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About Us

Who We Are?

Human Rights Defenders e.V. (HRD) is a non-profit association working to defend human rights and support persecuted people around the world, with a special focus on Turkey. HRD e.V. was founded in Germany by Turkish lawyers, former bureaucrats and entrepreneurs who found political asylum in Germany and Europe.

HRD e.V. prepares reports on human rights violations, establishes contacts with other human rights NGOs and advocacy groups, government agencies, and regional and international organizations. HRD e.V. provides legal advice to affected persons, initiates legal proceedings on their behalf, and drafts official petitions and communications to the competent organs of the United Nations and to the relevant European institutions.

Vision and Mission

HRD e.V. believes in a world where impunity for international crimes is no longer tolerated. A commitment to hold perpetrators of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, sexual violence, torture, and enforced disappearances accountable and to provide victims with the opportunity to seek justice and reparations can deter future crimes. Our ultimate goal is to support victims in their quest for justice.

Our Platforms

In addition to our day-to-day human rights work, we have 4 platforms that specialize in specific areas. These are
1) the Hand in Hand Platform (rights of people with disabilities),
2) the Victim Labor Platform (focus on labor rights and trade unions),
3) the Victim Educators Platform (focus on education) and
4) the Anti-Persecution Platform (focus on persecuted and excluded groups).

What We Do?

HRD e.V. helps victims obtain justice by using two different legal channels, either in combination or independently: criminal law and human rights. In both cases, individual victims have suffered severe abuse and the crimes are similar in nature. However, while criminal law deals with individual acts, human rights deals with the responsibility of the state.

Most cases handled by HRD are first dealt with at the national level, applying the criminal laws of the respective country. If this is not sufficient, HRD turns to the international level, e.g. to the European Court of Human Rights or to the competent organs of the United Nations. Our goal is to prove that the state was unwilling or unable to solve the crime and provide truth and reparation to the victims.

Advocacy for us means: arguing for a cause, raising awareness and influencing decision makers. HRD advocates for the rights of victims of international crimes, their families and their defenders, and ensures that their voices are heard by national authorities and international bodies.

To this end, HRD uses a combination of methods, such as research, reports, and meetings with decision makers. We seek partnerships with local actors, NGOs and/or lawyers.

HRD e.V. regularly publishes reports, reviews and other publications. They are usually produced to inform the general public, but may also be aimed at influential stakeholders (special rapporteurs, government members and officials, regional institutions, etc.) to support HRD e.V.’s lobbying efforts.

As HRD e.V., we advocate that it is not enough to try cases that would only bring justice to individual victims: what is needed is systemic change for all victims of the same crimes. In countries like Turkey, where serious human rights violations are committed and impunity is the norm, the only way to permanently improve the situation of victims is to use all available legal options, not only at the national level, but also at the regional and international levels.

Our Focus

Crimes against humanity

Crimes against humanity refer to specific crimes committed as part of a large-scale attack against civilians, regardless of nationality. They include murder, torture, sexual violence, enslavement, persecution, disappearances, etc. As HRD e.V., we make the voices of those affected heard by bringing their cases before national courts as well as regional and international human rights mechanisms such as the United Nations Human Rights Committee and the European Court of Human Rights. Specifically, we provide free legal assistance to victims of torture from the preparation and filing of their case through the trial and enforcement of decisions. HRD e.V. fights against impunity by filing criminal and compensation lawsuits against perpetrators of crimes against humanity. These lawsuits are brought before international bodies and, in accordance with the principle of universal jurisdiction, also before national courts.

Arbitrary detentions

Arbitrary detention is a violation of the right to liberty. It is defined as the detention and deprivation of liberty of a person outside the limits of national law or recognized international standards. International treaties can be used to guarantee the right to liberty when national laws protect the person only incompletely or partially. The right to personal liberty is defined in Article 9 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which lists the conditions under which an arrest is arbitrary, in particular when 1) the reasons for the arrest are unlawful, 2) the victim was not informed of the reasons for the arrest, 3) the victim's procedural rights were not respected, 4) the victim was not brought before a judge within a reasonable time. HRD e.V., in cooperation with local lawyers, supports victims in their efforts to obtain justice at the national and supranational level. Unfortunately, it is rare for victims of arbitrary detention and their relatives to obtain justice in their own country, as the crime often occurs in a climate of persecution.

Push-Backs

Push-backs are state measures in which fleeing and migrating people are sent back - usually immediately after crossing the border. In doing so, they are deprived of the opportunity to file an asylum application or to have its legality reviewed by the courts. Among other things, push-backs violate the European Convention on Human Rights' ban on collective expulsion. As HRD e.V. we have put our focus on the Greek-Turkish border and are mainly following the situation of Turkish citizens who are trying to escape the repressive measures of the AKP government in Turkey. In addition, as an association, we support several push-back victims who are now in the EU, including a German national who was forcibly repatriated from Greece to Turkey.

Our Team

The Chairman

Dr. Hüseyin Demir is a professor in law. He obtained his PhD in Law at the University of Leeds, England and worked as a lecturer at various universities for a long time. He also worked as a high-ranking official in the Ministry of Youth where he was responsible for supporting and implementing youth projects. He has been very active in civil society engagement and has a leading role in various associations. His areas of expertise are human rights, asylum law and civil society.

Secretary General

After graduating from Ankara University Faculty of Law in 1997, Mustafa Yaşar Demircioğlu completed his master's degree at the same university and his doctorate at Selçuk University. Between 1998-2013, he practised his profession as a member lawyer of the Ankara Bar Association. He has also worked as an academic in the fields of constitutional and administrative law at Kırıkkale University, Bilecik University, Melikşah University, Turgut Özal University and İpek University. He has been working at HRD Legal Unit since July 2021. He has been conducting legal studies on torture, migration, asylum, pushback, radicalisation, religion-politics relations.

Member of the Executive Board

Hamza Demir, born in 1966, began his professional career with an education in the field of economics. He has served in various countries such as Turkey, Romania and Poland as a training manager in different companies. This gave him the opportunity to get to know different cultures and perspectives. Hamza Demir not only stands out as a professional personality, but has also emerged as an active figure in the field of civil society. He has held leadership positions in organizations committed to human rights, the environment and business people in the countries where he has worked. In this way, he has emphasized the importance of contributing to society and improving the world. Hamza Demir, married and father of two, also places great importance on family life. He enjoys spending quality time with his family and making wonderful memories.

Member of the Executive Board

Muhammet Simsek received his education in Computer Science, Biology, and Law at the University. He has a master's degree in Pedagogy. He is married and a father of two children. Currently, he lives in Germany. He was elected as a member of the City Council of Samsun in the local elections held on March 28, 2004. About 1.5 years later, he resigned and started his career in the civil service. He served in various departments of the Ministry of Justice. He also volunteered in various civil society associations. Currently, he works in a laboratory in Germany and provides voluntary counseling in the areas of human rights and law.