8 steps to build peace: FIDH calls on the Turkish government to act

Press release
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Re : 38th FIDH congress – 8 essential measures

The International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organizations in Turkey – the Human Rights Association (İnsan Hakları Derneği, IHD) and the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (Türkiye İnsan Hakları Vakfı, TIHV) are pleased to hold FIDH upcoming 38th World Congress in Istanbul from May 23 to May 27.

A major international event every three years, the FIDH World Congress will focus on “Political transitions and human rights: challenges and experiences”, which is a relevant issue for Turkey in its current situation. FIDH 38th World Congress will be exceptional with the participation of one hundred and eighty human rights organisations from one hundred and thirty countries. Also we are proud to count with, namely, Mister President and Madam Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court as our guests of honour.

On the eve of this important event, we are particularly sensitive to the fact that Turkey stands at a decisive step, in the context of the peace negotiations with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (Parti Karkerani Kurdistan-PKK). Our organizations have been following the conditions surrounding the ceasefire agreement and take note with appreciation of the significant moves being taken by both parties to the conflict.

We also welcome the adoption on 11 April 2013 by the Grand National Assembly of Turkey a fourth set of legal reforms of the judicial system (hereafter the Fourth Judicial Package). While some of these provisions respond to some requests expressed by the Turkish civil society, we are also aware that all of its expectations have not been met. The human rights situation in Turkey remains in sometimes blatant contradiction with its international commitments as some of the Council of Europe and United Nations’ recommendations remain unanswered.

The provisional release of 22 trade-union members on April 10, and of 5 human rights defenders from IHD on April 16 is a further evidence of the authorities’ willingness to overcome such contradiction with concrete measures. We urge you to adopt more of such measures, starting with further releases of, and withdrawal of charges against human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists.

Indeed further important measures remain to be decided to contribute to a decisive change in the human rights situation in Turkey that we call for. In this regard, we are particularly sensitive to Turkey’s guaranteeing freedom to defend human rights and the right to legal defense, two activities which have been seriously impeded in the recent past [1], in spite of their special protection under international law [2].

In this context, our organizations are presenting you with 8 essential measures in accordance with Turkey’s international obligations, to guarantee the respect of freedom of expression, to ensure that the fight against political violence respects human rights, to release prisoners who are detained arbitrarily, and to ensure victims’ rights to justice, truth and reparation and to guarantees of no repetition.

Guarantee the respect for freedom of expression in conformity with international law

Significant measures have been adopted to develop multilingualism in Turkey, allowing the use of the Kurdish language in the media, as well as in court. In addition, the provisions of the Fourth Judicial Package that limit the crime of “terrorist propaganda”, is a positive step, even though it does not fully ensure the freedom of expression as guaranteed by international law.
Our organizations urge you to go further, especially in order to respond to the condemnation of Turkey by the European Court of Human Rights and by the United Nations Human Rights Committee:

1. Repeal criminal provisions on the denigration of the Turkish nation, Turkish ethnicity and governmental institutions (Art. 301 of the TPC), defamation and insults (Art. 125 of the TPC);

2. Reform and limit exclusively the ban on speech and advocacy of hatred and hostility (“inciting the population to enmity or hatred and denigration”, Art. 216 of the TPC) to the acts of inciting to violence; and

3. Effectively repeal all criminal provisions related to conscientious objection (Art. 318 of the TPC), beyond the content of the Fourth Reform Package.

Ensure that the fight against political violence complies with human rights standards, and ensure that the definition of the crime of “terrorism” in domestic law complies with international law

Our organizations are sensitive that the Fourth Judicial Package limits the scope of propaganda of “terrorism” (Art. 220/6 of the TPC) by introducing the intention to commit violence. However this positive step itself does not ensure compliance with international law which requires to further amend the definition of “terrorist” acts themselves.

Accordingly we urge you to further :

3. Amend the definition of acts of “terrorism” (as it now stands in Article 1 of the Anti- Terrorism Law) and the offence of belonging to an “armed organization” (Article 314 of the TPC) in order to ensure compliance with the recommendations by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism [3].

Release all those who are arbitrarily detained for non-violent speech or association

Many human rights defenders, trade unionists, journalists, intellectuals, lawyers, student leaders, political activists and other civil society figures have been charged, prosecuted, and, in some cases, sentenced on the basis of the aforementioned articles of the Turkish Penal Code and Anti-Terrorism Law. This was again the case recently of pianist and composer Fazil Say and of sociologist Pinar Selek. The use of these provisions led to the condemnation of Turkey by the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Committee.

Since the aforesaid penal provisions have been repealed or amended, it is important to release the people who have been arrested and drop the charges against them.

According to the recommendations made by the Special Rapporteur on the protection of human rights while countering terrorism, only those who have committed, or attempted to commit, acts of physical violence shall be prosecuted on the proper legal basis and in conformity with the requirements of the right to a fair trial.

Accordingly we urge you to :

4. Release all persons who have been arrested in application of the aforesaid articles of the TPC and drop the charges against them. We draw your attention especially to the situation of three IHD leaders, members of FIDH who are, at present in prison and/or being prosecuted:
Muharrem Erbey – former president of the Diyarbakır section, Reşit Teymur –officer in the Siirt section,
Mensur Işık – former president of the Mus section;
while 8 others who, while released, remain prosecuted:
Orhan Çiçek and Mehmet Şerif Süren, members of the Board of Aydın section Veysi Parıltı – officer in the Mardin section,
Şaziye Önder – representative of Doğubeyazıt,
Bekir Gürbüz – former president of the Adıyaman section,
Osman İşçi - Executive Board Member
Ali Tanrıverdi – President of the Mersin section
Dilek Hoş – officer in the Adana section
We consider that these human rights defenders should be released and the charges against them dropped for Turkey to comply with its obligations under international law.

Fight against impunity and ensuring the rights to justice, truth, reparation and to guarantees of no repetition

Our organisations welcome the provisions of the Fourth Judicial Package that remove the statute of limitations for acts of torture (Art. 94 of the TPC). This provision can contribute to the fight against impunity and further deter the perpetration of such crimes, especially if it also applies to crimes of the past.

Moreover, other provisions would favor victims of violence’s to access all their rights, guarantee the non- repetition of international crimes and support efforts to consolidate peace. In this regard, we urge you to:

5. Ratify the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court and incorporate it into domestic law;
6. Authorise the re-opening of all criminal investigations-without time limitation- deemed unsatisfactory by the European Court of Human Rights, and
7. Ensure that the withdrawal of statutory limitations also applies for crimes of the past, and withdraw statutory limitations for other international crimes against civilians of which members of the public forces are suspected.

Based on our experience in different countries and regions, we are convinced that adopting such measures would usefully contribute to building a peaceful future and to consolidating the unprecedented transition phase that Turkey seems to have entered into.

In any case it would express your commitment that law and practice are brought to compliance with Turkey’s international commitments.

On the eve of FIDH and one hundred and eighty human rights organisations’ World Congress in Istanbul, this is our hope and our call to you.

With our high consideration,

Yours sincerely,

Souhayr Belhassen
FIDH President

Öztürk Türkdoğan
IHD President

Metin Bakkalcı
HRFT Secretary General

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