Letter to the government concerning the forcible repatriation of 289 Turkish citizens

05/10/2017
Open Letter

H.E. Mr. Mamnoon Hussain
President
Aiwan-e-Sadr
Constitution Avenue
Islamabad

H.E. Mr. Shahid Khaqan Abbasi
Prime Minister
Prime Minister’s Office
Constitution Avenue
Islamabad

H.E. Mr. Khawaja Muhammad Asif
Foreign Minister
Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Constitution Avenue
Islamabad

Paris, 5 October 2017

Re: Forcible repatriation of 289 Turkish citizens

Excellencies,

FIDH (International Federation for Human Rights) and its member organization, the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, write to express their deepest concern regarding the situation of 289 Turkish citizens currently located in Pakistan who face forcible repatriation to Turkey.

The 289 Turkish citizens have faced forcible expulsion from Pakistan and repatriation to Turkey since 20 November 2016. Despite the suspension of the initial deportation order by the Pakistani courts, we understand that the Pakistani government is again considering their deportation. The 289 Turkish citizens are teachers associated with the Pak-Turk Schools, along with their families.

The 289 Turkish citizens are currently under protection from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). They have been granted ‘Asylum Seeker Certificates’, which specifically state that they should be protected from forcible return to a country where they claim to face threats to their life or freedom. These certificates are not due to expire until November 2017.

The forcible repatriation of the 289 in breach of their UNHCR protection would likely expose them to the risk of persecution or other serious human rights abuses on the part of the Turkish authorities. The risk is particularly high in light of the climate of repression in Turkey following the July 2016 failed coup. The repression has targeted all voices critical of the government. Teachers, academics, human rights defenders, and journalists have been routinely subjected to arbitrary arrests and acts of judicial harassment, including investigations and prosecutions, on the grounds of their alleged links to the coup organizers. Credible allegations of torture and other forms of ill-treatment against those who were arrested or detained also surfaced.

As a result, their forcible repatriation would amount to a serious violation of international law. In particular, it would breach Pakistan’s obligations under Article 3 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, which stipulates that “[n]o State Party shall expel, return ("refouler") or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he would be in danger of being subjected to torture.”

We are also aware that at 2:00am on 27 September 2017, the former head of the Pak-Turk Schools, Mr Mesut Kacmaz, was abducted from his home in Lahore along with his wife and two daughters. All four are among the 289 Turkish citizens who face forcible deportation. According to an eyewitness to the incident, the abductors were plainclothes police officers. The police have refused to register any First Information Report.

We respectfully call on you to order the relevant authorities to guarantee the protection of the 289 Turkish citizens, and refrain from returning them to Turkey in contravention of Pakistan’s obligations under international law.

We further call on you to demand the authorities continue to explore resettlement options for the 289 Turkish citizens to third countries that have a track record of upholding human rights and providing the necessary protection to asylum seekers.

Finally, we urge you to instruct the authorities to conduct a full, effective, and impartial investigation into the abduction of Mr Kacmaz and his family and disclose their fate or whereabouts.

We thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Yours sincerely,

Dimitris Christopoulos
FIDH President

Najam U Din
Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Director

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