Country of Origin Information Report


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16 Human Rights institutions, organisations and activists
16.01 The European Commission 2007 Progress report published 6 November 2007 noted that “There have been no developments as regards the institutions in charge of monitoring and promoting human rights. These institutions, such as the Human Rights Presidency, lack independence and resources. The Law on the establishment of the Ombudsman is still before the Constitutional Court following the veto by the President in November. The Constitutional Court ordered the stay of execution of the law, but has yet to give its verdict.” [71c] (p60)
16.02 The EC 2007 report further noted that, “During the reporting period, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has delivered a total of 330 judgements finding that Turkey had violated at least one article of the ECHR. The total number of new applications to the ECtHR from 1 September 2006 to 31 August 2007 is higher than the same period last year… Past reforms have had positive consequences on the execution of ECtHR judgements. During the reporting period, the Committee of Ministers closed several cases such as the ECtHR judgements for convictions under the former article 8 (freedom of expression) of the Anti-Terror Law, and cases on the dissolution of political parties.” [71c] (p12)
16.03 The US State Department Report 2007 (USSD 2007), published on 11 March 2008, reported that:

“A number of domestic and international human rights groups operated in many regions but faced government obstruction and restrictive laws regarding their operations, particularly in the southeast. Government officials were generally uncooperative and unresponsive to their views. Human rights organizations and monitors, as well as lawyers and doctors involved in documenting human rights violations, continued to face detention, prosecution, intimidation, harassment, and formal closure orders for their legitimate activities. Human rights organizations reported that official human rights mechanisms did not function consistently and failed to address grave violations.” [5g] (Section 4)

16.04 The USSD 2007 report also noted that “The government generally cooperated with international organizations such as CPT, UNHCR, and IOM; however, some international human rights workers reported that the government purposefully harassed them or raised artificial bureaucratic obstacles to prevent their work.” [5g] (Section 4)
16.05 The USSD 2007 further added that “The Human Rights Association (HRA) had 34 branches nationwide and claimed a membership of approximately 14,000. The HRA reported that prosecutors opened dozens of cases against HRA branches during the year. The HRF, established by the HRA, operated torture rehabilitation centers in Ankara, Izmir, Istanbul, Diyarbakir, and Adana and served as a clearing house for human rights information. Other domestic NGOs included the Istanbul based Helsinki Citizens Assembly, the Ankara-based Turkish Democracy Foundation, the Turkish Medical Association, human rights centers at a number of universities, and Mazlum Der.” [5g] (Section 4)

16.06 The USSD 2007 report further noted that “In January the Istanbul ’governor’s office, with no prior notice, froze three of the bank accounts of Amnesty ’International’s (AI's) Turkey branch, worth approximately $62,600 (75,000 lira). In May AI filed civil cases against two local government authorities, the Beyoglu district ’governor’s office and the Istanbul ’governor’s office, for failing to respond to ’AI’s administrative queries related to the seizure. On May 30, the Beyoglu district ’governor’s office issued a decision that AI had participated in ‘unauthorized fund raising.’ The decision did not specify what AI actions violated the law. In a June 22 public statement, AI stated that it does not seek or accept money from governments or political parties for its work but that its funding depends on the contributions of its worldwide membership and fundraising activities, including street fundraising or ‘face-to-face’ activities. The statement noted AI feared the incident could have been ‘a tactic of government harassment intended to impede legitimate fundraising activities.’ At ’year’s end AI had not received an official explanation as to what activities violated the law, and the civil case continued.” [5g] (Section 4)

16.07 The USSD 2006 report maintained that on March 15, an Istanbul court sentenced HRA Istanbul branch chief Eren Keskin to 10 months in prison for insulting the military under Article 301 for comments she made during a 2002 speech in Germany. [5h]
16.08 The Human Rights Watch July 2007 Human Rights Concerns in the Lead up to July Parliamentary Elections report stated that “On July 11, human rights defender Eren Keskin received a one-year sentence converted to a fine (US$3,400) under article 301. Çerkezköy Penal Court of First Instance convicted her for a speech made on February 20, 2005, at an event organized by the Çerkezköy district headquarters of the Kurdish party DEHAP during which Keskin had referred to Turkey’s dirty history and used the word Kurdistan.” [9f]
Human Rights Advisory Board (ihdk) / Human Rights Presidency and Human Rights Boards/Councils
16.09 Freedom House, in their report Countries at the Crossroads Turkey – 2007 noted that:

“Many of the EU harmonization reforms that Turkey has passed since 2001 have been specifically geared toward protection of civil liberties, including increased minority and ’women’s rights, broadened freedom of association and religion, stronger measures to protect against and prosecute torture, and a more democratic penal code. Moreover, the government is watching implementation closely. It has set up rights-monitoring boards to receive complaints and conduct independent monitoring of police stations to help prevent torture. A Parliamentary Human Rights Investigation Committee now investigates abuses, and police, judges, and public prosecutors receive human rights training. Long-term detention has been effectively curbed by reforms. Turkey ratified a European Convention protocol abolishing the death penalty in February 2006. Nevertheless, problems remain, particularly (although not entirely) with implementation.” [62c]

16.09 In correspondence from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office dated 5 February 2007 it was noted that:

“Membership of the Human Advisory Board consists of academics, civil society, public sector organisations, representatives of professional organisations. The Board reports directly to the Minister for Human Rights (Gul). Their role as expert advisory committee to assist the government in its implementation of reforms. The Human Rights Boards/Councils membership consist of the 850 county level boards reporting to 81 provincial boards. They are responsble in turn to the Presidency. Each has at least 16 members, including at least 3 associations or foundations, representatives of local government, local press, trade unions, chambers of commerce, doctors, bar association, universities, political parties (only those represented in Parliament), and provincial general assembly. Their role is to provide an organised structure of semi-independent bodies to research, document and champion human rights abuses at a local level. The boards feed into the human rights presidency and use the same application form” [4c]
16.10 The Turkish Daily News of 7 January 2007 reported that:

“An advisory board established to give civil society a say in efforts to improve human rights has not been called for a meeting since October 2004. The 27-month-long break of the Human Rights Advisory Board (İHDK) has been questioned by former members of the board, while sources close to the Prime ’Ministry’s Human Rights Presidency (BİHB) -- the body to which the board is attached -- offered the ’board’s ‘clumsy structure,’ consisting as it does of 94 members, as a reason for not convening a meeting... According to the former head of the board, legal specialist Professor İbrahim Kaboğlu, who resigned in February 2005, ‘The absence of a call for a meeting merely, and unfortunately, displays the insincerity of the government as well as its superficiality regarding the issue of human rights’.” [23k]

16.11 The European Commission 2007 report recorded that “… the Human Rights Advisory has not been operating since the publication of a report on Minority Rights in October 2004. Legal proceedings were initiated against the two main authors of this report. The initial acquittal has been overruled by the Court of Cassation in September 2007, and an appeal procedure is ongoing.” [71c] (p13)
16.12 The Amnesty International 2007 report noted that official human rights mechanisms, such as the provincial human rights boards under the control of the Human Rights Presidency attached to the Prime ’Minister’s Office, did not function consistently and failed to address grave violations. [12c]
16.13 Information obtained from correspondence on 5 February 2007 from the Foreign and Commonwealth Offices in Ankara regarding the Human Rights Presidency and Human Rights Boards / Councils stated that:
“Membership: The Presidency is a civil service department.

“Role: The Presidency reports directly to the deputy permanent undersecretary equivalent at the Prime Ministry, but is indirectly under the authority of the Minister for Human Rights. It is established by the Article 2 of law (no. 4643) and has a number of responsibilities:

“To co-ordinate the work of public bodies on human rights issues

“To follow and assess developments in human rights, ensuring that Turkey is in line with international standards

“To co-ordinate and assess pre-service internments on human rights issues and in-service human rights training for govt departments

“To investigate human rights abuses (it has a standard application form for investigation), assess and advise on preventative measures

“To act as the secretariat within the prime ministry for other groups/councils working on similar issues (e.g. the advisory board).” [4c]

16.14 The Human Rights Presidency website’s ‘Statistics concerning applications on human rights violation claims: (2004-2007)’ stated that:
“Province and sub-province boards entitled ‘Implementation Barometrical’ have restructured in order to provide services to all citizens. Thus, Boards consist of NGO’s representatives rather than state personals. [sic] In other words, in accordance with current structure, just 2 members are state personnel out of min 16.
NGO’s representatives who work for boards are as follows:

• Minimum 3 associations and foundations carry out activities in human rights.

• Demarche’s representative

• Local press representatives

• Trade Union’ representatives

• Chamber of commerce and industry’ representative

• Chamber of MD’s representative

• Bar’ representative

• University’ representative

• Political parties who have group in Parliament.

• Province General Council’ representative

• Mayor
“In 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 a total of 4516 persons have applied to the Human Rights Presidency of the Prime Ministry (1773) and the Provincial (2595) and Sub-provincial (148) Human Rights Councils throughout Turkey. As an individual may claim the violation of more than one right, the number of rights claimed to be violated amount to 6787.” [79b]

16.15 The European Commission 2007 reported published 6 November 2007 noted that “As far as the promotion and enforcement of human rights is concerned, the Human Rights Presidency under the Prime-Minister's office and the 931 Human Rights Boards received more applications in 2006 than during the previous year. Visits by the Human Rights Boards to places of detention and state-sponsored social services continued. However, there remains a need for better public awareness of the work of these institutions and for the allocation of adequate resources, in particular as regards staffing. Some NGOs invoke the lack of independence of the Human Rights Boards as a reason for refusing to take part in this institution.” [71c] (p12-13)

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Reform Monitoring Group
16.19 As confirmed by the British Embassy in Ankara on 5 February 2007 the membership of the (EU) Reform Monitoring Group consists of senior officials and ministers from the Prime Ministry and key government departments. The role of the Reform Monitoring Group oversees the passage of all reforms relating to the EU Accession Process, including the planning and timetabling of such reforms. Its role is therefore much broader than human rights, but it does oversee the passage and implementation of human rights related legislation. [4c]
16.20 The Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association (TUSIAD) report ‘Turkey in Focus 2004’ noted that “In September 2003, AKP leaders launched the Reform Monitoring Group, comprised of Foreign, Justice and Interior Ministers. The monitoring group is designed to ensure the implementation of new laws and regulations concerning human rights and civil liberties. The Reform Monitoring Group, in addition to the newly established European Union Communications Group, regularly informs the embassies of the EU member countries of Turkey’s progress in implementing key reforms.” [26a]
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Parliamentary Human Rights Commission/Parliamentary Human Rights Investigation Committee

16.21 A letter dated 5 February 2007 from the British Embassy in Ankara noted that the membership is MPs only and their role is to oversees all aspects of human rights in Turkey, including petitions to Parliament on human rights issues, and ’Turkey’s response to international human rights issues (e.g. the bombing of Lebanon, invasion of Iraq). In addition to its scrutiny role, it carries out research visits abroad and in Turkey, making visits to prisons and police stations etc. [4c]

16.22 The United States Department of State (USSD) 2007 report published 11 March 2008 recorded that “The parliamentary Human Rights Committee, which has a mandate to oversee compliance with the human rights provisions of domestic law and international agreements, investigated alleged abuses, prepared reports, and carried out detention center inspections. Human rights organizations reported that the purely advisory role limited its efficacy. On October 2, the committee sent a multiparty delegation to Sirnak Province in southeastern Turkey to investigate the September 29 [2007] attack on a minibus that resulted in the deaths of 12 Turkish citizens. The government had claimed PKK terrorists were responsible, but the DTP questioned that immediate assumption. On October 19, the committee adopted the ’delegation’s conclusion that the PKK carried out the attack. DTP MP Akin Birdal expressed reservations about the conclusion.” [5g] (Section 4)
Ministry of Interior’s Investigation Office
16.23 A letter from the British Embassy in Ankara dated 5 February 2007 noted that the Ministry of ’Interior’s Investigation Office made up of Civil Servants and their role is to deal specifically with the investigation of allegations against the police. Anyone can make a complaint via the on-line application form. [4c]
16.24 The European Commission 2005 report recorded that:

“The Ministry of Interior’s Investigation Office, which was established in February 2004, has received 1,003 complaints of human rights abuses from the public. These complaints are assessed by inspectors, who follow them up with the relevant authorities within the ministry at local or central level. Most complaints received have been made against the police. To date, on only one occasion has a complaint led to disciplinary action being taken against a public official. This Office has also carried out inspections of a number of the provincial police disciplinary boards and has inspected detention procedures and places of detention in 26 provinces.” [71b] (p21)

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Prison Inspection Committees/Prison Monitoring Board
16.25 A letter from the British Embassy in Ankara dated 5 February 2007 noted that the Prison Inspection Committees/Prison Monitoring Board membership is also set up by law. Their remit does not include military prisons. Each has 5 members, serving a 4 year term. Members must be over the age of 35 and professionally qualified in fields such as law, medicine, psychology, education etc. They cannot be members of a political party. They observe prison conditions, regimes, internal security etc in situ and write reports at least every 3 months which goes to the Justice Ministry and the Parliamentary Human Rights Commission. [4c]
16.26 The European Commission 2007 progress report published 6 November 2007 recorded that “The improvement of the physical infrastructure of prisons as well as the training of staff continued. As concerns high-security F-type prisons, a circular was issued to address previously identified shortcomings of the communal activities for inmates. Prisons are subject to regular inspection visits by the Penal Institutions and Detention Houses Monitoring Boards, and visits of UN bodies and the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture.” [71c] (p14)
16.27 The European Commission 2007 report also recorded that, “civil and military prisons are not open to monitoring by independent national bodies, pending the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture.” [71c] (p14)

The Gendarmes Investigation and Evaluation Centre for Human Rights Abuse Issues (JIHIDEM)

16.28 As noted on the JIHIDEM website (updated on 15 August 2008):
“Recently human rights has become a very important issue in Turkey, as in other countries… The Gendarmerie Human Rights Violations’ Investigation and Evaluation Center (JIHIDEM) has been founded to investigate and evaluate complaints and applications about the allegations of human rights violations taking place in the Gendarmerie area of responsibility or while carrying out the duties related to Gendarmerie. This is to investigate any allegation about human rights violation, commence a judicial or administrative inspection in case that the allegations are true, inform of applicants about the results or developments of the procedures and ensure that the public will be notified about the current developments.” [104] (The Aim of the JIHIDEM)
16.29 The JIHIDEM website (updated on 15 August 2008) further stated that in their Human Rights ’Violations’ Investigation and Evaluation eCentre:

“The main mission is to receive complaints and applications about human rights violations forwarded to JIHIDEM by means of various ways (telephone, fax, mail, petition, personal application etc). To evaluate whether or not the complaints and applications received are within the scope of human rights violations. To investigate allegations, and to initiate judicial and administrative investigations in accordance with legal procedures. Furthermore to reply complaints and applications after investigation and to prepare reports about the replies given to the complaints and applications and statistical information about those replies and finally inform the public about activities of JIHIDEM.” [104] (The Mission of the JIHIDEM)

16.30 The JIHIDEM website further added that, “Applications can be made directly in person or by telephone, mail, petition, fax, and internet.” [104] (Application Ways)
16.31 According to information on human rights monitoring provided by the Turkish Embassy in London in August 2004, “The Gendarmes Investigation and Evaluation Centre for Human Rights Abuse Issues (JIHIDEM) became operational on 26 April 2003 within the Gendarmes General Command Headquarters and operating on a 24 hour basis in order to systematically deal with or answer complaints regarding human rights abuse issues that might arise whilst gendarmes are fulfilling their duties.” [60a] (p10)
16.32 According to the information from the Turkish Embassy:
“Within a year of its establishment JIHIDEM received 221 applications of which 65 were deemed to be within the human rights abuse definition of JIHIDEM, 73 were not within its definition and were directly related to Gendarmes’ actions and that 83 were not related to Gendarmes at all. Among the 65 applications that were investigated 19 were for ill treatment, 16 were for ill treatment/unjust custody, 12 for non-effective investigation, 6 for unjust custody, 5 for being pressurised to withdraw complaints, 3 for torture, 2 for not abiding with a suspect’s custody rights, 1 for the abuse of a person’s right to life and 1 for the abuse of a person’s private life.” [60a] (p11)
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European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)

16.33 The European Commission 2007 report published 6 November 2007 recorded that:

“During the reporting period, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has delivered a total of 330 judgements finding that Turkey had violated at least one article of the ECHR. The total number of new applications to the ECtHR from 1 September 2006 to 31 August 2007 is higher than the same period last year. More than two thirds of these new applications refer to the right to a fair trial and the protection of property rights. The right to life and the prohibition of torture are referred to in a number of cases. Past reforms have had positive consequences on the execution of ECtHR judgements. During the reporting period, the Committee of Ministers closed several cases such as the ECtHR judgements for convictions under the former article 8 (freedom of expression) of the Anti-Terror Law, and cases on the dissolution of political parties.” [71c] (p12)
16.34 The EC 2007 report recorded that:
“There are a considerable number of ECtHR judgments awaiting enforcement by Turkey. Some are related to issues requiring general legislative measures. These include among others legal restrictions on freedom of expression, and provisions in Turkish Law preventing the re-opening of domestic proceedings in certain circumstances. Furthermore, the Committee of Ministers awaits information on the measures envisaged by Turkey in order to bring the legal framework governing the situation of those who refuse to perform military service on conscientious or religious grounds into conformity with the requirements of the ECHR.” [71c] (p12)
16.35 The EC 2007 report further noted that:

“Other pending cases before the Committee of Ministers awaiting the adoption of necessary execution measures relate to the control of actions of security forces and effective remedies against abuses. The Committee is monitoring the remaining pending issues. In the case of Cyprus v. Turkey, the Committee of Ministers decided to close the examination of the violations established in relation to the right to education and freedom of religion at its meeting in April. Issues which remain pending include restrictions on the property rights of Greek Cypriots in the northern part of Cyprus and the issue of missing persons.” [71c] (p12)

16.36 The EC 2007 report also noted that “Overall, Turkey has made progress on the ratification of international human rights instruments and on the execution of ECtHR judgements. However, the OPCAT remains to be ratified, and further efforts are needed for Turkey to comply fully with its obligations under the ECHR.” [71c] (p12)

See also Section 22.97 Women NGO’s

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