HRC41: Council must speak out on violations in Russia and Turkey


ARTICLE 19 delivered the following oral statement at the UN Human Rights Council’s 41st session, during the Item 4 General Debate on human rights situations requiring the Council’s attention. The Council must speak out on serious violations of human rights laws and commitments in Russia and Turkey.

States in this Council must speak with one voice against ongoing and serious violations of the right to freedom of expression and information by the governments of Russia and Turkey.

In Turkey, as of 1 July 2019, 140 journalists are in prison, with far higher numbers of journalists on trial. In the first half of 2019, legal and extra-judicial methods continue to be used to threaten independent journalism, harass human rights defenders and restrict freedom of opinion and expression, peaceful assembly and association. This Council must do more to challenge this continued crackdown.

The targeting of journalists and civil society has gone alongside the Turkish Government’s mass purge of thousands of judges, lawyers, academics, and civil servants in the country, contributing to an almost total collapse of the rule of law. The prospect of fair trials in such conditions is remote.

Last week in Istanbul, the trial of 16 leading civil society figures, including Osman Kavala, began. If convicted, the defendants may face life imprisonment for their alleged involvement in the 2013 Gezi Park protest – which the government has retrospectively sought to connect to the 2016 coup – in the absence of any tangible evidence. These trials are a clear attempt by the Government to crush the remaining civil society space in the country, and must be condemned.

In Russia, a raft of new legislation has strengthened the government’s grip on online freedoms. The ‘Sovereign Internet Law’ empowers the authorities to block access to parts of the Internet in Russia: potentially ranging from cutting access to particular Internet Service Providers (ISPs), to shutting down the Internet throughout Russia.

Legislation banning the publishing of “false information”, and “insulting the State” online and offline by both individuals and media outlets provides the Russian authorities with yet more tools to continue their campaign of stifling and silencing dissent and independent media.

While we welcome the release of investigative journalist Ivan Golunov, his detention on 6 June is part of a wider pattern of harassment of journalists at the hands of Russian authorities, which must end.

The Human Rights Council must not turn a blind eye to these continuing attacks on the right to freedom of expression, and must speak out on these ongoing violations of international human rights laws and commitments made by Russia and Turkey at the HRC.