Turkey & Azerbaijan Crackdown On Dissent Using COVID-19 As Excuse.

In its annual report, Amnesty International said that, both the Turkish & Azerbaijani government’s have been using the COVID-19 pandemic to crackdown on dissent with violence that runs counter to their human rights obligations.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds in the region, many governments seem more interested in cracking down on dissent than protecting public health,” said Heather McGill, Amnesty International’s Central Asia Researcher.

Turkish government’s crackdown on dissent continued in 2019 despite the end of the two-year-long state of emergency in July 2018, meanwhile, six men, accused of links to the Gülen movement who went missing in February, suspected of having been the victims of enforced disappearance, resurfaced in police detention five to nine months after their disappearance, Amnesty International said. “The six men were reported by their families to have lost weight, be very pale and nervous. The men reportedly did not disclose what had happened to them during the months they were disappeared.”

“Thousands of people were held in lengthy and punitive pre-trial detention, often without any credible evidence of their having committed any crime recognizable under international law. There were severe restrictions on the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, Amnesty International said,” the report said.

People perceived critical of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, in particular journalists, political activists and human rights defenders, were detained or faced trumped-up criminal charges, the rights group said.

In a similar case, Human Rights Watch urged Turkish authorities on Wednesday, to urgently carry out an effective investigation into credible testimony from a man in pretrial detention that state agents forcibly disappeared him for nine months and tortured him. The rights group has examined 16 such cases since 2017 and Turkish authorities have yet to effectively investigate any of them, according to HRW.

“On 19 March, in his Novruz Bayrami (New Year) greetings to the nation President Ilham Aliyev announced “new rules” for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic, including “isolating” and “clearing” Azerbaijan’s already fragmented political opposition,” the report noted. “High- profile arrests of political and civil rights activists under spurious charges have followed the president’s pronouncement, including the arrest of opposition activist Tofig Yagublu on charges of hooliganism and human rights defender Elchin Mammad on charges of theft.”

The report describes the facts of violations of the rights of not only ordinary citizens, but also journalists and human rights activists to prevent the spread of information. The governments of Azerbaijan and Russia held accountable social network users, journalists and medical workers, who openly pointed out the authorities’ mistakes in taking measures against the pandemic, the report said.

Per Amnesty International

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