ECRI Report On Turkey Contains Some Negative And Positive Improvements

Human Rights Body of the Council of Europe ECRI (European Commission against Racism and Tolerance) published its fifth report on Turkey, on October 4th. The report while noting some positive improvements in legal and institutional changes, highlights the deterioration in conditions of refugees and some minority groups and especially the rise in hate speech.The report which is prepared following ECRI’s visit to Turkey in November 2015 and takes account of developments up to March 2016 expresses concern over hate speech and contains relevant recommendations.

ECRI especially expresses the Commission’s serious concerns over hate speech’s increasing use by senior state authorities, leading members of the opposition parties and well-known public figures. As examples, the report highlights Turkish singer Yildiz Tilbe’s tweets where she praises Hitler and Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek’s remarks where he implies Mossad, Israeli Intelligence Agency may be behind the Paris attack. The report also notes that this situation which can be described as a “particular concern” for the Commission was at its peak during the 2015 election campaigns and the hate speeches escalated the already existing diversion among people.

ECRI report also states that most of the hate speeches are not reported to police and/or any other law enforcement authorities and furthermore most of those which are reported goes unpunished. The report states, “ECRI has no findings about any convictions ruled by the courts of law regarding hate speeches targeting Kurds, Alevi, or non-Muslim communities.”

In the recommendations section, it is strongly recommended that officials and political leaders regardless of their level should stop using hate speech; the parliament and the government should adopt codes of conduct prohibiting hate speech and that the authorities remove from textbooks any racist material or material that encourages stereotypes, intolerance or prejudice against any minority group.

On the other hand, the report also contains some positive improvements regarding minorities. In the report it is stated that the officials have used more conciliatory language towards historical minorities than in previous years. As an example the report states that on April 24th, the government offered condolences to the Armenian community and described the incidents of 1915 as “inhumane”. Also in the report Public Hanukkah Celebration at Ortakoy Square is given as another example. The report includes Turkish President’s message which he sent after the public celebration, citing that the message read, “We are members of a civilization which regards diversity as richness and respects freedom of faith and religion.”