Turkey: Stop excessive use of force in peaceful protests

ARTICLE 19 condemns the beating of journalist and HDP MP Ahmet Şik by police officers, who violently blocked the peaceful demonstration of HDP members in front of Istanbul Çağlayan Courthouse on 20 August 2019. While political opponents were protesting against the dismissals of HDP mayors of three cities in Turkey’s South East, police used excessive force to suppress the demonstrations, seriously harming Ahmet Şik.

ARTICLE 19 also condemns the arrest of journalists Ahmet Kanbal, Mehmet Şah Oruc, Rojda Aydın, Nurcan Yalçın and Halime Parlak in Mardin, and Yelda Özbek in Diyarbakır, who were covering the public demonstrations against the dismissal of the democratically elected city mayors.

On 19 August 2019, the mayors of the Kurdish-majority cities of Diyarbakır, Van and Mardin were dismissed by Turkey’s Ministry of Interior on the basis of Article 127 of the Constitution and Article 47 of Municipal Law No. 5393. The three dismissed mayors, temporarily replaced in interim by government trustees as first citizens, were charged of alleged ‘terrorist’ links.

These physical attacks by the State were perpetrated to repress peaceful demonstrations in Istanbul, Mardin and Diyarbakir. Freedom of expression and freedom of assembly are together the cornerstone of a democratic society: exercised by the voicing of free opinions and dialogue among different political views. Furthermore, it is precisely the role of journalists to report on news: news reporters should not become the target of repression as a consequence of the information they make accessible through their work.

The right to protest should also be protected. This is the individual and/or collective exercise of existing and universally recognised human rights, including the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of assembly and of association, among others. According to international standards as outlined in ARTICLE 19’s Protest Principles:

  • States should not prevent, hinder or restrict the right to protest except to the extent allowed by international human rights law.
  • Law enforcement can only resort to using force against protesters in exceptional circumstances: force can only be used against violent protesters, only when strictly necessary, and only in strict proportion to the threat of violence. The use of force will only be considered necessary where all other means of de-escalation and preventing further violence have been exhausted.
  • States should allow and actively facilitate reporting on and the independent monitoring of protests by all media and independent observers.

ARTICLE 19 will continue to follow closely the situation in Turkey and calls the Turkish government to promptly release arrested journalists in Mardin and Diyarbakır, to investigate excessive use of force by the police against protesters and to respect human rights standards and democratic processes in all parts of the country.