Target: European Court of Human Rights
Goal: Investigate the unjustified arrests of students in Turkey.
This spring, the Turkish police have been arresting large numbers of students, accusing them of being members of or having ties to terrorist organizations. Yet, what spurred many of these arrests was not evidence of actual membership of terrorist organizations. Acts such as submitting an application for an internship at a newspaper which may have ties to an outlawed leftist group or making a banner that could be interpreted as being critical of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan are suspicious enough to be arrested in Turkey.
It is not the first time that Turkey gets tough on government critics. The government is ever vigilant of potential coups. The country has experienced three military coups since its creation in 1923. Another military coup is unlikely, but the government continues to keep a close eye on leftist organizations, journalists, artists, and now also students. The most recent high profile case of students getting arrested for actions that in most constitutions permit freedom of expression, is the arrest of Berna Yılmaz and Ferhat Tüzer. These two students displayed a banner reading “We want free education, we will get it,” during a meeting between Erdogan and Roma citizens back in 2010. According to Hürriyet Daily News, the students were previously acquitted because the previous prosecutor argued that their action was within the limits of freedom of expression. When this prosecutor was replaced, however, the students were arrested once again and sentenced to eight years and five months in prison.
Another recent case featured a student who applied but did not accept an internship at a newspaper with possible ties to an outlawed leftist group. She was left in the dark about the charges against her or any details surrounding her arrest. In many cases, students spend weeks, months, or years in prison before they learn of their fate.
Turkey is still a candidate to enter the European Union. The economic crisis in Europe will delay this process, as no countries can enter the EU right now, but the international community also recognizes that Turkey has a lot of work to do, especially around human rights. It is time, however, that the Council of Europe and one of its two main bodies, the European Court of Human Rights, start to more actively pressure Turkey to respect and protect the rights of its citizens. Sign the petition, and help urge the European Court of Human Rights to investigate the arrests of students in Turkey.
Dear Sir Bratza,
The Turkish police have been arresting large numbers of Turkish students over the last few months. While they were arrested on serious charges such as membership of terrorist organizations, these charges are more often than not completely unfounded. Students are arrested for displaying banners that hint at political change and for submitting applications to newspapers that allegedly have ties to outlawed leftist organizations.
Turkey is clearly threatening the rights of its students. Actions that even under the Turkish Constitution are considered within the limits of freedom of expression are being punished with lengthy sentences. The judiciary system is also failing by not informing those arrested of their charges, progress of their trial, and possible length of their sentence.
It is time that the European Court of Human Rights starts an investigation into these recent arrests of innocent students. If Turkey continues to be a potential candidate to join the EU, we must get a better picture of Turkey’s violation of basic human rights and pressure the government to protect the rights of its citizens. Please, initiate action against these unjustified arrests and protect the Turkish students from being punished for exercising their rights.
[Your Name Here]