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Turkey: Human rights defenders still targeted

Turkey: Human rights defenders still targeted

Despite recent legal and constitutional reforms in Turkey, human rights defenders in that country continue to be targeted for harassment and intimidation by state officials, and their activities are still restricted through a huge number of laws and regulations, a new report Turkey: Restrictive laws, arbitrary application - the pressure on human rights defenders published by Amnesty International has concluded.

"As old laws have been abolished, new ways have been found to obstruct the activities of human rights defenders," said Amnesty International.

The broad restrictions in law on the activities of human rights defenders give state officials many pretexts to exert pressure on such activists, including through arbitrarily detaining them, prosecuting them and prohibiting their actions.

The existence of these restrictive laws and regulations, their abusive interpretation in ways that curtail the rights of human rights defenders and the failure to implement in practice relevant legislative reforms play out in a pattern of harassment. This sits at odds, not only with Turkey's international obligations but, also with the current reform agenda that has produced positive legislative change in other areas.

"Reform is not reform until it has been fully incorporated in day-to-day practice and behaviour. It is not enough for the authorities in Turkey to change the laws; they must make sure that the police and judiciary act on the changes."

Human rights defenders are now facing a pattern of pressure, which appears to have evolved concurrent with the reform process in Turkey. Huge numbers of investigations and trials have been opened against them in recent years under various laws and regulations. While such trials usually end in acquittal or a sentence that is suspended or commuted to a fine, the effect is a form of judicial harassment designed to intimidate human rights defenders and hinder their public activities.

Turkey must take immediate steps to ensure that human rights defenders are able to carry out their legitimate actions without fear of harassment, intimidation or prosecution.

Amnesty International continues to call for a thorough reform of law and practice to fully ensure freedom of expression, association and assembly in Turkey.

View all documents on Turkey at

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