26 April 2023
Within the scope of an investigation based in Diyarbakır, the detention of at least 128 people, including human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, political party executives and members, in operations covering 21 provinces is an unacceptable interference with the “democratic” electoral environment and election “security”. These detentions clearly violates 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 access effective legal solutions and the right to information, and thus the right to vote and be elected. This judicial harassment must be immediately stopped and those detained must be released. It is unacceptable that the political power, responsible for carrying out 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 universal human rights law instruments. Fair and credible elections are still the most powerful and effective way for people to participate in government and have their voices heard. In other words, elections organized on the basis of the respect to the principles and norms of human rights, and the will of people formed this way, builds the ground of legitimacy for the public authority.
Besides, the most basic indicator of whether elections are free according to universal law, is the extent to which the political will of the voters is allowed to be manifested without any discrimination or restriction, and whether the elections are held in a safe environment where human rights are fully respected and everyone can fully enjoy them.
In addition to the right to participate, which is at the centre of the electoral processes, there are other fundamental rights and freedoms as well. The first thing that comes to mind is the right to vote and to be elected. However, in order for this right to be exercised in a significant way, an environment must be created in which human rights, in particular the right to equality and non-discrimination, freedom of thought and expression, freedom of peaceful assembly and association, the right to security, access to effective legal solutions and the right to information, are ensured to be exercised by everyone.
According to universal law, the responsibility of ensuring election security belongs to the states/governments. However, as the political power does not fulfil its positive and negative obligations in this regard, a concerning increase is observed in human rights violations with the acceleration of the electoral activities. Particularly, the attacks by civilians targeting the candidates of opposition parties, election offices and party buildings, or the interventions and preventions by law enforcement in the election activities of opposition parties are noteworthy.
The latest example of this was the detention of at least 128 people yesterday morning, including human rights defenders, lawyers, journalists, political party executives and members, in operations covering 21 provinces as part of an investigation based in Diyarbakır. Under the circumstances where there is very little time left for the elections, this investigation, and the detentions, which is concerned about to be accelerated, are an unacceptable interference with the “democratic” electoral environment and election “security”.
In particular, human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists play a critical role in ensuring election security. The detention of these people means preventing the monitoring, detection, reporting and reporting of violations and corruption during the election processes, thus violating the right of the people/voters to obtain information and learn the truth.
Likewise, the detention of HDP’s executives and members in charge of organizing means nothing but sabotaging the party’s election work, thus violating the freedom of association and propaganda of millions of voters who voted for this party. The United Nations (UN) Human Rights Committee states in its several comments and evaluations that political parties and party membership play a crucial role in the execution of the election processes. Therefore, it should be ensured that political parties and their members are free from unnecessary interference, and restrictions against their establishment 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, executives and members of political parties operating within the framework of the law, election observers, and others involved in the monitoring and reporting of election meetings are entitled to protection under many conventions, including the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The detentions, which the legal reasons of them are not shared due the confidentiality order on the investigation file, clearly violate 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 access effective legal solutions and the right to information, and thus the right to vote and be elected. When this latest practice is considered together with the violations experienced so far, it raises serious concerns about the security of the election to be held on 14 May 2023. This act of “mass” detention, which is carried out in a process where there are already many limitations in terms of a fair and democratic electoral environment, and which is directly aimed at a specific group, is in fact a discriminatory effort aimed at criminalizing a group of voters.
Such acts, clearly violating the principle of equality; the judicial harassment against human rights defenders, lawyers, journalist, political party executives and members must be immediately stopped and those detained must be released.
We remind the political power of its international obligations for the elections to be held in safe and democratic conditions and invite them to act in accordance with the human rights standards regarding the elections.
Human Rights Foundation of Turkey – Human Rights Association