Turkey’s crackdown on freedom of expression highlighted in new report

Protesters hold pictures of jailed journalists during a demonstration outside the courthouse in Istanbul. A recent report highlights Turkey’s repeated violations of human rights. (AFP/File)
Protesters hold pictures of jailed journalists during a demonstration outside the courthouse in Istanbul. A recent report highlights Turkey’s repeated violations of human rights. (AFP/File)
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Updated 01 January 2021

Turkey’s crackdown on freedom of expression highlighted in new report

Turkey’s crackdown on freedom of expression highlighted in new report

ANKARA: A Dec. 29 report from Expression Interrupted highlights Turkey’s repeated violations of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, to which it is a signatory party, and its failure to comply with rulings handed down by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
Of all 47 members of the Council of Europe, Turkey has the most violations of freedom of expression under Article 10 of the Convention. Of the 845 judgments ECtHR delivered between 1959 and 2019, 356 were against Turkey — almost five times as many as against the distant runner-up, Russia.
Turkey also tops the list of rights violations pertaining to all articles of the constitution. “Between 1959 and 2019, 3,645 of the 22,535 judgments delivered by the Court were against Turkey, making it the country against which the ECtHR has delivered the most judgments,” the report reads. Out of 5,231 cases currently pending execution by signatory parties, 689 of them are against Turkey.
The report also noted: “One of the most important reasons for these huge numbers is non-implementation of the previous judgments of the ECtHR, which sets the stage for repetition of similar violations in the future,” and emphasized that broad interpretation of acts including “insulting the president” or “denigrating the Turkish nation/state” have been used as a basis for arrests and convictions, in violation of ECtHR rulings.
The jailed Kurdish politician and former co-chair of Turkey’s Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtas, and philanthropist and businessperson Osman Kavala, are two of the highest-profile prisoners in the country, despite rulings from the ECtHR calling for their immediate release. The report suggests that their continued imprisonment is designed “to punish and discourage the exercise of freedom of expression.”
“The speed with which Turkish authorities implement judgments such as those regarding Kavala and Demirtas show what kind of commitment Turkey has to the founding values of the Council of Europe and the European Convention on Human Rights,” Massimo Frigo, senior international lawyer at the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), told Arab News.
Last week, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) once again urged Ankara to comply with the ECtHR’s ruling that Demirtas should be released immediately.
Turkey is one of the founding members of the Council of Europe and ratified the European Convention on Human Rights in 1954. “Under Article 46 of the Convention, Turkey is bound to implement the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights at a domestic level,” human rights lawyer Beril Morel told Arab News.
According to Morel, Turkey has a particularly poor track record when it comes to the implementation of judgments rendered on politically sensitive cases. “The refusal of Ankara to recognize the violations in Demirtaş’ and Kavala’s cases are a recent example,” she said.
Morel cited “the actions of security forces; the lawfulness of detention; domestic violence; freedom of thought, conscience and religion; freedom of expression and information; and freedom of assembly and association” as the topics likely to “top the ECtHR agenda concerning Turkey.”
“Turkey amended its Constitution to recognize the supremacy of international law over its domestic law. Article 90 of the Constitution expressly provides that international conventions concerning human rights, ECtHR being one of these, prevail over domestic law in case of a conflict between those,” Morel said. Therefore, Turkey should implement the ECtHR’s judgements. However, she pointed out, the ECtHR can only intervene in the domestic implementation of its rulings by member states if the matter is brought to its attention with a second application and a violation of Article 46 of the Convention is found.
“We are leaving 2020 behind with a heavy heart. Turkey’s human rights and rule-of-law crisis has deepened further,” Ayse Bingol Demir, a human rights lawyer and co-director of the Turkey Human Rights Litigation Support Project, told Arab News.
According to Demir, the ongoing detention of Kavala and Demirtas — despite ECtHR rulings — will be an important feature of the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers’ agenda in 2021.
“Turkey will likely face increasing pressure and sharper decisions from the Committee,” she said. “As it did in the case of Kavala in 2020, I expect the Committee to conclude that the ongoing detention of Demirtas constitutes a continued violation of the European Court’s rulings,” she said.
“The Committee will also focus on arbitrary and unlawful detentions; the frequent use of anti-terror legislation to target the legitimate activities of human rights defenders and opposition politicians; and the lack of independence and impartiality of the judiciary,” she continued. “If the ruling government decides to insist on its current policy of denial, 2021 will certainly be a more difficult year in its relations with the Council of Europe.”


Noon aims to attract more Saudi shoppers with rewards program

Noon aims to attract more Saudi shoppers with rewards program
Updated 20 sec ago

Noon aims to attract more Saudi shoppers with rewards program

Noon aims to attract more Saudi shoppers with rewards program
  • Its “noon VIP’ package aims to attract more customers through cash back discounts, speedier deliveries and prioritized customer service

DUBAI: Online shopping platform noon.com has launched a new rewards program in Saudi Arabia as it seeks to grow its market share in the Kingdom.
Its “noon VIP’ package aims to attract more customers through cash back discounts, speedier deliveries and prioritized customer service.
The pandemic has created a boom in online shopping across the region as the closure of malls has forced the public to make more purchases online. Now online retails giants from noon to Amazon are competing for regional market share.
The loyalty scheme has also been rolled out to the UAE and Egypt.
Any customer who has made six or more purchases on the platform over the last 12 months will be automatically enrolled in the loyalty scheme, noon said in a statement.
It costs SR33 for three months or SR120 for one full year’s membership.

 


Ali Mabkhout keeping the legend of UAE’s Gold Generation alive

Ali Mabkhout keeping the legend of UAE’s Gold Generation alive
Updated 3 min 50 sec ago

Ali Mabkhout keeping the legend of UAE’s Gold Generation alive

Ali Mabkhout keeping the legend of UAE’s Gold Generation alive
  • With 17 goals to his name, the striker is leading from the front as Al-Jazira hunt the Arabian Gulf League title

Only seven minutes into the 2015 AFC Asian Cup quarter-final, the ball drops over the shoulder of Ali Mabkhout on the right edge of the penalty area.

In one movement the Emirati striker unleashes a sensational volley into the Japanese net and the UAE are in the lead. Mabkhout does not celebrate, out of respect for the passing of the Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud earlier that day.

The epic encounter at Stadium Sydney in Australia would go into extra time and penalties, from which the UAE would emerge victorious and progress into the semifinal against the host nation.

The match remains arguably the high point of the UAE’s second “Golden Generation” of players raised by Mahdi Ali, and Mabkhout would end up the tournament’s top scorer.

Collectively and individually, things would never hit those heights again for all involved that day.

Except perhaps for Mabkhout.

Mahdi Ali would eventually depart his job as UAE head coach after the national team’s fortunes plateaued. UAE golden boy Omar Abdulrahman’s mooted move to a European team never happened and injuries have massively disrupted his career in recent years. Ahmed Khalil would be crowned 2015’s Asian Footballer of the Year but inconsistencies continued to plague him since as they have throughout his career.

All the while, Mabkhout has kept on producing the goods.

This season he has been simply unstoppable as he has led Al-Jazira to a major assault on the Arabian Gulf League title. Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Shabab Al-Ahli leaves the Pride of Abu Dhabi top of the table, two points ahead of Baniyas with seven matches left.

In the AGL’s list of top scorers, Mabkhout sits alone, with 17 goals from 19 matches. In second place, with 16, is his UAE national team colleague Fabio De Lima, the Emirati-nationalized Brazilian. But you’d have to go down all the way to 21st on the list, with five strikes, to find the next UAE-born player, Al-Jazira team-mate Khalfan Mubarak.

It is testament to Mabkhout’s caliber that he continues to mix it up with the best of the AGL’s foreign imports and still come out on top.

Apart from being plentiful, Mabkhout’s goals have been decisive.

In perhaps the most important match of the seasons so far, Mabkhout’s double ensured a 3-0 win for Al-Jazira at defending champions Sharjah. From challengers, the Abu Dhabi club were were now clear leaders and favorites.

On Feb. 5,  Mabkout scored a hat trick in the 5-1 away win against Al-Dhafra. In  Al-Jazira’s next match, the comprehensive 6-0 win at Ittihad Kalba, he remarkably repeated the feat with another treble. From Friday, Jan. 29, he scored in six straight matches, until the run was needed on Saturday.

Apart from his goals, Mabkhout’s leadership qualities have grown year on year, and his understanding with the gifted Mubarak is one of the most promising in Emirati football, both at domestic and international level.

An AGL title this season would rank among Mabkhout’s greatest achievements, paving the way for another assault on the AFC Champions League next year. He already has two league titles to his name, in the 2010-11 and 2016-17 seasons, and President’s Cup winners medals in 2011 and 2012.

At international level he, like his young teammates, caught the eye at the 2012 London Olympics, won the 2013 Gulf Cup, and came to the world’s attention with a stunning 2015 AFC Asian Cup. In the latter two, he finished as tournament top scorer with five goals.

In the aftermath of their heroics in Australia, interest in Mabkhout and Abdulrahman hit a peak, with the Al-Jazira striker linked with a move to Germany.

It never materialized, as it never did for Abdulrahman either. With Mabkhout turning 31 later this year, it unlikely it ever will, and for player and fans perhaps that is no bad thing.

But Mabkhout continues to excel at home, and should he steer Al-Jazira to what is looking like an increasingly likely AGL title this season, there would still be the little matter of attempting to steer the UAE to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. It will be a tall order.

One thing is for certain, if the UAE are to stand any chance at all of qualifying for the second time ever, and first time since 1990, to football’s biggest stage, they will need their talisman firing on all cylinders. Just as he has been all season.


Al-Nassr to appeal FIFA decision to compensate former player Giuliano

 Al-Nassr to appeal FIFA decision to compensate former player Giuliano
Updated 8 min 38 sec ago

Al-Nassr to appeal FIFA decision to compensate former player Giuliano

 Al-Nassr to appeal FIFA decision to compensate former player Giuliano
  • The Riyadh club is already facing a three-window transfer ban from previous case

Saudi Professional League (SPL) club Al-Nassr have announced that they will be appealing a FIFA ruling calling on the club to pay €45 million ($53.5 million) to their former player Giuliano Victor de Paula after the player cancelled his contract for non-payment of salary, according to Saudi newspaper Arriyadiyah.

The Brazilian striker, who currently plays for Turkish club İstanbul Başakşehir, claims that he was not paid a year’s worth of wages, but Al-Nassr’s announcement revealed that the Riyadh club’s board is confident that the fine will be overturned or at the very least reduced significantly.

Having received legal advice on the matter, Al-Nassr’s point of contention is that according to FIFA’s regulation, payment of the full contract’s value is only carried out in the case of the player remaining at the club for its entire duration and not when it is canceled by one of the parties.

According to Arriyadiyah, a letter from FIFA’s dispute settlement department was sent to the club on Feb. 18 confirming Giuliano’s case against the club, but that the matter remains open to an appeal.

It is not the only time that Al-Nassr have found themselves in trouble with FIFA for financial matters in recent times.

FIFA recently slapped Al-Nassr, runner-up in the Saudi Pro League last season but currently in seventh place, with a ban that potentially leaves the club unable to strengthen their squad in the next three transfer windows.

The punishment had come after Al-Nassr signed Maicon Pereira Roque on loan from Galatasaray in 2019 and made the deal for the Brazilian defender permanent last August. The Turkish club complained to FIFA that they had not received the full transfer fee from the nine-time Saudi champions.

In December, FIFA informed Al-Nassr, in a letter seen by Arab News, that they had to pay the Istanbul club the outstanding amount of €1.1 million and an extra €300,000 in fines.

Though the due date for the payment passed last month, the club can still escape the fine if the payment is made within FIFA’s regulations.

A FIFA official told Arab News: “In all our decisions, if a club fails to pay the amount ordered by FIFA or CAS (the Court of Arbitration for Sport) within 45 days of the decision, the club serves a three-window transfer ban until payment is made.”


Saudis dominate Forbes Middle East’s 2021 list of top CEOs

Saudis dominate Forbes Middle East’s 2021 list of top CEOs
Updated 16 min 15 sec ago

Saudis dominate Forbes Middle East’s 2021 list of top CEOs

Saudis dominate Forbes Middle East’s 2021 list of top CEOs
  • Aramco chief Amin Nasser emerged as this year’s number one
  • Saudi Arabia had the most entries at 18, followed by the UAE and Egypt with 16 entries each

DUBAI: Saudi executives dominated Forbes Middle East’s ranking of the best corporate leaders in the region, with Aramco chief Amin Nasser emerging as this year’s number one.

The Middle East counterpart of American business magazine Forbes recognized business icons “making significant contributions to the region’s economies.”

Some 100 CEOs from around the region were featured, and 24 nationalities were represented. Saudi Arabia had the most entries at 18, followed by the UAE and Egypt with 16 entries each.

Four out of the top five chief executives were from the oil and gas industry.

Aramco’s Nasser, who was ranked first, was followed by Sultan Ahmed Al-Jaber of the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company.

SABIC’s Yousef Abdullah Al-Benyan, Kuwait Petroleum Corporation’s Hashem Hashem and Sonatrach’s Toufik Hakkar were also in the top 10.

Executives from the banking and financial services sector accounted for almost a third of the names, with Abdulla Mubarak Al-Khalifa of Qatar National Bank emerging as the leader in the field.

The magazine used various measures to come up with the list, including company size, individual accomplishments, as well as the executives’ impact on the wider industry.


Restructuring: How can Saudi companies progress from COVID survival mode?

Restructuring: How can Saudi companies progress from COVID survival mode?
Updated 18 min 15 sec ago

Restructuring: How can Saudi companies progress from COVID survival mode?

Restructuring: How can Saudi companies progress from COVID survival mode?
  • Alvarez and Marsal has been advising companies in the Kingdom on how best to pivot out of the tough times

Alvarez and Marsal (A&M) is a New York-headquartered global professional services firm known in the industry as “the turnaround guys.” Legend has it that co-founder Bryan Marsal was one of the first people called when Lehman Brothers looked set to become be the first major casualty of the global financial crisis in 2008.

A&M was founded in 1983 and now has representatives in 25 countries, including Dubai, from where it is now attempting to help Middle Eastern clients restructure their businesses after the challenges of 2020. As demand for its services grows, the company is aiming to increase its staff in the Middle East to 150 over the next five years, from ten in 2015.

According to Paul Gilbert, head of A&M’s Turnaround and Restructuring practice in the Middle East, two of the most important steps management can take to overcome crises are to take total control over cash flow and to put in place a 12-month contingency plan to help the business stay afloat. Gilbert is currently working on the restructuring of Abu Dhabi’s NMC Health and has previously advised on rescue proceedings for South African Airways.

“Continue with cash preservation and cost control. Talk to your suppliers and landlords — those guys are suffering too, but they still want your business to come out of the other end,” Gilbert told Arab News. “These guys want to talk to you because they want to know that you’re going to be around at the end of it to help them rebuild their own businesses.”

According to Dr. Saeeda Jaffar, managing director and head of the Middle East at A&M, the pandemic has impacted companies in three major ways. There were companies that understood what was going on immediately and took “advantage of discontinuity” to find ways to succeed. Those companies already had a digital business model that supported their shift to digital, or had reacted nimbly to acquire a digital solution, so the transition was not as drastic as it has been for others.

The second group went into what Jaffar calls “hibernation mode,” by opting to minimize losses by decreasing costs, conserving cash, restricting loans and balances and generally steering away from bold decisions until the uncertainty passes.

The companies in the third group, Jaffar said, had weak business models and were unattractive to investors, so were bound to face difficulties.

One of the sectors that has suffered most has been retailers, according to Gilbert. “We’ve helped them across Europe with negotiations with landlords, with other creditors and helped them pivot from bricks-and-mortar stores to digital, and concentrated on helping them retain their customer base for when they come out,” he said. “Many of them are coming out of that period with a balance sheet that is either extremely stretched or has been restructured in a way that a number of lenders have now had to take equity back.”

Other sectors, including travel, tourism, aviation and real estate, have suffered tremendous losses during the pandemic as well.

In the Kingdom, Jaffar said that domestic tourism numbers exceeded expectations at the end of 2020. “I think that’s a trend that will continue. That’s very much in line with the Vision 2030. We continuously see that there is a lot of development happening in the Kingdom, new resorts, new places, new developments that help continue to grow the tourism sector,” she said.

Jaffar believes it will take longer for aviation to recover than many industries, perhaps three to four years, she said.

On the other hand, technology — which Jaffar said has been the “backbone” for many other sectors — and health care — which has witnessed considerable investment in pharma consumables — have both prospered during the pandemic. A trend that Jaffar expects to continue in the near future.

Both A&M consultants suggest that as companies emerge from the pandemic, many will be looking at potential consolidation. Therefore, they said, mergers and acquisition activity will see a spike in 2021.

“There are a lot of strategic investors from the region that have learned over the last few cycles that investing now, when the valuations are more affordable, is probably a good time in terms of financial attractiveness,” said Jaffar.