OPEN LETTER TO THE PRIME MINISTER OF TURKEY, Mr. BULENT ECEVIC

17/12/2001
Press release

Your Excellency, -

The Observatory for the protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the FIDH and the OMCT, has been informed that the Human Rights Association of Turkey (IHD) office in Bingöl was raided by the Police, on 30th November 2001.

According to the information received, during the raid, the Police confiscated application forms filled by victims of human rights violations in the province, monthly reports, IHD Headquarter bulletins and press statements by the Head of the Branch. In addition, staff members were threatened and insulted by the Police, who attempted to arrest Mr. Rýdvan Kýzgýn, the President of the Branch, and two other staff members, Ms Fadime Becerikli and Sabih Arslan.

Mr. Rýdvan Kýzgýn also received a statement signed by the Governor of Bingöl dated 30 November 2001, informing him of the official decision to suspend him from the chairmanship of the Branch, in accordance with Article 45 of the Association Law. This article states that- «-All premises, buildings and annexes [...]
are subject to inspection at any time by the Interior Ministry or the most senior local representative of government. [...] During inspections carried out by Governors and local Governors or inspectors, members of the Special Associations Supervision Group of the Interior Ministry [...] may temporarily remove from office any chairperson or member of the management council or relevant personnel who-:-1.Declines to permit a safe or cash box to be checked [...], respond to questions, permit access to the headquarters, buildings or annexes-[...]-».

Your excellency,

The Observatory is concerned by the fact that this raid follows the organisation of a training programme on Women and Violence by Members of the Women Committee of the IHD Branch on 25 November 2001, on the occasion of the international day on fight against violence against women. During this event, the Head of
the Security Branch of the Bingöl Directorate for Security, together with a Police commissioner and two policemen, came to the Branch building, in order to attend and videotape the meeting. The Head of HRA Branch told them that the meeting was only addressed to HRA members and not open to the public, and that consequently, it could not be recorded in the context of the law N° 2911 related to the organisation of meetings and demonstrations.

We are further concerned by the fact that IHD Bingöl Branch, which reports on human rights violations in Bingöl province, has been raided four times since 12 April 2001, the day the Branch officially opened. On 17 October 2001, the Association seal was confiscated, which made the Association unable to collect membership fees and donations.

Moreover, the Observatory has been informed that on 3rd December, a letter was sent to the IHD Branch in Batman (South- East of Turkey) signed by the deputy Governor of Batman, informing that the seven members of the Board of the Branch were suspended from office.
The reason given by the local authorities is that several members of the IHD branch in Batman have been the subject of judicial proceedings in the past and that some of them have been sentenced. However, according to the law, this reason is not sufficient for the dismissal of the leaders of the association.
According to article 312 of the Turkish Penal Code notably, the leaders of an organisation can only be dismissed after refusing to exclude some members who have been sentenced and after having received a specific order by the Ministry of the Interior to exclude them. In the present case, the leaders of the IHD branch in Batman have never been informed by the authorities that some of their members had been condemned and they were never requested to exclude them out of the organisation. As a consequence, IHD has written a letter to the Batman local authorities to ask them to cancel their decision.

The Observatory is very concerned by these new repressive measures against human rights defenders in Turkey and also by the denial given by the Turkish authorities to the request of Amnesty International to open an AI membership organisation in Turkey.

The Observatory wishes to request from you the adoption of the following recommendations:

cancelthe decision to suspend Mr. Rýdvan Kýzgýn from his function as IHD Bingöl Branch President, and give back the branch’s material to its members as soon as possible-; cancelthe decision to suspend the seven members of the Board of IHD Branch in Batman-; reconsider the decision to refuse the establishing of an Amnesty International membership organisation-; iv. put an end to any kind of harassment against Turkish human rights defenders-and ensure that they be allowed to carry out their work without obstacles; v. abide by the provisions of the Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders adopted on the 9th of December 1998, by the U.N. General Assembly ("Declaration on the right and responsibility of individuals, groups and organs of society to promote and protect universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms"), particularly, Article 1: «everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels» and Article 3-: «-Domestic law consistent with the Charter of the United Nations and other international obligations of the State in the field of human rights and fundamental freedoms is the juridical framework within which human rights and fundamental freedoms should be implemented and enjoyed and within which all activities referred to in the present Declaration for the promotion, protection and effective realization of those rights and freedoms should be conducted-»-;

More generally, the Observatory requests that the Turkish authorities ensure the respect of fundamental human rights and freedoms in accordance with the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and international and regional human rights instruments ratified by Turkey.

Hoping that you will take these requests into consideration,

Sincerely yours,

Sidiki KABA
President of the FIDH

Eric SOTTAS
Director of the OMCT

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