İHD-HRFT Joint Statement on Human Rights Day

10 December 2023



On the 75th Anniversary of the Adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights;

We Defend Our Economic and Social Rights in the face of Economic Crisis and Poverty,

Our Right to Peace against War,

Solidarity in States of Emergencies like Earthquakes, Pandemics and the Like,

Human Rights Values and Democracy against Repression

Knowing that All Human Beings Are Equal in Dignity and Rights!


On the 75th anniversary of its adoption, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) still continues to illuminate the path of humanity like the North Star.

The drafting of the UDHR commenced on 29 April 1946 with the establishment of the Commission on Human Rights within the United Nations. The UDHR, with a preamble and 30 articles, was drafted by the commission, and adopted and proclaimed by the UN General Assembly assembled in Paris on 10 December 1948. The UDHR went into effect in Turkey after having been published in the Official Gazette of 27 May 1949. The UDHR has been translated into more than 500 languages. It also remains the most translated human rights document in the world. The formal inception of Human Rights Day dates back to 4 December 1950, after the General Assembly passed resolution 423 (V) inviting all States and interested organizations to adopt 10 December of each year as the Human Rights Day.

The UN was founded with a goal to establish an international system based on ideals of peace, human rights and democracy in order not to ever go through the massive human destruction created by World War II. Today we, regrettably, lag far behind in reaching these ideals. Such an international system based on the rights and freedoms enshrined in the UDHR has yet to be established. The UN, in contradiction to its very grounds for existence, cannot be effective enough in preventing and putting an end to wars and civil wars that account for the major causes of rights violations, in intervening into refugee crises, in protecting natural and cultural heritage worldwide, in fighting poverty and injustice, and in eliminating all kinds of discrimination, particularly against women. Herein the military and economic partnerships set up by powerful countries as well as policies of war have indeed led to the total destruction of fundamental rights and freedoms, as is the case of profound humanitarian crisis in Gaza now. Specifically, the fact that the states have gradually been moving away from their pledges for democracy and rule of law has led to the emaciation of human rights both as a reference system and a control mechanism. Such state of affairs has, in turn, resulted in a severe crisis in the global human rights regime.

Despite all these setbacks peoples all over the world have been raising their voices demanding freedom, justice, equality and human rights. The response of states and governments to these demands has been the systematization and generalization of all kinds of violence and imposing them as the sole truth of life on societies. Promoting and protecting human rights along with revitalizing their founding role in the face of this massive crisis that the world has been going through are our primary duties.

This state of crisis is faced in Turkey with all its might and intensity. The country has been governed by a state of emergency regime directly since 2016 and indirectly since 19 July 2018 by this very same regime although it was claimed to have been lifted but rendered permanent and ordinary through the introduction of numerous legal amendments. This state of affairs/process has led to the abandonment of the principles of constitutionalism and rule of law. Thus arbitrariness and uncertainty have become the primary elements of both public and political spheres. The power to create uncertainty, to which the political power specifically resorts as a method of government, has provided it to further centralize its power and to exacerbate its repression and control over the society.

Policies of the political power that render all the issues of the country ranging from the economy to public health as security problems, that polarize the society, that are predicated upon violence both at home and abroad, and that make conflict and war the sole methods -particularly for the resolution of the Kurdish issue along with international problems- constitute the major causes of the violations of the right to life in 2023. People from very different social groups lost their lives because of either direct violence by the law enforcement or of structural violence and/or by third parties that arise through the failure of the state to undertake its responsibility to “prevent and protect.”

One of the most devastating natural disasters in the recent history of the area, in which Turkey is also a part of, took place on 6 February 2023. According to official statements, at least 50,783 people lost their lives. Turkey is an earthquake country with active fault lines. Despite this fact and the bitter lessons learned from past earthquakes, governments have not fulfilled their responsibilities failing to prepare for earthquakes in accordance with the requirements of science, and failed to develop effective disaster management plans. When we evaluate such unacceptable deficiency/neglect together with the obligation/responsibility of states to protect and promote all rights and freedoms, especially the right to life, deaths caused by the earthquake are a violation of the right to life. Moreover, considering the direct impact of the human factor in the destruction and devastation to such a great extent, the earthquake itself is a gross violation of human rights.

Torture has remained the most dominant human rights problem in 2023 in Turkey as well in spite of the fact that it is a crime against humanity and is absolutely prohibited by the Constitution and universal law, which Turkey is a part of. Acts of torture and ill-treatment at official custodial places as well as extra-custodial places, in the streets and outdoors or in spaces like homes and offices along with the “extreme and disproportionate intervention” of the lawenforcement amounting to the level of “torture” in assemblies and demonstrations have come to bear a novel dimension and intensity. After the February 6 earthquakes, the declaration of a state of emergency in the region and the extension of the custody periods led to an alarming increase in violations of the prohibition of torture. Especially in the recent period, the authorities’ statements contrary to the prohibition of torture and the exhibitionist methods used to legitimize torture are noteworthy. One can argue that the whole country has virtually become a space of torture today because of the political power’s mode of government based on repression and control.

It is also quite alarming that enforced disappearances/abductions, which account for one of the most disgraceful human rights violations in recent history and qualify as a crime against humanity, have also been seen again since 2016 when the state of emergency was declared.

Prisons, which are an unmediated sign of a state’s respect for human rights, have become extremely overcrowded today because of the political power’s abuse of law as an instrument of repression and intimidation in Turkey. Prisons are places where gross and serious violations are committed ranging from the right to life to torture, to right of access to healthcare. Single or small group isolation practices in prisons, notably in İmralı Prison, have become a chronic problem that remain unsolved.

The political power’s restrictions on freedom of expression and opinion, which constitute one of the lifelines of democratic societies, specifically its pressure and control over the press that has alarmingly increased with the declaration of the state of emergency, have held out in 2023 as well. In addition to the existing laws that pose obstacles to the exercise of freedom of thought and expression, the Law No. 7418, commonly known as the “Disinformation Law,” which introduced some amendments to the Press Law, which entered into force after being published in the Official Gazette (No. 31987) dated 18 October 2022, further increased the pressure and restrictions on journalists in particular and on anyone who wants to exercise freedom of expression.

2023 has been a year during which restrictions on and violations of freedom of assembly have been the rule, while the enjoyment of freedoms has been the exception just like the previous year. Individuals and groups from almost all social segments have not been able to exercise their right to peaceful assembly and protest due to bans imposed by civilian authorities and/or actual interventions by the law enforcement. Saturday Mothers/People, who wanted to go to Galatasaray Square to demand truth and justice, were subjected to torture and other ill-treatment and taken into custody for weeks as a result of these bans and interventions despite the violation judgment rendered by the Constitutional Court. Similarly, women, LGBTI+ persons, peace and human rights defenders, students, environmentalists, workers and laborers, members of opposition political parties who wanted to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed freedom of assembly were subjected to cruel and infamous violence by law enforcement forces.

Freedom of association is one of the fundamental human rights essential for democracies to function. In Turkey, citizens are unable to exercise their freedom of association because they are unable to come together collectively to take action and express their opinions, and they are unable to participate in the civil and public sphere in an organized manner to shape their collective future. In 2023, many members and executives of human rights organizations, associations, foundations, labor and professional organizations and political parties were detained and arrested, and lawsuits were filed against them in an attempt to put pressure on them. The process that started last year after the statements made by Prof. Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, the President of the Central Council of the Turkish Medical Association, on a television channel, ended with the dismissal of the members of the Central Council by court order, which is a worrying development in terms of freedom of association.

The Kurdish issue remains one of the most fundamental challenges before Turkey’s democratization. The armedconflict that broke out again immediately after the general elections of 7 June 2015 is still going on not onlybecause the government primarily failed to take sincere and coherent steps for the peaceful and democraticresolution of the Kurdish issue, but also with the impact of developments in the Middle East and is bringing aboutgross human rights violations, notably violations of the right to life. We, as human rights defenders, have alwaysargued for the democratic and peaceful resolution of the Kurdish issue. We are persistent in our belief. We,therefore, want the conflict to end right now. Following the establishment of a non-conflict environment, this stateof non-conflict should be strengthened and monitored as well as genuine and effective programs should bedeveloped by all parties to enable reconciliation.

What the decision to withdraw from the İstanbul Convention meant for women and LGBTI+’s was that hundreds of women were  killed by men in 2023 and LGBTI+’s lost their lives as a result of hate attacks, peaceful assemblies for women’s and LGBTI+ rights were banned by local authorities or violently intervened and prevented by law enforcement forces, hundreds of women and LGBTI+ were taken into custody under torture and other acts of ill-treatment, anti-LGBTI+ hate rallies supported by the authorities and deepening discrimination in all respects.

Asylum-seekers/refugees/migrants that have now become a part, a primary component of the society in Turkey are still being intensively subjected to all kinds of discrimination and abuse, hate speech and economic exploitation. In 2023 asylum-seekers and refugees, who have been subjected to racist hate crimes and violence by the law enforcement and civilians, lost their lives. Human traffickers, too, have led them to death. Asylum-seekers and refugees faced the physical, psychological, social and economic impacts of the pandemic in the most severe manner while becoming lives ignored and even sacrificed by our society.

Turkey is going through one of its most devastating economic crises for some time now. The economic crisis and profound impoverishment caused by years of neoliberal economic policies based on borrowing, war and conflict expenditures lead to gross violations of human rights that makes it completely impossible for citizens to sustain both their biological and social lives. Cost of living, unemployment, poverty, precarity and disorganization hit women, children, refugees and asylum seekers the most. Under these conditions, the hard-won rights of workers and laborers should be preserved, inflation figures should not be manipulated, the right to severance pay should respected and work-related murders should be prevented. Workers’ and laborers’ rights-seeking protests should not be banned, the right to unionization, strike and collective action should be guaranteed.

Lastly, İHD and HRFT, whose raison d’être is to create a country and a world where there are no more human rights violations and where justice, peace and democracy prevail, will keep on documenting and reporting human rights violations to make them visible, therefore, preventing them; and will continue to promote respect for human rights as well as the fight against impunity.


Human beings are human beings with their human rights…

We see, we speak up, we struggle…



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Click to read the 2023 joint report by İHD and HRFT: jr2023_10 December Report by IHD and HRFT