New hearing of Turkish Academics

Press release

The International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisations in Turkey, the Human Rights Association (HRA) and the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) jointly with the International Support Committee of Jurists and Academics1, formed especially in favour of their colleagues, Mr. Ibrahim Kaboglu and Mr. Baskin Oran, are deeply concerned about the possible sanctions over both these Turkish academics.

On 10 April 2006, Mr. Kaboglu, former head of the Human Rights Advisory Council and Mr. Oran, member of this Council, will appear before the Ankara Penal Court of First Instance for the second time. Initially charged under Articles 216/I (« inciting hatred and enmity ») and 301/II (« humiliation of the courts authority ») of the new Penal Code, the second count of indictment was cancelled by the judge during the last audience, on 15 February 2006. Mr Kaboglu and Mr Oran still face prison sentence from one year to three years under Art.216/I.

Mr Kaboglu and Mr Oran have coordinated a report on behalf of the Human Rights Advisory Council on minority and cultural rights in Turkey, released in October 2004. The Human Rights Advisory Council was created in compliance with the Paris Principles relating to the status and functioning of national institutions for protection and promotion of human rights under the Law 4643 in 2001 and became effective in February 2003. Its creation constituted a step forward on the way of democratic reforms.

In 2004, a Minority and Cultural Rights Commission had been established under the presidency of Baskin Oran under the Human Rights Advisory Council headed by Mr. Kaboglu. A report on cultural and minority rights had been written by the chairman of this Commission, Baskin Oran. When the report, calling on Turkey to grant more rights to minorities as well as overhaul its approach to national identity, was released on 22 October 2004, it reportedly provoked a lively debate within Turkey. The President of the Human Rights Advisory Council has been put under pressure and been forced to resign. The case opened in February 2005 against Mr Kaboglu and Mr Oran by the Public Prosecutor has incited 9 members of the Council to resign. So, since February 2005 the Human Rights Advisory Council has stopped all its activities in violation of Law 4643, which is still in force.

Our organisations consider that the case launched against the author of the report and the chairman of the Council, claiming that their positions were untenable, constitutes a violation of Art. 15 (3) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights ratified by Turkey in September 2003, which stipulates that « the State parties (...) undertake to respect the freedom indispensable for scientific research (...) » as well as the Paris Principles adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1993 and which stipulate that the national institution « shall examine the legislation and administrative provisions in force, as well as bills and proposals, and shall make such recommendations as it deems appropriate in order to ensure that these provisions conform to the fundamental principles of human rights » (Principle 1.3 (i)).

This case is an additional example of infringements to the freedoms of opinion and expression and therefore constitutes flagrant violations of the international standards, in particular of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which was ratified by Turkey in September 2003, and of the Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which was ratified on 18 May 1954. Our organisations reiterate their deepest concerns regarding the multiplicity of legal actions aiming at punishing the freedom of expression and in particular, the frequent use of Article 301 of the revised Turkish Penal Code on the denigration of « Turkishness », the Republic, and the foundation and institutions of the State, to prosecute non-violent critical opinions2.

Our organisations urge the Turkish authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure the respect of freedoms of opinion and expression and in this regard, to amend the domestic legislation, particularly all the articles of the new Penal Code, which constitute a threat to freedoms of opinion and expression in violation of Turkey’s international legal obligations.

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