26 April 2023
The detention of at least 128 people, including human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, political party executives and members, in operations conducted in 21 provinces as part of a Diyarbakır-based investigation is an unacceptable interference in the “democratic” electoral process and election “security.” These detentions are a clear violation of the right to equality and non-discrimination, freedom of thought and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, the right to security, the right to effective remedies and the right to information, and therefore the right to political participation. Such judicial harassment must end immediately and those detained must be released. It is unacceptable that the political power, which is responsible for conducting the election process in accordance with international human rights standards, itself violates the most fundamental rights and freedoms.
Participation in the conduct of public affairs, including elections, is a human right protected by the instruments of universal human rights law. Free and fair elections are still the most powerful and effective way for people to participate in governance and make their voices heard. In other words, elections organized on the basis of respect for the principles and norms of human rights, and the popular will thereby formed, form the basis of the legitimacy of public authority.
According to universal law, the most fundamental indicator of whether elections are free or not is the extent to which the political will of the electorate is allowed to be manifested without discrimination or restriction, and whether they take place in a secure environment where human rights are fully respected and fully enjoyed by all.
In addition to the right to participation, which is at the center of electoral processes, there are other fundamental rights and freedoms. The first right that comes to mind is the right to vote and be elected. However, for this right to be meaningfully exercised, there must be an environment in which human rights are enjoyed by all, in particular the right to equality and non-discrimination, freedom of opinion and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, the right to security, the right to effective remedies and the right to information.
According to universal law, the responsibility to ensure election security falls on states/governments. However, since the political power has failed to fulfill its positive and negative obligations in this regard, there has been an alarming increase in rights violations with the acceleration of election activities. In particular, attacks by civilians against candidates, election offices and party buildings of opposition parties or interventions and obstructions by law enforcement forces against the election activities of opposition parties are noteworthy.
The latest incident of this was yesterday morning, when at least 128 people, including human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, political party executives and members, were taken into custody in operations conducted in 21 provinces as part of a Diyarbakır-based investigation. These investigations and possible further detentions are an unacceptable interference in the “democratic” electoral climate and election “security” in a situation where there is very little time left before the elections.
In particular, human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists play a critical role in ensuring election security. The detention of these individuals means preventing the monitoring, identification, documenting and reporting of rights violations and corruption during election processes, thus violating the rights of the public/voters to information and truth.
Likewise, the detention of executives and members of the HDP responsible for organization within the party is nothing but a sabotage of the party’s election work and thus a violation of the freedom of association and propaganda of millions of voters who voted for this party. The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee has stated in numerous comments and assessments that political parties and party membership play an important role in the conduct of electoral processes. Therefore, political parties and their members should be guaranteed freedom from undue interference and restrictions on their parties and activities should be interpreted in the narrowest possible framework in accordance with the principles of legality, necessity and proportionality.
In short, journalists, human rights defenders, leaders and members of political parties operating within the framework of the law, election observers and others involved in observing and reporting on election meetings are entitled to protection under many conventions, including the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
These detentions, the reasons for which have not been made public as the file is restricted, are a clear violation of the right to equality and non-discrimination, freedom of thought and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, right to security, right to effective remedies and right to information, and therefore the right to vote and be elected. When this latest practice is considered together with the violations to date, it raises serious concerns about the security of the elections to be held on 14 May 2023. This act of “mass” detention, which was carried out in a process where there are already many limitations on a fair and democratic electoral environment, is in fact a discriminatory effort to criminalize a group of voters.
Such acts, which are a clear violation of the principle of equality, and the judicial harassment of human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, political party executives and members must immediately be dropped and those in custody must be released.
We remind the political power of its international commitments to ensure safe and democratic elections and call on the authorities to comply with human rights standards for elections.
Human Rights Foundation of Turkey – Human Rights Association