The US Department of State released its annual human rights report on Friday, and the section on Turkey paints a grim picture of the state of human rights and the treatment of human rights defenders. The report notes that “human rights groups reported intensifying government pressure” and presents the cases of Amnesty’s honorary chair, Taner Kilic, and director, Idil Eser, who were both arrested last summer, as examples of this “pressure.”
The cases of Taner, Idil, and the Istanbul 10 (which they dub the “Buyukada 10” in the report) are also presented as examples of the repression of freedom of expression and freedom of association. The section on freedom of expression is representative of much of the report:
Individuals in many cases could not criticize the state or government publicly without risk of civil or criminal suits or investigation, and the government restricted expression by individuals sympathetic to some religious, political, or cultural viewpoints. At times many who wrote or spoke on sensitive topics or in ways critical of the government risked investigation…
Human rights groups reported intensifying government pressure that, in certain cases, resulted in enhanced caution in their public reporting. On November 1, leading philanthropist and widely respected civil society figure leader Osman Kavala was arrested and subsequently charged with terrorism-related crimes. Observers widely viewed his detention as politically motivated. On July 5, police detained eight leading human rights activists, including Amnesty International Turkey director Idil Eser as well as two foreign trainers, during a workshop in Buyukada, near Istanbul, on terrorism grounds. On June 6, police detained Taner Kilic, the founder and chair of Amnesty International Turkey, in Izmir along with 22 others for alleged Gulen ties and in part for allegedly using the ByLock mobile application, a claim rejected by Amnesty International (see section 5). Critics alleged Kilic’s detention stemmed from government displeasure with Amnesty reporting critical of the government. In October a court released the “Buyukada 10” pending the outcome of their trial, which continued at year’s end. Kilic and Kavala remained in pretrial detention, with judicial proceedings against them continuing at year’s end.