HRW: Turkish President used pandemic to strengthen autocratic rule

HRW: Turkish President used pandemic to strengthen autocratic rule

PanARMENIAN.Net - The Covid-19 pandemic in Turkey has enabled the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to deepen autocratic rule by silencing critics and rapidly passing restrictive new laws to limit dissent, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2021.

In 2020, Turkish authorities used the pretext of the pandemic to ban demonstrations by opposition parties and government critics and to target critics of the government. When introducing an early release program to ease prison overcrowding, the government deliberately excluded thousands of arbitrarily jailed prisoners from eligibility and rushed in new laws to deepen censorship of social media platforms and curb the authority of bar associations vocal on Turkey’s rule of law crisis. At the year end, the government passed a new law enabling arbitrary restriction of civil society organizations and threatening the right to freedom of association.

“The Covid-19 pandemic became a pretext for the Erdogan government to double down on autocratic rule and stamp out criticism and opposition at the expense of uniting the country during a public health crisis,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The international focus on Turkey’s foreign policy should not be allowed to overshadow the assault on democratic safeguards at home, which accelerated during 2020.”

In 2020 the Erdogan government’s main tensions with the European Union were focused on migration, gas reserves, and contested maritime boundaries in the East Mediterranean rather than Turkey’s domestic human rights record.

In the 761-page World Report 2021, its 31st edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in more than 100 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth argues that the incoming United States administration should embed respect for human rights in its domestic and foreign policy, in a way that is more likely to survive future US administrations that might be less committed to human rights. Roth emphasizes that even as the Trump administration mostly abandoned the protection of human rights, other governments stepped forward to champion rights. The Biden administration should seek to join, not supplant, this new collective effort. 

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