The actions initially referred to as the “Gezi Park Protests” which within a short period of time spread beyond Gezi Park and Istanbul are known to the public. The events first began in Istanbul, and later continued in Ankara, İzmir and many other cities of Turkey with widespread police violence against the protesters.
Organizations sensitive to human rights focused during this process on protecting the peaceful assembly and freedom of expression rights of the protesters, and showed care to carry out their actions solely within this perspective.
In terms of universal human rights standards, all manners of non-violent peaceful demonstrations are basic human rights. The role of the state is restricted to creating the legal and actual conditions of the use of this right. It is unacceptable that peaceful demonstrations have been used as an opportunity for the use of violence against protesters.
Furthermore, all people, with no discrimination whatsoever, have a right to access health services.
Turkey’s own laws and international conventions again define the authorization and duties of public officials regarding violent actions, and the manner in which such authorization and duties are to be used.
It is now clear that during the present mass demonstrations, public officials have not acted according to these basic standards, and that the use of the freedom of expression has been broadly restricted by the violent suppression of peaceful protests.
It has also been determined that public officials have acted insufficiently in providing access to health services, and that in the aforementioned events at least one protester has died as a result the use of extreme force, another protester and a police officer have died during the demonstrations, and that there are thousands of injured people, and that some activists have suffered a loss of a limb. Those who were injured in the events, or need legal support have applied to civilian society organizations, and continue to do so.
Human rights organizations consider it their urgent and unavoidable duty to report and condemn rights’ violations that take place during such events. This reporting or condemnation does not necessarily mean that the reasons for such actions are perceived as legitimate or illegitimate by human rights organizations. In this sense, human rights organizations defend not the protests themselves, but fundamental rights such as the right to life, access to health services, freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The only criterion valid for human rights organizations is, as stated above, whether universal human rights standards are being respected or not. In this regard, the identity of the victim is irrelevant.
Within the scope of the rights registered in the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, the organizations sensitive to human rights which have presented their signatures below are concerned both about the interruption of the rights separately indicated above, and the broadcast and publication of insubstantial and accusatory reports targeting human rights organizations.
In this context, we, the institutions who have signed this document, announce to the public that we demand,
1. The protection of the right to peaceful assembly within the framework of universal human rights standards,
2. For peaceful and non-violent thoughts expressed via visual or social media not to be subjected to criminal proceedings,
3. An urgent halt to police violence, and an immediate stop to disproportionate and excessive force against demonstrators,
4. The immediate release of those who were detained only because they used their rights to peaceful demonstration and assembly,
5. And an independent and effective investigation into these violent events, and the urgent initiation of the judicial process regarding those responsible.
Human Rights Association (İHD) Headquarters and all branches
Mazlum-Der (The Organization of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed People) and all branches
The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT)
Turkish Medical Association (TTB)
Helsinki Citizens Assembly Association for Solidarity with Refugees (Mülteci-Der)
Human Rights Research Association (İHAD)
Human Rights Agenda Association (İHGD)
7 June 2013