European human rights official voices alarm over situation in Turkey

A top European human rights official voiced concern Thursday over measures taken by Turkish authorities in recent months to deal with domestic conflict, including their use of strict curfews, widespread destruction and limits on free speech.

Nils Muiznieks, the Council of Europe's human rights commissioner, said he has "serious doubts about the legality" of the round-the-clock curfews Turkey employs in civilian neighbourhoods as it battles Kurdish militants.

He also expressed concern over the "shocking scale" of damage to homes and buildings in south-eastern Turkey, while also condemning all forms of terrorism by militants targeting the state and civilians.

Turkey considers the armed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) a terrorist group. The militants and the state have been locked in conflict for more than three decades, with many among the Kurdish minority complaining of systemic discrimination.

After a two-year ceasefire broke down in July, hundreds of people, including many civilians, have been killed, and hundreds of thousands in the mostly Kurdish south-east have been displaced.

Muiznieks said Turkish authorities informed him they were "taking allegations of racist and degrading behaviour by security forces very seriously." Nationalist graffiti left by soldiers on the walls of homes in the south-east have stirred controversy on social media.

"Long-standing problems concerning freedom of expression, arising from Turkish legislation and the practice of the judiciary, have also been severely exacerbated in this tense environment," according to a statement from the commissioner's office.

Muiznieks also noted that several academics were in jail for signing a peace petition, and nearly 1,850 people were facing criminal proceedings for allegedly insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

An increasing number of websites are blocked in the country. Under a recent media crackdown, prominent journalists were on trial and newspapers have been taken over by the government.

According to the Dogan news agency, fresh charges were brought Thursday against six people for insulting the president.

Germany was recently drawn into the matter after satirists mocked and criticized Erdogan. German authorities are considering charges against talk show host Jan Boehmermann after he read a particularly outlandish poem about the Turkish leader.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49
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