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Press briefing note on 1) Turkey, 2) Gambia & 3) Viet Nam

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:  Rupert Colville
Location:     Geneva
Date: 13 May 2016
Subjects:     1) Turkey, 2) Gambia & 3) Viet Nam

(1)   Turkey

We note the response of a Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson to the High Commissioner’s press release on Tuesday about the alarming reports of human rights violations in recent months in south-east Turkey, and in particular the statement that the Government of Turkey would be pleased to welcome a visit by the High Commissioner to the region.

The High Commissioner, as a consequence, on Wednesday sent a letter renewing our request to the Turkish Government’s for its formal agreement to allow a UN Human Rights Office team to have access to the country, in order to independently examine allegations of violations of international law, including conflicting and competing claims.

The High Commissioner emphasized that full and unhindered access for the UN human rights team to the affected population and locations, authorities, documentation and other relevant materials in south-east Turkey is essential for any credible fact-finding exercise. We are ready to send a team at the earliest opportunity and, in light of the statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, look forward to swift official confirmation that this mission will indeed be welcomed and fully supported by the Turkish authorities.

(2)      Gambia

We remain deeply concerned at the situation of dozens of protestors who were arrested during a peaceful rally on 14 and 16 April in the Gambian capital Banjul. We have received worrying reports that some of them, who are still in detention, have been tortured. There are also reports that their family members have not been allowed to visit them, and some have been denied access to medical care.

We urge the Gambian Government to release all those who have been arrested and detained for simply having exercised their rights to freedom of expression, opinion and assembly.

We also reiterate our call to the Gambian authorities to launch an impartial investigation into the reported death in custody of Solo Sandeng, Chairman of the youth wing of the opposition United Democratic Party (UDP) on 14 April.

Two other female opposition figures, Fatoumata Jawara and Nogoi Njai, who were also feared to have died, were found in custody – but reportedly in very bad condition.

We are also deeply worried about the situation of Alhagie Ceesay, Director of the Teranga FM radio station, who has been on trial for sedition and false information since July 2015. Ceesay has been hospitalized on several occasions for serious health problems reportedly due to torture and ill-treatment he has endured while in detention. He was last seen alive on 11 April. We urge the Gambian Government to clarify his whereabouts, ensure that he is not submitted to torture and ill-treatment, and guarantee that his right to fair trial is fully respected.

(3)      Viet Nam

We are concerned about the increasing levels of violence perpetrated against Vietnamese protesters expressing their anger over the mysterious mass deaths of fish along the country’s central coast. We call on the Government of Viet Nam to respect the right to freedom of assembly in line with its international human rights obligations
Last Sunday, authorities forcefully broke up demonstrations involving around 3,000 protesters in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Tear gas was used to disperse the protesters, and it was reported that about 300 people were beaten and arrested during the protests.

Some women and children were among those arrested and hurt.

All of those detained have since been released.

The demonstrations followed smaller rallies on 1 May in the same cities. About a dozen people were hurt during the protests, which are a rare occurrence in Viet Nam.

Since April, tonnes of dead fish have washed ashore along a 200-km stretch of coastline in Ha Tinh, Quang Binh, Quang Tri and Thua Thien-Hua Provinces. Protesters accuse a Taiwanese steel plant of being behind the fish deaths. However, the government has said the fish deaths were the result of a toxic algae bloom.

We urge the Vietnamese authorities to adopt legal and institutional frameworks that protect against environmental harm that interferes with the enjoyment of human rights, and ensure that all the persons negatively affected, in this case fishermen, have access to effective remedies.

ENDS

For more information or media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 9767 / rcolville@ohchr.org) or Cécile Pouilly (+41 22 917 9310 / cpouilly@ohchr.org )

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