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On the occasion of the Human Rights Day 2018, the Platform for an Independent Judiciary in Turkey , composed of the four major European associations of judges ( The Association of European Administrative Judges (AEAJ) , The European Association of Judges , Judges for Judges and The “Magistrats Europeens pour la Democratie et les Libertes” (MEDEL) drafted a letter about Turkey ,inviting all governmental leaders and parliaments to support Turkey to re-install the rule of law and to follow its obligation to respect fundamental human rights.
With a press release in front of European Court of Human Rights, HRD members and volunteers drew attention to the human rights violations in Turkey. Human Rights Defenders invited the European Court of Human Rights to take an effective initiative.
THE PRESS STATEMENT OF “HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS” IN HUMAN RIGHTS DAY, 10TH DECEMBER 2018
70 years ago, on the 10th of December 1948, “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights” was adopted by the UN General Assembly. Both, the “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” and the “European Convention on Human Rights” envisages and embraces the basic and fundamental rights and freedoms of people, which should be under the protection of the States and above all of them, of the United Nations.
As we observe the 70th Anniversary of this significant and historical Day, we unfortunately do witness that this protection is not granted to everyone, and those who should serve this goal are acting inconsequently. The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) which we apply to, does not fulfill its function in accordance with its purpose of establishment. The Court did not develop court practices within its range of authority to prevent human rights’ violations and ignores millions of “human rights violations” which can even be seen with bare eyes.
In Turkey, human righs violations today became massive, and each day these violations become irretrievable. The Turkish Government, or rather the notorious “Erdogan Regime” as it is now, has become a despotic rule, comparing to the much promising State which it was a half a decade ago, had strong relations with European Union. The Turkish Government, turned its back on reforms related to human rights and further democratization efforts starting from December 2013 swiftly and became a literal dictatorship after 15 July 2016. Right now, it is impossible to talk about even the very existence of fundamental rights and freedoms. Everything is at the mercy of one person, and the basic human rights are unfortunately ignored.
These human rights violations in Turkey are reflected in several international reports such as “2017 report of Human Rights Watch”, “2017 report of Office of The United Nations High Commissioner For Human Rights”, “the 2018 report of Amnesty International”, “the 2018 report of the Platform of Peace and Justice regarding the children rights’ violations in Turkey”, “the 2018 report of European Parliament”.
Although, that in those international reports, as well as the some verdicts such as the verdict of the local court in England and thousands of petitions written by the victims of the Erdogan Regime it is expressed that THERE IS NO SUCH RIGHT AS FAIR TRIAL, the ECHR ignores the facts and turns a blind eye on the human right violations in Turkey.
So, what exactly is happening in Turkey in terms of human rights violations? In Turkey, the rights which are ensured by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights are violated. Such as:
1- In Turkey, the most fundamental right of people, “the Right to live” is taken away,
-In Eastern and South Eastern provinces, tens of villages and towns are destroyed, tens of thousands of Kurdish people were forced to leave their homes
-Trustees are assigned to the provincial offices that are affiliated to the Ruling Party to ignore the will of the local people
-In prisons, thousands of convicts and prisoners’ right to live is taken away, by systematic tortures and depriving their rights of healthcare
-The people of the “Hizmet” movement and any other civil society organizations which seem to be opposing are targeted by hate speeches and witch hunts, therefore, their right to live is taken away from them.
-Tens of politicians of the opposition, hundreds of journalists are kept in prisons because of their political believes.
2- The “Right to Work” is stolen.
-With decree-laws, more than 130.000 people (whose victimhood is explained detailly in the 2018 report of Amnesty International) are dismissed from public duties, of them 33.500 teachers, 7.000 health workers, 31.500 security workers, 6.000 academics, 39.000 public servants, 13.000 soldiers.
-More than 100.000 employees from the companies (schools, universities, study houses, hospitals, foundations, federations, unions, media institutions) which are closed by confiscation or assigning trustees are dismissed from their jobs. They are prevented to find other jobs in different places by the State further. They are left to a “civil death”.
-The workers are working under extreme and worst conditions (e.g. the construction of Istanbul airport) and unfortunately many workers are facing death every day. Child workers are being employed and current unions cannot say any critic.
3- In Turkey, the Right of Property of people is arbitrarily taken away.
-In Eastern and Southeastern provinces, the houses and lands which were evacuated because of the suspect of terror are confiscated and people were prevented to return to their homes
-All the assets of the institutions and persons of Hizmet movement are usurped and made available to the supporters of the regime.
-With arbitrary decisions, the environment is being damaged, and the ecologic balance is destroyed, the lands of people are confiscated with low costs (e.g. the project of Kanal Istanbul)
4- The “Right of not being subject to torture” of people is being violated
-Torture, which conflicts with human dignity became again a routine in Turkey. All the opposition receives systematic torture. (This situation is indicated clearly in the March 2018 report of the UN Human Rights)
-More than half of all journalists who are in prison in all over the world, 259 people, are in Turkish prisons right now. These people are treated as terrorists and tortured.
5- The “Right to assembly and demonstration” is being violated.
-Hundreds of NGO’s are closed and their assets confiscated including unions (e.g. AksionIs and Cihansen)
-The fundamental right of democracy to demonstrate and meet is cancelled by the governors who became the political tools of the government
6- In Turkey, the “Right to fair trial” is consciously destroyed
-4500 prosecutors and judges who constitute one third of all current judges and prosecutors in Turkey are exported from the duty. Nearly all of them are issued arrest warrants
-Currently 3500 prosecutors-judges and 1500 lawyers in Turkey are in prisons.
-The verdict of ECHR is not applied (e.g. the Selahattin Demirtaş decision of ECHR)
-The verdicts of the Constitutional Court are not applied by the local courts (e.g. the decision of the Constitutional Court about journalist Mehmet Altan and Şahin Alpay)
-The people who are labeled as “spies, terrorists” are evacuated in few days when states got involved (pastor Brunson, journalist Deniz Yucel etc.) but the convicts who suffer from cancer are not even sent to the any medical treatment.
-The judges who are supposed to be neutral and independent do not consider it harmful to announce their political beliefs, which are mostly in line with the ruling Erdagan Regime.
-The bill of indictments is not prepared. The people stay in prisons for months but cannot even learn the accusations against them. (Osman Kavala is kept in prison for a year without preparing his bill of indictment)
-There are arbitrary long imprisonments. The judges are afraid to evacuate people.
-743 babies are kept in prisons along with their mothers.
–As the reassurance of all fundamental rights and freedoms, the “RIGHT TO FAIR TRIAL” is removed, there is no guarantee for any rights in Turkey now.
Today, the only HOPE against the crimes of hate, discrimination and torture committed by the oppressive regime in Turkey is the existence of law. The notorious “Erdogan Regime” commits crimes against the universal principles of law by its acts of crimes against humanity. It deprived the Republic of Turkey which was loyal to the international agreements it has signed from law and democratic values. This should not be allowed.
The ECHR in Europe, which was established to protect the human rights was an institution that set an example to the world. But the court is criticized by prestigious legal experts and institutions because of the decisions it made and the decisions it didn’t make. This delay of ECHR to decide is expressed in international conferences and meetings often. Letters are sent to the court by renowned law circles and the attitude of the court is examined in universities by being subjects to theses. The ECHR cannot hide behind the excuse of not exhausted domestic remedies anymore. About tens of files which are issued in 2014, processed in all phases and finalized, for which there is no option of domestic remedies now, the court hesitates to decide. Its hesitation to decide in many files in which the human right violations are proved makes the impression as if it negotiated with the “Erdogan regime” in the world. And this strengthens the critics saying that the ECHR stopped being an independent and neutral court and became a political institution. All the reputation of the court gained in years is somehow being destroyed. The ECHR cannot run away from its responsibility regarding what is happening in Turkey and its attitude will definitely remembered in history. We as the volunteers of “Human Rights Defenders” call the ECHR to take responsibility about what is happening in Turkey in accordance with its historical mission and previous acts and to fulfill its duty.
The ECHR SHOULD NOT BECOME PARTNERS IN CRIME of the crimes committed by the “Erdogan Regime”. We as the volunteers of “Human Rights Defenders” warn ECHR and invite them to fulfill their duty on the occasion of “World Human Rights Day”.
“Human Rights Defenders” closely follows the human rights violations in Turkey. It carries the files of the victims to the international authorities such as the ECHR, UN Human Rights Committee and UN Committee against Torture to continue its legal struggle. Even there are sufferings left because of the victimizations, the law will eventually prevail, the ones who sided with law will eventually prevail.
As the volunteers of “Human Rights Defenders”, we would like to arouse attention of the institutions of International Law, the ECHR being first, to the human rights violations in Turkey on the occasion of 10th December World Human Rights Day. We are calling those institutions to duty and asking them to take effective initiatives in order to say STOP to the unlawfulness in Turkey.
Muharrem Gençtürk was an Associate Professor of Commercial Law at Akdeniz University in Antalya. As public employees, both Mr. Gençtürk and his wife were dismissed from their jobs under Statutory Decree No. 672 issued on 1 September 2016, which resulted in the dismissal of around 50,000 people.
Mr. Gençtürk was taken into custody on 29 July 2016. Mr. Gençtürk’s house was reportedly raided by three police officers from the Antalya Police Department at around 5.30 a.m. with the whole family present. The police officers did not allow him to take any clothes or money with him.
Mr. Gençtürk was initially held at Serik Police Station in Antalya for 18 days. During the first five days of his detention he was not allowed to talk to anyone, including his lawyer. When he was finally allowed to meet his lawyer, they could reportedly only speak in the presence of a police officer and in front of a voice recorder.
On 15 August 2016, a prosecutor reportedly interrogated Mr. Gençtürk, and he was released on parole. However, after less than half an hour, he was suddenly taken back into custody, and this time he was arrested by the Antalya Fifth Criminal Court of Peace. Since then, he has been held at Antalya High Security Prison.
Mr. Gençtürk is charged with membership of a terrorist organization under article 314 of the Turkish Criminal Code due to his supposed use of the ByLock application and due to the fact that his children attended schools related to the Gülen organization.
Using Bylock App is within scope of Freedom of Expression:
In fact, it appears to the Working Group that even if Mr. Gençtürk did use the ByLock application, an allegation that he denies, it would have been mere exercise of his right to freedom of expression. To this end, the Working Group notes that freedom of opinion and freedom of expression as expressed in article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are indispensable conditions for the full development of the person; they are essential for any society, and indeed, constitute the foundation stone for every free and democratic society.
The Working Group concludes that the arrest and detention of Mr. Gençtürk based upon allegedly using Bylock is violation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
Violation Regarding Right to Defense:
Mr Gencturk was able to see his lawyers only for 20 minutes a week, UN WGAD concludes that weekly meetings of a mere 20 minutes’ duration with lawyer cannot be said to provide an opportunity to adequately prepare for a defence in such a complex case as terrorism charges. The Working Group therefore considers that there has been a serious breach of article 14 (3) (b) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The Working Group also notes that the failure to allow the defence to examine the secret witnesses bears the hallmarks of a serious denial of equality of arms in the proceedings and is in fact a violation of article 14 (3) (e) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
Violation Regarding Right to Fair Trial:
The Working Group points out that there was a strong appearance of lack of impartiality and independence on the part of the court, as it put questions to Mr. Gençtürk such as “Are you going to say something different from the others?” and the prosecutor reportedly fell asleep during the trial.
The Working Group also notes the submission by the source that in response to the application for release made on behalf of Mr. Gençtürk, the decision delivered by the judge was a copy-and-paste decision with exactly the same decision and reasoning as was delivered to other defendants, with only the names being different. The Government had the opportunity, but has failed, to address this allegation. The Working Group notes that a failure to provide a reasoned judgment in the case of Mr. Gençtürk constitutes a breach of article 14 (5) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as it effectively prevents prospective appellants from enjoying the effective exercise of the right to appeal.
Violations within Scope of Category V has been committed, in other saying the deprivation of liberty constitutes a violation of international law on the grounds of discrimination based on birth, national, ethnic or social origin, language, religion, economic condition, political or other opinion, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or any other status, that aims towards or can result in ignoring the equality of human beings.
The Working Group renders the following opinion:
The deprivation of liberty of Muharrem Gençtürk, being in contravention of articles 8, 10 and 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of articles 2 (3), 9 (3), 14, 19 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is arbitrary and falls within categories I, II, III and V
The Working Group requests the Government of Turkey to take the steps necessary to remedy the situation of Mr. Gençtürk without delay and bring it into conformity with the relevant international norms, including those set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The Working Group considers that, taking into account all the circumstances of the case, the appropriate remedy would be to release Mr. Gençtürk immediately and accord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, in accordance with international law.
The Working Group urges the Government to ensure a full and independent investigation of the circumstances surrounding the arbitrary deprivation of liberty of Mr. Gençtürk and to take appropriate measures against those responsible for the violation of his rights.
The Working Group requests the Government to disseminate the present opinion through all available means and as widely as possible.
Mestan Yayman, is a Turkishnational, was a Vice-Governor of the city of Antalya. He was suspended from hisduty as a civil servant on 29 August 2016 and was subsequently dismissed fromhis job under Statutory Decree No. 672, issued on 1 September 2016, under whichabout 50,000 people were dismissed.
On 1 September 2016, he was taken
into custody, Mr. Yayman was not allowed to see his attorney for the first five
days of his detention. When he was finally allowed to meet her, they could
speak only in the presence of a police officer and in front of a voice
Mr. Yayman was subsequently released
on parole, at around 8.30 p.m., however, the following day, on 8 September
2016, Mr. Yayman was taken into custody and was arrested based on statements
from one individual.
10 months after his arrest, he was accused of using the ByLock
application in December 2014, based on an intelligence report. Mr Yayman was
sentenced to seven years and six months. The court noted that Mr. Yayman was
included on the Turkish intelligence service’s list of names, the so-called
arrest list, but it failed to show the content of his supposed chats on ByLock.
The Working Group notes the failure on behalf of the
Government to show how the mere use of such a regular communication application
as ByLock by Mr. Yayman constituted an illegal criminal activity. While the
Government has argued that the tribunal requested and obtained the record of
the accused’s conversations through the Bylock system, it failed to specify how these conversations could have been
construed as criminal activity. Noting the widespread reach of the
Gülen movement, as documented in the report of the Council of Europe
Commissioner for Human Rights, “it
would be rare for a Turkish citizen never to have had any contact or dealings
with this movement in one way or another”.
Using Bylock App is within scope of Freedom of Expression:
It appears to the Working Group that even if Mr. Yayman did use the
ByLock application, an allegation that he denies, it would have merely
constituted exercise of his right to freedom of opinion and freedom of
expression. Article 19 (2) of the International Covenant on
Civil and Political Rights protects all forms of expression and the means of
their dissemination, including all forms of audiovisual, electronic and
Internet-based modes of expression (para. 12).
Attending religious meeting is within scope of right to freedom of
peaceful assembly and association:
In relation to Mr. Yayman’s
attendance of the meetings of the Gülen group in 2013, the Working Group once
again observes the failure on behalf of the Government to specify how mere
attendance at peaceful and, at that time, legitimate meetings breached the
right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association and was contrary to
articles 21 and 22 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
The Working Group therefore concludes that the arrest and detention of Mr.
Yayman resulted from his exercise of the rights guaranteed under articles 19,
21 and 22 of the Covenant, falling under category II.
Request for Independent Expert Report was denied and The Government did
not address these allegations:
The Working Group notes the allegation by the source that during Mr.
Yayman’s trial, the judge denied his request for another expert statement as to
whether the ByLock application was found on his telephone. The
judge also allegedly denied witnesses on behalf of Mr. Yayman the right to be
heard. The Government did not address these allegations directly, although it
had the opportunity to do so.
The Right to Legal Counsel was violated:
The Working Group notes that
prior to the trial proceedings, Mr. Yayman was denied the possibility to meet
with his lawyer in private, as a guard with a tape recorder was always present
during those meetings. In this respect, the Working Group notes that, as
indicated by the Human Rights Committee in its general comment No. 32, the
right to communicate with counsel, as enshrined in article 14 (3) (b) of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, entails the requirement
that legal counsels should be able to meet their clients in private and to
communicate with the accused in conditions that fully respect the
confidentiality of their communications (para. 34). That right was denied to
Mr. Yayman. Moreover, the meetings with his lawyer were restricted to a mere 20
minutes, a time period so short that it cannot be said to satisfy the
requirements of article 14 (3) (b). In addition, once the trial proceedings
commenced, Mr. Yayman was prevented from speaking to his lawyer before both
trial hearings, which is a further violation of article 14 (3) (b) of the
International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
The Working Group also recalls
that, as the Human Rights Committee stated in its general comment No. 32,
article 14 (3) (e) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
provides for the right to have witnesses admitted that are relevant for the
defence and to be given a proper opportunity to question and challenge
witnesses against them at some stage of the proceedings (para. 39). The Working
Group thus considers that there have been serious prima facie breaches of Mr.
Yayman’s rights under article 14 (3) (e) of the Covenant as well.
The Right to Fair Trial was violated:
In addition, the Working Group observes that the trial judge made
requests for the defence to keep defence short and that the court heard the
testimony from a key witness in the absence of both Mr. Yayman and his lawyer. The
Working Group especially notes that the Government has failed to provide any
reasons as to why the key witness was heard without the presence of Mr. Yayman
and his lawyer. This is a further serious denial of Mr. Yayman’s rights under
article14 (3) (e) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
The Working Group therefore
concludes that there has been partial non-observance of the international norms
relating to the right to a fair trial in the case of Mr. Yayman, as he was
denied the right to adequate time and facilities to prepare for his defence and
was prevented from presenting evidence and examining witnesses on his behalf.
The Working Group finds that this partial non-observance was of such gravity as
to give his deprivation of liberty an arbitrary character (category III).
Violations within Scope of Category V has been committed, in other
saying the deprivation of liberty
constitutes a violation of international law on the grounds of discrimination
based on birth, national, ethnic or social origin, language, religion, economic
condition, political or other opinion, gender, sexual orientation, disability,
or any other status, that aims towards or can result in ignoring the equality
of human beings.
In all those cases, the Working
Group has found the detention of the individuals concerned to be arbitrary and
it thus appears to the Working Group that a pattern is emerging whereby those
who have been linked to the group are being targeted, despite never having been
active members of the group or supporters of its criminal activities. The
Working Group therefore considers that the detention of Mr. Yayman was
arbitrary since it constitutes discrimination on the basis of political or
other opinion or status and falls under category V.
The Working Group renders the
Thedeprivation of liberty of Mestan Yayman, being in contravention of articles 3,9, 10, 19 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of articles9, 14, 19, 21, 22 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and PoliticalRights, is arbitrary and falls within categories I, II, III and V.
TheWorking Group requests the Government of Turkey to take the steps necessary toremedy the situation of Mr. Yayman without delay and bring it into conformitywith the relevant international norms, including those set out in the UniversalDeclaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil andPolitical Rights.
TheWorking Group considers that, taking into account all the circumstances of thecase, the appropriate remedy would be to release Mr. Yayman immediately andaccord him an enforceable right to compensation and other reparations, inaccordance with international law.
TheWorking Group urges the Government to ensure a full and independentinvestigation of the circumstances surrounding the arbitrary deprivation ofliberty of Mr. Yayman and to take appropriate measures against thoseresponsible for the violation of his rights.
The Working Grouprequests the Government to disseminate the present opinion through allavailable means and as widely as possible.
On the evening of 15 July 2016, elements within Turkey’s armed forces attempted a violent coup. The coup attempt was quickly thwarted as thousands of people took to the streets and state forces overpowered the coup plotters.
Almost 300 journalists in Turkey, a member state of the Council of Europe and a candidate country to the European Union, are languishing behind bars or facing outstanding arrest warrants, a report released by the Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has revealed.
“The crackdown on press freedom in Turkey is far worse than you may think,” said Abdullah Bozkurt, the President of the SCF.
Suspicious deaths and suicides on the rise in Turkey with 54 people in last 8 months
Against the background of massive crackdown on critics and opponents in Turkey and widespread torture practices in detentions and prisons, 54 people were reported to have lost their lives, most under suspicious circumstances and under lock-up in the last eight months, a report released by Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) has revealed.
This report highlights crackdown on Kurdish political movement in Turkey
The Kurdish political movement has come under intense pressure from the current government of autocratic President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is bent on marginalizing the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) with the help of a military crackdown and abuse of the criminal justice system.
This report focuses on the dismissal of public servants, among them police officers, teachers, soldiers, doctors, judges, prosecutors and academics, by executive decree issued under the powers of the state of emergency in Turkey, which continues 10 months after it was first introduced.