Britain urged to pressure Turkey's Erdogan over rights abuses

Britain urged to pressure Turkey's Erdogan over rights abuses
In efforts to preserve close ties, Britain has been largely silent on the erosion of rights and rule of law in Turkey under President Erdogan.
2 min read
12 May, 2018
May has been urged to speak out on the erosion of rights in Turkey [Getty]
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May should speak out on Turkey's poor human rights record when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan makes a state visit on Sunday, Human Rights Watch's UK chief said.

"Undoubtedly, May would prefer the discussion focus on investment, trade, and Syria, but the scale of repression underway in Turkey makes it impossible to ignore," HRW's UK director David Mepham said on Saturday.

"She should use the moment to urge an end to the Turkish government's brutal crackdown on opponents and critics."

Under Erdogan, who survived an attempted coup in July 2016, Turkish authorities have sacked, detained or jailed hundreds of thousands of civil servants, soldiers, journalists and political opponents accused of having ties to suspected coup plotter Fethullah Gulen, or Kurdish militants.

Turkish presidential elections are set to take place on June 24, with incumbent Erdogan the favourite to win. His victory will see the introduction of new laws that increase his presidential powers, a move many see as a consolidation of his authoritarian regime.

"The crackdown [on journalists], along with takeovers and closures of media outlets, means that most of the media – especially television – is now a propaganda machine for Erdogan's ruling AKP party and the government," Mepham said.

As well as the obstacles faced by political opponents, with several behind bars, civil society and human rights defenders face "terrorism" trials and convictions.

Amnesty International Turkey's chief Taner Kilic has been imprisoned for nearly a year, and some women's rights associations arbitrarily closed down by the government.

"May should call publicly for the release of all those Turkish journalists, politicians, and human rights defenders who have been unjustly imprisoned, and make clear Britain will not licence further military equipment for Turkey that might be used to violate human rights," Mepham added.

Erdogan arrives in the UK on Sunday for a three-day visit including a meeting with the Queen.