Amnesty International is urging the Turkish government to use this crucial moment to act concretely to decriminalize dissent, at a time when a new constitution is being written where such issues are being debated and when promises have been made in this respect to the PKK in return for peace.
A package of reforms called the “Fourth Judicial Package” is before parliament right now, but Amnesty argues that these reforms fail to make the necessary legislative amendments to bring national law in line with international human rights standards.
The notorious and vaguely defined Article 301 of the Penal Code “Denigration of the Turkish Nation”, used arbitrarily to prosecute a broad variety of speech, remains in force, as does Article 318, “Alienating the public from military service”, used to prosecute support for the right to conscientious objection. Anti-terrorism laws have been used extensively in recent years to prosecute legitimate activities including political speeches, critical writing, attendance at demonstrations and association with recognised political groups and organizations. These three laws are the hammers that have continually and arbitrarily taken aim at people’s rights to freedom of expression, association and assembly to the extent that Turkey now leads the world in number of journalists in jail.
This is a moment of potential change in which the voices of concerned people might make a difference. Please consider signing Amnesty’s petition (in English here and in Turkish here). Amnesty’s short report is here and long report in pdf form can be downloaded here.
The right to freedom of expression is under attack in Turkey. Criminal prosecutions targeting dissenting opinions represent one of Turkey’s most entrenched human rights problems. Despite a series of legislative reform packages, unfair laws remain on the statute and continue to be abused. In this report, Amnesty International analyses the problems in law and practice relating to ten of the most problematic offences and makes concrete recommendations on the legislative changes needed to bring these abuses to an end.
Their specific recommendations:
In the Penal Code:
•Repeal Articles 301 “Denigrating the Turkish Nation”, 318 “Alienating the public from military service” and 215 “Praising a crime or a criminal” in their entirety
•Decriminalize defamation as outlined in Article 125 to treat allegations of defamation as a matter for civil litigation by taking it out of the Penal Code
•Amend Article 216 “Incitement to hatred or hostility” by repealing paragraphs 2 and 3 to ensure that only advocacy of hatred constituting incitement to violence is prosecuted
•Bring Turkey’s overly broad and vague definition of terrorism in line with the definition of the UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism
•Repeal Articles 220/6 “Committing a crime in the name of an organization” and 6/2 “Printing or publishing declarations/statements of a terrorist organization”
•Adopt guidelines for prosecutors on the application of Article 220(7) of the Penal Code that set out clear criteria for when assisting an armed group can be criminalized, including the requirement that such assistance must either in and of itself be a recognizable criminal offence, or be directly linked to the planning or commission of one.
•Amend Article 7/2 “Making propaganda for a terrorist organization” so as to ensure that it only prohibits advocacy of incitement to violence