National human rights institutions and the appropriation of human rights: the case of the human rights and equality institution of Turkey

Turan Kayaoğlu *, Devran Gulel

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In 2016, Turkey established its National Human Rights Institution (NHRI), the Human Rights and Equality Institution of Turkey (HREIT), seemingly to promote and protect human rights. However, this development coincided with a simultaneous erosion of human rights and freedom in the country. We employ the framework of human rights appropriation to explain this paradox. Our analysis reveals that the HREIT, a relatively unexamined case in NHRI literature, has adopted a statist and conservative approach toward human rights. Diverging from the conventional understanding that views NHRIs as mostly benevolent actors supporting state compliance with international human rights norms, we demonstrate how they may become tools for the authoritarian appropriation of human rights. This appropriation involves prioritising state security over human rights, embracing cultural relativism, and undermining women's and LGBT+ rights. The potential of NHRIs to advance illiberal interpretations of human rights should be a concern for human rights scholars and practitioners, particularly in the current global context of the increasing political influence of right-wing movements and populist governments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)354-374
Number of pages20
JournalAustralian Journal of Human Rights
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2023


  • national human rights institutions
  • appropriation of human rights
  • human rights in Turkey
  • human rights and equality institution of Turkey
  • European Union

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