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Kurdish Human Rights Project: This is the legacy website of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, containing reports and news pertaining to human rights issues in the Kurdish Regions for 20 years.

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KHRP Calls for Lifting of Barriers to Freedom of Expression on the Third Anniversary of Hrant Dink’s
Tuesday, 19 January 2010 11:53

Three years since the assassination of editor, journalist, and campaigner, Hrant Dink, obstructions to freedom of expression in Turkey persist, especially surrounding taboo issues such as minority rights and Kurdish cultural and linguistic rights.

Dink, a prominent member of the Turkish-Armenian community, was best known for his advocacy of Turkish-Armenian reconciliation and promotion of human and minority rights. As editor of Agos, Turkey’s only newspaper published in both Armenian and Turkish, Dink became a target of nationalist intimidation and was prosecuted three times by the government under Article 301 of the Penal Code for ‘denigration of Turkishness’. On 19 January 2007, Dink was assassinated by a young nationalist in Istanbul, though many believe he did not act alone.  Whether or not he acted alone, it is clear is that the government did little to protect Dink in the face a growing climate of intimidation and threat of physical violence by nationalists.

The manner in which the authorities have dealt with the subsequent investigations and prosecutions - which were the subject of a KHRP trial observation in July 2007 - has been grossly inadequate. The proceedings raised numerous concerns with regard to the scope of the investigation and the possible participation of the police, gendarmerie and intelligence services. Evidence suggests that the Turkish authorities were aware of the assassination plot. Yet by deliberately withholding crucial information not only did they fail to take any action to protect Dink’s life, but they have also since failed to satisfactorily investigate the possibility of wider culpability than the triggerman alone.

More widely, legal reforms related to EU accession have failed to curtail the arbitrary detention and prosecution of human rights defenders, writers, journalists, and broadcasters who advocate minority rights, to ordinary citizens who attempt to exercise their right to peaceful protest.  The recent arrest and detention of Mr. Muharrem Erbey, Vice President of the Human Rights Association of Turkey, and the detention of more than 80 people as part of an operation launched simultaneously in 11 provinces of Turkey following the closure and ousting of the pro-Kurdish Demokratik Toplum Partisi (Democratic Society Party, DTP) from the Turkish Parliament in December, to the ongoing criminalisation and disproportionate use of force used against protestors, including children, underscore this only too well.

‘On the anniversary of Hrant Dink’s death, KHRP would like to draw attention to the continuing barriers to freedom of expression in Turkey’, said Rachel Bernu, KHRP Managing Director. ‘The Turkish government continues to provide insufficient guarantees for freedom of expression with the continued application of contentious articles of the Turkish Penal Code and new anti-terror laws often resulting in restrictive actions on the part of the police and judiciary. KHRP call for an immediate end to such actions, which are in clear violation of Turkey’s commitments to freedom of expression under the European Convention on Human Rights.’