groups.

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