This attitude of the Government provided a short-term, but not a permanent solution and did not show a strong will to solve the problem at the root. The Third Judicial Reform Package, created assize courts in 11 regions, in application of article 10 of the anti-terrorism law, thus replacing the assize courts that existed in 8 regions, in accordance with the Article 250 of the Turkish Penal Code. This indicated that the special judicial system was not going to change and that it was gradually being institutionalised. Since the procedures do not conform to the principle of the rule of law, there are alarming violations of the right to a fair trial. The government has not abandoned its policy of “pressure through the judiciary”. The Third Judicial Reform Package did nothing more than replace a certain form of “entryism” into the legal system to facilitate the creation of other structures. These judicial practices are clear evidence of continued resistance to the jurisprudence established in the European Convention on Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights. The Fourth Judicial Reform Package, which was created to solve this problem, gave false hope but, as a result of public opinion, was sent to the Parliamentary sub-committee.
We would like to state that we are of the opinion that the talks between the PKK Leader Abdullah Öcalan and the State/Government, which seems started at end 2012, and seems that have reached a veritable negotiation phase are a very important development. As opposed to the poor record of violations in 2012, 2013 seems to be a period of some improvement as concerns the right to life; growing prospects of the democratisation of the Republic will unquestionably be decisive in the fight against these violations. There have been important developments; On 21 March, the day of the Newroz celebration in Diyarbakir, Abdullah Ocalan’s stress on political struggle rather than armed struggle and asks the PKK forces to withdraw from Turkey, and the PKK declared a ceasefire on 23 March. If this process continues, it will exert pressure on the government to improve the human rights situations, especially with regard to the right to life.
Progress in the democratic process to solve the Kurdish issue must entail due consideration of serious human rights violations committed in the past, justice, appropriate apologies to the victims and the creation of a truth commission. It would be useful to set up commission to monitor the withdrawal of the PKK armed forces beyond the Turkish borders, and activities should be organised to contribute to social peace building.
It should be recalled that a solution to the Kurdish problem will lead Turkey to face reality of the mass graves, investigate the fate of the enforced disappearances, explain extrajudicial executions, identify persons responsible for massacres (such as the recent Roboski massacre), return villages whose inhabitants were forced to leave and facilitate their return, eliminate the village guard system and clear the mined areas. In this process it is essential to create a truth commission and establish a reparatory justice system.
The 2012 Violations Report shows that the practices of the police state persist, but the peace process resumed in 2013 has increased hope.
VIOLATIONS OF THE RIGHT TO LIFE
An analysis of right to life violations shows that the right to life violations by police forces still continue. Amendment in the Law on Duties and Power of Police Forces in 2007 allows police forces to use their guns more arbitrarily and in fact, this arbitrariness is one of the main factors of increase in these violations. Given that the impunity policy still prevails, no improvement has been made in this field.
People still die in prisons and detention centres. Sick prisoners die in prison for not being treated that proves the insensitivity of the public authorities and their “let them rot” policy. Out of 411 sick prisoners, 124 need to be released immediately because of their life-threatening disease. Furthermore, 121 prisoners are very sick and need intense care. There are 245 very sick prisoners who expected to be released because of their illness, have not been. Law no. 6411 of January 2013 indicates that a sick prisoner who is not able to care for her/himself may be released if s/he does not cause a danger for the safety of the community. This provision shows that the political authorities shall continue to implement a very severe policy.
In 2012, the death of 9 people in the prisons indicates that practices of the police state and impunity still active. The adoption of the last draft law (which had been left pending) on controlling the police force by the Turkish Grand National Assembly of will contribute somewhat to solving the problem.
The village guards system still causes violations of the right to life. Two people were killed and three people were wounded by the village guards in 2012. The impunity policy continues also in this field. The village guards system must be abolished in a parallel period of the democratic solution to the Kurdish issue.
In 2012, the explosion of bombs and unexploded ordnance shows the seriousness of the situation which 19 civilians were killed (including 8 children) and 85 were wounded. In 2009, a regulation was adopted on clearing the minefields at the Syrian border, but nothing was done to tackle mine zones within the border that cause the real problem. There are many mine zones, which are close to living areas, in 9 cities in Turkey. According to the Ottawa Conventions, these fields are supposed to be clear by 2014, but no actions have been taken yet.
In 2009, the Republic of Turkey officially recognised the Kurdish Question. Yet, the fact that no constitutional or legal measures have been adopted to ensure a peaceful, democratic solution to the problem has made the matter worse and led to increased violence. The number of people who died in the armed conflict rose from 338 in 2011 to 507 in 2012. The collapse of the negotiations started in 2011 led to more armed conflict and deaths. As for the Kurdish Question, the liquidation/alienation policy should be ended immediately and replaced with a recognition policy in which the State and government should show their will to solve the problem through constitutional and legal means.
In 2012, like in 2011, there was a risk of civil war since the Government responded to the Kurds’ decision to solve their problem through civil disobedience by adopting a sort of martial law (although not called by this name). The Government’s “undeclared” martial law continued in 2012. The talks with Abdullah Ocalan were resumed in 2013 and it shows that both sides have a strong will to find a solution to the problem.
The unsolved Kurdish problem and the armed conflict, which have been going on for years, led to a culture of violence, and increased nationalism and chauvinism. As a result of this situation, there has been a significant increase in suspicious suicides among the police and the military personnel.
In 2012, 69 suspicious suicide cases were identified. This increase in the number of suspicious suicides among the military personnel shows that there are structural problems in Turkey. The first is that the right to being a conscientious objector is not recognised in Turkey. In the Bayatyan v Armenia case (Request no. 23459/013) the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights clearly recognises the right to conscientious objection to military service, and states that member states of the Council of Europe must conform to this right by virtue of Article 9 of the European Convention of Human Rights.
Young people may object to military service for reasons of feelings, convictions, conscience, belief, political opinion, and philosophy and it may lead them to depression but should not lead them to suicide. Therefore, the right of conscientious objectors should be immediately recognised and these people should be excused from military service. The second, military discipline is too forceful and hard for young men to bear in Turkey. There is an urgent need for new regulations. By virtue of Law no. 6413 of 31 January 2013 of the Turkish Armed Forces Disciplinary Law, solitary confinement called “Disko” is no longer listed as a disciplinary measure; it is a positive improvement but we have to remember the role that the solitary confinement played in the 2221 cases of suicide over the last 20 years. This explains the great need for further improvements. The third, there are no regulations on hate crimes in Turkish law. Especially in the military, we very well know what happened to soldiers who were subjected to discrimination because of their ethnic, religious or denominational identity, or their political or philosophical opinion. In this regard, “hate speech” should be banned immediately, and anyone who violates this ban order should be prosecuted. The fourth, impunity policy, especially crimes in military zones, has reached insufferable heights. Violations of the right to life, violations of physical integrity, and torture, committed in military zones, are not effectively investigated or prosecuted. Number of suspicious suicides among army personnel is evidence of the fact that: military courts have no discouraging effects, and the death rate is constantly on the rise. The people who cause these deaths and the murderers are not prosecuted or investigated; it is quite clear that no military deterrents have been used. Hence, and in compliance with the principle of the supremacy of the rule of law, the military tribunals should be closed.
Subsequent to the impact of the culture of violence and the alienation of the Alévis, there has not been any investigation or prosecution for the attempted lynching of the Alévis family in Surgu a district of Malatya, which shows that the discrimination policy is still very active.
The very fact that attacks of this sort could be launched against the Alévis is evidence of the lack of public security. The attempted lynching of Kurds in Afyon / Sultandag and Karabuk in early 2013 and attacks against members of the Executive Committee of the Peoples’ Democratic Congress in Samsun and Sinop prove that the “special war agents” are still on their beat. These incidents show that public security was violated by illegal groups that are tolerated by the State.
Unfortunately, there is an increase in the number of violations of women’s and children’s right to life. The Government’s various initiatives to adopt special laws have not succeeded in saving lives. Honour killings, suicides and death of women and children are problems that can only be resolved in a non-conflictual environment with strong political will to overcome the culture of violence.
In 2011, the most significant event of violations of the right to life is the IHD’s activities that identified several mass graves. According to IHD figures, 253 community mass graves with 3248 people were identified in 2011. The political authorities have not shown any will in opening these graves, in compliance with the Minnesota Autopsy Protocol. The procedure for opening these mass graves is still unclear. That is why in 2012 the political authorities were expected to express their position on this matter.
Between 12 September 1980 (date of the military coup d’état) and 2004, IHD continued its sit-ins and campaigns to investigate the forced disappearances and to bring perpetrators to justice. The government has remained silent on this issue.
The campaigns of the IHD and the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey are still underway to adopt the principle of non-applicability of the statutory limitation with regard to unsolved murders. The Fourth Judicial Reform Package provides for abolition of this prescribed time period; this is very important, but is incomplete. There should be no time limitation for crimes against humanity, and Article 7/2 of the European Convention on Human Rights needs to be applied.
Remember that to fight effectively against violations of the right to life in Turkey, Turkey needs to recognise the competency of the International Criminal Court and ratify International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance and the Additional Protocols of the Geneva Conventions.
TORTURE AND ILL TREATMENT
In 2012, there were many allegations of torture, ill treatment and inhumane and degrading treatment and punishment. The 12 September regime and the subsequent armed conflict led to an impunity policy that turned into a culture of impunity in the course of time. As long as nothing is done to fight widespread impunity, allegations of ill treatment and the fight against torture cannot be expected to change. The government’s “zero tolerance of torture” has only been given lip service; no real fight has been waged against torture. It is shown by the official statistics, too.
According to statistics published by the Minister of Justice, 707 people were tried for crimes of torture and ill treatment in 2009; 755 in 2010 and 800 in 2011.This increase in numbers for torture and ill treatment is clearly shown in our association’s annual report. These data show that the government has not played its due role in preventing torture. However, in application of Article 265 of the Turkish Penal Code, there were 22,195 people were judged to what is called “resistance to the police force”, the figure rose to 25,497 in 2010 and 27,753 in 2011. These figures show that the culture of impunity is still very much present.
In compliance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT), Turkey should have created a National Prevention Mechanism by 27 October 2012. We are growing increasingly alarmed by that fact that this mechanism has still not been created as of today. The problem has not been solved by the creation of the Turkish human rights institution in 2012 (created despite opposition from the human rights organisations) which has been tasked to set up a unit to combat ill treatment and torture. Turkey must create a separate institution, a National Prevention Mechanism.
The increasing use of torture and ill treatment in prisons and public areas is clearly a threat for all citizens. The fact that the number of allegations of torture and ill treatment rose to 2571 in 2012 proves that only the venue of torture has changed.
FREEDOM OF THOUGHT, SPEECH AND THE PRESS
There are very precise rules that restrict these freedoms in the articles 134, 214, 215, 216, 217, 218, 220/6,7 and 8, 222, 277, 285, 288, 300, 301, 305, 314/3, 318 and 341 of the Turkish Penal Code, and also in the Anti-terror law, the Law on Offences, Law No. 2911, the Law on Political Parties, the Law on Trade Unions, the Law on Associations and the Law on the Protection of Ataturk. In 2012, the government did not make any major changes to these laws. In application of the Third Judicial Reform Package, consideration of “propaganda offences” committed before 31 December 2011 have been postponed, thus leaving a little breathing space, but cannot prevent the real problem. According to the official statistics of the Ministry of Justice, there were 140 people put on trial for violating Article 301 of the Turkish Penal Code in 2011. Again in 2011, in application of the Anti-Terror Law, 11,657 people were put on trial for making propaganda of illegal organisations. There are thousands of journalists being investigated because of their work. As a result of bans on freedom of speech, many politicians, trade unionists, human rights defenders, journalists, lawyers, intellectuals, writers, students and mayors are being accused of “being illegal”.
In 2012, access to 6661 Internet sites was blocked. The Government’s determination to total control of access to internet through filters was weakened, for the time being by pressure from public opinion. Article 6 of the Anti-Terror Law, that authorised suspension of publication of newspapers and was roundly criticised by the European Court of Human Rights was somewhat, but not sufficiently amended through the Third Judicial Reform Package. The Fourth Judicial Reform Package that was submitted to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey in March 2013 did not live up to expectations, and now hope lies with future packages.
THE RIGHT OF DEMONSTRATION AND ASSEMBLY
Violations of the right to demonstration and assembly reached a peak also in 2012. There were serious violations as a result of the police intervention demonstrations and meetings. 424 demonstrations and marches, which were organised mainly in the East and South-East Region of Anatolia, were intervened in 2012. The official statistics of the Ministry of Justice confirm the steady increase in violations of the right to demonstration and assembly. According to data from the Ministry, there were 3,294 people judged in 2007, 3,778 in 2008, 8,251 in 2009, 11,462 in 2010 and 13,479 in 2011 for violation of the law on the right to assembly and demonstration. The public authorities refuse to accept criticism and use force to disperse protest demonstrations. In addition to antidemocratic attitude of the political power, there has been a change in the Chamber of the Court of Cassation that deals with cases of violations of law no. 2911. These cases now fall under the Ninth Criminal Chamber where there is a greater risk of more severe sentences. But in an order from the Court of Cassation, in application of the 2012 law, the Ninth Criminal Chamber stemmed the repressive penal policy of the political authorities, albeit only partly, by declaring that the right to assembly and demonstrations was a special form of the right to freedom of speech. A report on “Violation of Rights at the Newroz Event in 2012” published by IHD on 2 April 2012 shows that the public authorities do not respect the right to demonstration and that demonstrations are severely intervened.
According to statements by the Turkish Medical Association, excessive use of tear gas had the effect of chemical weapons on the demonstrators. The use of weapons made from chemical agents must be ended immediately. The European Court on Human Rights condemned Turkey for violating the ban on torture and ill treatment by using tear gas. Statements by the Minister of Internal Affairs encouraging the police forces to use tear gas show that ill treatment and torture are protected at a very high level. In 2012 the tear gas used to disperse groups of people and demonstrations killed four people that show the seriousness of the situation.
FREEDOM OF ASSOCIATION
There are 18 cases to close down associations in 2012. Unidentified persons attacked the parties’ and associations’ buildings 68 times. The political parties’ system in 2012 did not change; the 10% threshold for the elections systems was maintained for the parliamentary elections; the laws on union rights which were amended despite the opposition of the workers’ confederation created new problems; and the number of trade unions authorised to negotiate collective bargaining agreements dropped as the sectors expand, which indicated that violations of the right of associations still persist.
RIGHT TO FREEDOM AND RIGHTS OF PRISONERS
The steady increase in the number of persons in prisons in Turkey is a clear indication of the pressure exerted on the society. There were 128,604 prisoners at the end of 2011. The figure rose to 130,617 by February 2012. 42.30% of them are detainees. These figures include 2309 minors; 2100 of them, i.e. 90.94% were detainees. This rate shows that Turkey has not complied with the Criminal Justice Regulation for Children. Because of the increase in the number of prisoners, the law on judicial supervision was applied, thus facilitating the release of detainees. In the first phase, 20,000 people were released. Nevertheless, the number of detainees rose again towards the end of the year. In application of law no. 6411, adopted in January 2013, an additional 15,000 prisoners from released from the open prisons.
In 2012, the most serious event in the prisons was the unlimited and unalternately hunger strike by the Kurdish political prisoners between 12 September and 18 November. The strike, which started with demands for the elimination of solitary confinement in the Imrali prison, and the right to defence in one’s native language ended on the 68th day in response to the appeal from Abdullah Ocalan, who wanted to avoid from strikers’ deaths. The hunger strike led to partial acceptance of the prisoners’ demands: solitary confinement in the Imrali prison was ended, visits were authorised and the right to use one’s native language in court was recognised.
In order to conceal the high rate of detainees, the Ministry of Justice started listing the accused persons whose cases were before the Court of Cassation as “persons sentenced” instead of listing them as “in remand by judicial decision”; this is seriously fraudulent. Judging the accused, who are in remand is still common practice in Turkey. In mid-March 2013, there were 127,282 detainees in prison in Turkey and, considering that this was after 35,000 prisoners had been released, we see that this figure is really very high.
The Third Judicial Reform Package closed the special assizes courts, which were a sort of continuation of the State Security Courts. But by virtue of Article 10 of the Anti-Terror Law, these courts were replaced with special new assizes courts with the same jurisdiction. This legal fraud institutionalises a legal system designed to create a repressive penal system.
According to data from the Ministry of Justice, in 2008 there were 3659 persons taken to court for belonging to an illegal armed group, this figure rose to 4624 in 2009, 7689 in 2010, and 8301 in 2011. In four years, a total of 24,273 people were taken to court; this is indicative of the abusive, arbitrary manner in which Article 314 of the Turkish Penal Code is being applied. Further, between 2007 and 2011, legal proceedings were launched against 46,231 people for the crime of “making propaganda” in application of Articles 6 and 7 of the Anti-Terror Law. This shows that special assizes courts are manipulated to meet the needs of the political powers. To ensure the right to a fair trial, these courts absolutely must be closed.
No legal regulations were adopted on hate crimes and also no new initiatives were taken to fight discrimination in 2012.
In 2012 the individual’s right to freedom was severely violated with 12,300 people, including 550 children, being placed in police custody. Of the 12,300, 2788 (including 125 children) were detained. Most of the people in police custody and under arrest were Kurds whose right to freedom of assembly and speech were violated. Arrests and detention since 14 April 2009 are clear examples of serious oppression by the judiciary. In 2009, there were 7718 arrests and 1923 detentions, in 2010 there were 7100 and 1599, and in 2011 12,685 and 2922. According to the IHD figures, the total for the last four years was 39,803 arrests and 9232 detentions. Most of the people affected were Kurds or members of the BDP (Peace and Democracy Party).
Dozens of lawyers including 9 deputies, numerous human rights defenders, dozens of journalists and mayors, hundreds of members of municipal councils and provincial general councils, over a hundred trade unionists, hundreds of students, academics, intellectuals and writers are now in prison.
RIGHTS OF REFUGEES AND ASYLUM SEEKERS
No tangible changes were made in this field in 2012. The draft law on foreigners is pending before the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. High residence tax levied on refugees is still a major problem. Turkey is a transit country and in this regard; 17,540 refugees and asylum seekers, of which 14,024 come from Syria, were placed in police custody in 2012. A joint report by human rights organisations informed the public opinion and the public authorities about the problems of Syrians fleeing their country to find refuge in Turkey since 2011.
PRESSURE ON HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDERS
Pressure on human rights defenders continues in 2012. The Vice President of IHD, Muharrem Erbey, a lawyer from Diyarbakir has been in prison since December 2009. Rosa Erdede, an administrator of the IHD branch in Diyarbakir was released in June 2012. Aslan Özdemir has been in prison since April 2009. Abdulkadir Curgatay, the president of the IHD branch in Mardin and administrator of the IHD branch in Aydin are still in prison. In 2012 Osman Isci (together with the other 27 trade unionists), who represented IHD on the Executive Committee of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, has been in prison since 25 June 2012 . Ali Tanrıverdi, the president of the IHD Branch in Mersin was detained on 21 September 2012. Many investigations and legal proceedings are currently underway against IHD administrators and members. These investigations and legal proceedings show that Turkey does not apply the Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders that was adopted by the U.N. General Assembly, of which Turkey is a member. In spite of Circular no. 2004/139 of the Ministry of the Interior, pressure is increasing and the Government’s approach to human rights is still clearly driven by concerns for security. In 2011, the draft law on the institution of human rights in Turkey (which the human rights organisations opposed) was not adopted by Parliament and was rendered null and void. But, in 2012 it was resubmitted, unchanged, to the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, and was adopted.
In conclusion, as it is stated above 2012 is a year of visible deterioration in the human rights situation. We hope that the number of violations of human rights will decline as the process to find a democratic solution to the Kurdish issue is reactivated. Furthermore, as the new democratic constitution is being prepared for adoption, we will continue our fight in 2013 to improve the alarming situation of human rights in Turkey.
HUMAN RIGHTS ASSOCIATION (IHD)
HUMAN RIGHTS FOUNDATION OF TURKEY (TIHV)