Turkey – worsening situation hunger strikers; new comprehensive union report on State of Emergency

Semih Özakça appearing before Court 28/9/2017

(8 October 2017) It is over 200 days that they refuse to eat and take only certain liquids. Their lawyers have been arrested just before their first trial hearing. They are still locked up and Mrs. Gülmen has been hospitalized.  There are an estimated 220.000 people in jail or detention while the capacity is 180.000. With this level of overcrowding conditions are bad.

The trade union confederation DISK published a new report on the situation after the coup 15/16 July 2016. It includes information on the way the Turkish authorities have used the State of Emergency Laws to curtail freedom of expression and union activity, and to govern without the democratic control of the Turkish Parliament. It has taken away the opportunity of workers in the military and police to form and be member of trade unions. Municipalities can now intervene and forbid strikes that impact on urban transport. The report details the attack against working men and women in the private and public sector. There is a long list of actions violating the rights of workers in Turkey. The report includes a detailed overview of the 135.000 workers dismissed from the public sector. 

The ITUC and ETUC has informed the affiliates, employers and governments in an open letter again for the reasons of not supporting the holding of the ILO Regional meeting in Turkey. The confederations write to be “astonished at the lack of support from governments and business concerning the violence and oppression leveled against workers, including the dismissal by emergency decree of more than 125,000 public servants, academics, teachers and journalists, with thousands of them incarcerated. In addition, the livelihoods of both owners and personnel of more than 950 companies have been affected.” The Turkish government has labelled most of these terrorists without evidence. “ Freedom of association both for workers and for business has been stripped away. We have documented the arrests and imprisonment of union members taking part in protests, speaking out on social media or campaigning against the anti-democratic measures inherent in the referendum, and have presented such to the ILO. Indeed thousands of dismissals, house raids and even armed attacks on union leaders represent everyday risks for trade unionists.”  (…)  “In a context where some worker representatives from the host country are denied freedom of association and freedom of expression, and face ongoing and large-scale victimisation, an ILO Regional Meeting cannot deal effectively with the shocking acts perpetrated by the very government that will be afforded a civility that defies reality. “

European Commissioner Thyssen did attend. She used the opportunity to highlight why ETUC and ITUC are not participating and asked the Turkish government to respect European and international standards. The EU Commissioner referred to the over 120.000 dismissed public service workers and their right to fair trial and process. A recent report of the Venice Commission on the rule of law of the Council of Europe of October 2017 is equally critical of the Turkish authorities.

To act:

Contributions remain welcome to the Solidarity Fund, established by ETUC and ITUC.  It will assist the defense of arrested, dismissed and suspended trade union members.

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