UN rights boss urges Turkey to uphold rule of law, allow monitors

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein at the opening of a new Council's session on June 13, 2016, in Geneva.
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein at the opening of a new Council's session on June 13, 2016, in Geneva.PHOTO: AFP

GENEVA (REUTERS) - The top United Nations human rights official urged Turkey on Tuesday (July 19) to uphold the rule of law in the wake of the failed coup and voiced "serious alarm" at the mass suspension of judges and prosecutors.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein also called for independent observers to be able to visit places of detention in Turkey to check on conditions, and for detainees to have access to lawyers and their families.

"I urge the Government of Turkey to respond by upholding the rule of law, by strengthening the protection of human rights and by reinforcing democratic institutions," Zeid said in a statement. "Those responsible for the violence must be brought to justice with full respect for fair trial standards," Zeid said. The presumption of innocence, due process and transparency in the administration of justice must be respected.

Turkey purged its police on Monday after rounding up thousands of soldiers in the wake of a failed military coup, and said it could reconsider its friendship with the United States unless Washington hands over a cleric Ankara blames for the putsch.

Nearly 20,000 members of the police, civil service, judiciary and army have been detained or suspended since Friday night's coup, in which more than 200 people were killed when a faction of the armed forces tried to seize power.

"Certainly we unequivocally condemn the attempted coup and any kind of military interference that is in breach of democratic principles, we deplore the loss of lives," UN human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a news briefing.

Zeid also voiced deep regret that high-level Turkish officials have suggested that the death penalty may be reinstated in Turkey, where it was abolished in 2004.

Zeid, noting that capital punishment had not been carried out there for 32 years, said: "Reintroduction of the death penalty would be in breach of Turkey's obligations under international human rights law - a big step in the wrong direction."