Skip to main content

Press releases Special Procedures

UN experts urge Turkey to adhere to its human rights obligations even in time of declared emergency

Human rights in Turkey

19 August 2016

GENEVA (19 August 2016) – A group of United Nations human rights experts urged today the Turkish Government to uphold its obligations under international human rights law, even in the current time of declared emergency following an attempted coup.

The experts’ call comes as Turkey’s invocation of Article 4 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) enters into effect, following the Government’s proclamation of a state of emergency. The derogation provision in Article 4 allows States to temporarily relax some of their obligations under the Covenant under certain narrow conditions. Turkey signed the ICCPR in 2000 and ratified it in 2003.

“The invocation of Article 4 is lawful only if there is a threat to the life of the nation, a condition that arguably is not met in this case”, the experts noted. “Even in situations that meet this high threshold, Article 4 establishes limits to how much a state may deviate from its obligations under the Covenant”, they added. 

“One cannot avoid, even in times of emergency, obligations to protect the right to life, prohibit torture, adhere to fundamental elements of due process and non-discrimination, and protect everyone’s right to belief and opinion,” the experts underscored.

“The derogation provision under Article 4 does not give a carte blanche to ignore all obligations under the ICCPR,” the experts said. “Even where derogation is permitted, the Government has a legal obligation to limit such measures to those that are strictly required by the needs of the situation.”

Since the attempted coup on 15 July, and in particular since the declaration of state of emergency on 20 July, Turkish society has seen an escalation of detentions and purges, in particular in the education, media, military and justice sectors.

In addition, allegations of torture and poor detention conditions have been raised following legislative provisions that enable wide and indiscriminate administrative powers that affect core human rights.

“While we understand the sense of crisis in Turkey,” the experts said, “we are concerned that the Government’s steps to limit a broad range of human rights guarantees go beyond what can be justified in light of the current situation”.

In recent statements, UN human rights experts have urged the Turkish Government to uphold the rule of law in time of crisis, voicing their concern about the use of emergency measures to target dissent and criticism.

“Turkey is going through a critical period. Derogation measures must not be used in a way that will push the country deeper into crisis,” the experts stressed.

On 21 July 2016, the Turkish Government notified the UN Secretary-General of its invocation of article 4 of the ICCPR, and that the derogation involved obligations under Articles 2/3, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 17, 19, 21, 22, 25, 26 and 27 of the ICCPR (check the Convention: The action was effective on 2 August. Prior to this, Turkey had already notified its similar derogation from the European Convention on Human Rights.


(*) The experts: Ms. Karima Bennoune, UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights; Mr. Chaloka Beyani, UN Special Rapporteur on internally displaced persons; Ms. Urmila Bhoola, UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences; Mr. Heiner Bielefeldt, UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief; Ms. Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary execution; Mr. François Crépeau, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants; Mr. Pablo de Greiff, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion of truth, justice, reparation and guarantees of non-recurrence;  Mr. Alfred de Zayas, The Independent Expert on the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order; Ms. Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing; Mr. Michel Forst, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; Mr. Léo Heller, UN Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation; Ms. Rita Izsák-Ndiaye, UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues; Mr. David Kaye, UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression; Mr. Maina Kiai, UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association; Mr. John Knox, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment; Mr. Juan E. Méndez, UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; Ms. Mónica Pinto, UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers; Mr. Mutuma Ruteeree, UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance; Ms. Dubravka Šimonović,UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences; the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention; the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances; and the Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries;

The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms. Special Procedures mandate-holders are independent human rights experts appointed by the Human Rights Council to address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. They are not UN staff and are independent from any government or organization. They serve in their individual capacity and do not receive a salary for their work. Learn more, log on to:

UN Human Rights, Country Page – Turkey:

For more information and media requests, please contact Ms. Azin Tadjdini (+41 22 917 9400 / [email protected] or write to [email protected])

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts:
Xabier Celaya, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+ 41 22 917 9383 / [email protected])  

For your news websites and social media: Multimedia content & key messages relating to our news releases are available on UN Human Rights social media channels, listed below. Please tag us using the proper handles:
Twitter: @UNHumanRights
Facebook: unitednationshumanrights
Instagram: unitednationshumanrights
Google+: unitednationshumanrights
Youtube: unohchr