ECRI: politicians' hate speech goes unpunished

European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) released the fifth monitoring report on Turkey. In the report, official authorities' hate speech is criticized and it is pointed out that the hate speech is not effectively punished.

Consisting of independent experts, ECRI is affiliated to Council of Europe and issues periodical reports on racism, xenophobia and intolerance in the countries that are members of the Council. 

In the report which was started to be written after ECRI's visit to Turkey on November 2015, the concerns about the vulnerable groups such as Syrian refugees, Kurdish people, Roma citizens and LGBT persons are expressed.

Stating that the fact that hate speech is expressed increasingly by officials and other public figures is very concerning, ECRI noted some statements by President Erdoğan, Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek and singer Yıldız Tilbe as examples of the hate speech. Erdoğan's statement "They have called me -pardon my language- Armenian" is also reported as an example.

It is also noted that hate speech "reached peaks in the 2015 election campaigns" and “such public hate speech has deepened existing divisions and damaged social cohesion".

ECRI stated that "officials and political leaders at all levels should stop using hate speech" as the first step for carrying out an effective fight against hate speech.

In the report, it is also stated that "most hate speech goes unpunished. There is even reason to conclude that hate speech legislation is used to silence vulnerable groups." It is also noted that "the definition of hate crime is excessively narrow" in Turkish law and ECRI criticized Turkey since "the Criminal Code does not explicitly provide that racist and homo/transphobic motivation constitutes an aggravating circumstance."

No data on racist and homo/transphobic violence

The report states that Turkey does not collect data on racist and homo/transphobic violence and reminds the attacks against HDP. It is also pointed out that "the end of the ceasefire with the PKK has led to a terrible new wave of violence." The violent dispersal of the 2015 Gay Pride parade in Istanbul by the police is also reminded.

Hate speech against the refugees

ECRI noted that the hate speech also targets Syrian refugees and at least 400.000 refugee children do not have access to formal education. It is also stated that "many Roma citizens and Kurds have problems in accessing public services."

Stating that 500 hate speech incidents against Jews, Christians, Armenians, Kurds, LGBT persons, Greeks, Alevis, Arabs and Syrian refugees were recorded only in 2014, ECRI noted the investigation processes of Sevag Balıkçı, Maritsa Küçük and Hrant Dink murders. The attacks and death threats against the churches are also reminded.

According to the report, many hate speech are not reported to the police and judiciary and the majority of the reported ones go unpunished.

It is also noted that the authorities started use a more reconciling discourse toward the minority group through the practices like condolence letters, Hanukkah celebration and fast-breaking dinners for Alevis.

In a written statement, ECRI Chair Christian Ahlund said: “Although the report was drafted before the coup attempt in July 2016, it contains recommendations to the Turkish authorities which are fully relevant today."

ECRI also stated: "The bodies responsible for protecting human rights, such as the Ombudsperson and the National Human Rights Institution, should speak out clearly against public hate speech. The authorities should also use the provisions of the Law on Political Parties to deprive parties, whose representatives use hate speech."

An independent investigating authority

Ratification of Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights; ensuring that the provisions on the independence and mandate of the new Human Rights and Equality Authority comply with ECRI’s standards; and forming a body fully independent of the law enforcement services to carry out investigations of ill-treatment by police and other security forces are the other recommendations of ECRI.

For reading the full report, click here


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