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Rescind the ban on events by LGBTI organisations in Ankara

Turkey should guarantee the right to freedom of assembly of civil society groups and protect them against security threats
Strasbourg 20/11/2017
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Rescind the ban on events by LGBTI organisations in Ankara

In response to the ban of all lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and intersex rights groups (LGBTI) events in Ankara, Turkey[1] we express our indignation.

The ban which seems to apply to all LGBTI film screenings, theaters, panels and exhibitions, for an indefinite period, was allegedly imposed to protect public security, and the LGBTI community, against possible aggression of other groups. Authorities fear that some groups may be provoked by LGBTI events and take action against participants because of certain social sensitivities.

The Council of Europe standards and mechanisms promote and uphold the human rights of all, including the equal rights and dignity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex people (LGBTI).

With special reference to :

  • European Convention on Human Rights, art 10 (freedom of expression[2]) art 11 (freedom of association and assembly[3]) art. 14 (prohibition of discrimination[4])
  • Recommendation CM/Rec(2010)5 of the Committee of Ministers to the Member States on measures to combat discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Resolution 2048 (2015) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on Discrimination against transgender people in Europe
  • Resolution 1728 (2010) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe “Discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity”
  • Resolution adopted by the Human Rights Council of United Nations on 30 June 2016 32/2: Protection against violence and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity

We strongly deplore acts of discrimination committed against individuals because of their sexual orientation or gender identity in all Member States of the Council of Europe. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex persons should fully exercise universal human rights. Turkey, as a Member State of the Council of Europe, has committed itself to protect their fundamental rights according to the Treaties, Conventions, Resolutions Recommendations of the Council of Europe.

Prima facie, these decisions seem to be arbitrary and violate the long accepted international rule, established by the European Court of Human Rights, that sensitivities among opposing groups and even the threat of counter actions (so-called hecklers veto) can never be a reason for indefinite prohibition of freedoms guaranteed in the ECHR, especially the freedom of expression.  The unconditional prohibition in the whole of Ankara for an unlimited period of time, seems to be evidently disproportionate. Such decisions shrink the space in which civil society organisations operate and prevent them from functioning effectively

We call upon all authorities to rescind the ban on events by LGBTI organisations in Ankara and not to slide back in to the dark era where people have to hide who they really are. We plead to annul decisions which might incite and legitimise aggression against LGBTI persons, who once felt free and proud in Turkey. The authorities should protect LGBTI events against any potential security threats and not use them as a pretext or reason to prohibit them.

Simon Matthijssen, President of the Human Rights Committee

Anne Negre, Gender Expert

Anna Rurka, President of the Conference of INGOs

 

[1] Decision taken by Ankara public authorities, announced by the media on Saturday 18 November 2017 (Original version in Turkish, English Translation)

[2] case of Kaos GL v. Turkey

[3] case Bączkowski and Others v. Poland

[4] case of Bayev and Others v. Russia