While Turkey’s authorities ramped up their crackdown on No voters who took to streets to protest referendum result, detaining at least 49 activists, Human Rights Watch (HRW) urged the Turkish government to reverse its decision to extend the state of emergency.
“After securing a narrow victory in Sunday’s referendum, the government and president should govern in the interests of everyone in Turkey, not just their political supporters,” Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Aisa director at Human Rights Watch, told the rights group’s website.
“Turkey’s government and the president need to end the state of emergency and the repressive campaign against the media and the pro-Kurdish political opposition.”
Turkey’s referendum was contested on an uneven playing level field, a group of international monitors from OSCE and the Council of Europe said in their initial findings regarding the momentous vote.
In a watershed moment, Sunday’s referendum marked an epoch-making change in Turkey’s century-old political system, represented a shift to an executive presidency.
The constitutional changes give President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sweeping powers like appoint cabinet ministers, senior judges, and bureaucrats, all university rectors, issue decrees, declare a state of emergency and even dissolve Parliament to call for new elections. That concentration and centralization of power in the hands of one man signify a slide to authoritarianism, with fraying legislative checks on his power.
Despite spasms of concern and remarkable discontent, half of the population blessed the proposed change. But for many observers, the referendum was “neither fair nor free.”
Repressive political climate, muzzling of opposition voices, strangling free press and imprisonment of journalists on a grand scale, not seen elsewhere in the world, all contributed to an unfair campaign.
The state of emergency, both OSCE and HRW, observed limited unhindered campaign for the opposition.
“The president and government should be setting out the steps the intended to take to restore full respect for human rights in Turkey, including ending arbitrary detention and prosecution, safeguarding freedom of the media nad expression and judicial independence, and guaranteeing all citizens their right to political participation,” HRW said on Wednesday.
It warned that the extension of the state of emergency would further endanger human rights and the rule of law, which have already been badly damaged in Turkey under the state of emergency.
“Any move to reintroduce the death penalty would be another disastrous step away from human rights norms for Turkey,” HRW’s Williamson said in conclusion.
President Erdogan repeatedly broached the subject of reinstating capital punishment, irking European Union officials. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker warned Turkey that death penalty issue is a red line not to be crossed. Otherwise, Turkey’s prolonged negotiation process would immediately come to a halt, once and for all.
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