October 6th, 2015
Dear Fellow Academics of Waseda University,
As scholars, lawyers, journalists, but especially as academics of Turkey, we are writing this letter to express our deepest concern about awarding President RecepTayyipErdoğan with an Honorary Doctorate in Law by your University.
Since the end of 2010, rule of law in Turkey is literally fadingdue to serious blowsby Erdoğan’s regime in two key pillars of democracy: 1) Interference in the impartiality and independence of the Judiciary; 2) Legislation of draconian laws that curb fundamental rights and freedoms.
These freedoms are enshrined in Article 10 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and Article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECtHR).
Prominent human rights organizations, such as the Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and international institutions working on democracy and rule of law, like the Freedom House have all criticized this political repression faced by the Judiciary in Turkey.
Turkey’s allies such as the US and the European countries, and international institutions to which Turkey adheres, such as the Organization for Cooperation and Security in Europe (OSCE), the European Union and the European Commission’s organs have all drawn attention,through reports and declarations, to the violations of the rule of law in Turkey.
Among these, to cite only the declaration issued by the Venice Commission on 20 June 2015;
[There is] “a pattern of interference with the independence of the judiciary in clear violation of European and universal standards:
-Judicial decisions and requests from prosecutors were not executed in violation of the law;
-Prosecutors were suddenly removed from cases prepared by them over a long period;
-Judges and prosecutors allegedly were arbitrarily transferred to other courts;
-Judges were dismissed for decisions taken by them;
-Alarmingly judges and prosecutors were even arrested for decisions taken by them.
In former Deputy Prime Minister Ali Babacan’s words, uttered this May, “If the [current] weak picture [with regard to the rule of law] continues, we will end up in a place where we long for the situation that we currently have, both in the areas of democracy and the economy. The rule of law is a fundamental necessity for prosperity and democracy, just as food and water.”
With two key pillars of democracy under attack, to cite again,independence of the judiciary and the rule of law, we believe that awarding President Erdoğan would simply amount to supporting an authoritarian regime and hence aggravating the current human rights crisis in Turkey.
True friendship and academic integrity would entail constructive criticism concerning the problems of rule of law, instead of rewarding of an Honorary Doctorate in LAW.
We academics in Turkey think that our fellow academics in Waseda are not aware of the fact that, in addition to the judicial problems, there also other serious violations of rights and freedoms in Turkey; inter alias, repression of the freedom of media and disproportionate use of force by security forces are commonly occurring. Moreover, mounting civilian casualties, including minors, due to excessive use of force by state’s security forces is particularly worrisome. Recently, terrifying graphic images have emerged: video of a young Kurdish man being dragged down tied to a police vehicle upon being killed (http://www.birgun.net/haber-detay/cansiz-bedenin-polis-araciyla-suruklenme-videosu-da-ortaya-cikti-91305.html), and video of special police teams presenting a pistol at the journalists’ head to prevent them from taking pictures (http://haberruzgari.com/video-galeri/41-silvanda-polis-gazetecinin-basina-silah-dayadi.htm#.VhO3PnrtlBc) .Authenticity of images are confirmed through declaration by the Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu that “Our interior ministry … will conduct a comprehensive investigation, not into the incident itself, but into the way in which this incident was reflected to the world“.
We urge our fellow academics ofWaseda University to be mindful of not violating their own ethical codesof scholarly responsibility, and not contributing to the ongoing human rights violations in Turkey.