To The Members of the Press, Human Rights Organizations, Servants of Justice and the People of Boston,
We are students, academics, intellectuals, artists, workers, business people and citizens of Boston. We are here today to show our continued solidarity with our friends in Turkey who, as a reaction to their mass protests, have been subjected to immense police brutality and unfair arrests and detention directed by the Erdogan/AKP administration. With that, we would like to highlight the state of judiciary system in Turkey.
The unfairness and dysfunction of Turkey’s judiciary system has been well-documented by the thousands of cases in which the European Court of Human Rights has found out that Turkey violated the right to a fair trial, the right to life, the freedom of expression and such. It is saddening to see that despite the promised reforms and improvements, Turkey upholds its tradition of favoring its state against the people, and its officers against the citizens. On June 11, 2013, 51 lawyers were detained in an Istanbul courthouse for protesting the disproportionate use of police force and for demanding justice. These lawyers are not alone; many others are being prosecuted under the “Terrorism Act”, an act that never defines what terrorism is throughout its text. Thousands of students1 have thus been arbitrarily prosecuted and punished by loose “evidence” and “secret witness” statements. Majority of the journalists, some of whom have remained detained, some over 5 years, waiting for an indictment, suffer the same fate.
It is no surprise that in 2013, Turkey has the highest number of imprisoned journalists in the world. The media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders (RWB) characterizes Turkey as “the world’s biggest prison for journalists”. This may help explain why most major news channels were shamefully silent during the protests or manipulating the news in accordance with the governing political party’s agenda. Ethnic and minority groups, women, LGBT community and children are also victims of abuse of the court system. According to the Turkish Statistical Institute, rape and sexual assault has gone up 30% in the last 5 years. The number of murdered women has gone up from 66 to 1011 from 2002 to 2007.2 This rise is attributed to the increasing weakness of the justice system to prosecute and convict those who are responsible, as well as police taking sides with or not arresting the suspects.
It is this judiciary system that we hopelessly expect that will be fair. It is this system that we hopelessly await that will punish those responsible for the 4 dead, over 7500 injured and 9 allegedly detained people who have since been missing during the recent protests. It is this system that we hope will finally hand out some exemplary punishments to the police who have carelessly, and in some cases, intentionally killed innocent people.
Yet what we have gotten so far is an official investigation on doctors who have volunteered for treating the injured protestors. Yet what we have gotten so far is the release of the police officer who killed the 26-year-old protestor on the grounds of “self-defense.” Yet what we have gotten so far is a crackdown on social media users and leftist organizations. What we have gotten so far is a Prime Minister who said “We will not surrender our police; we have told the judiciary what’s necessary.”
We demand that the laws that regulate police actions are reformed and enforced.
We demand that the human rights safeguards during the arrest and detention of protesters be upheld.
We demand that lawyers, judges and prosecutors in Turkey carry out their responsibilities free of the government’s pressure.