Country of Origin Information Report

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Women suicides in Turkey
22.62 A Sky News investigation dated 12 November 2007 reported that women were being forced to commit suicide for bringing dishonour on their families The report suggested that this phenomenon appeared to be a result of the tightening of laws against honour crimes. ‘… the stricter sentences handed to men accused of killing women for shaming the family are causing a rise in the number of honour suicides, say campaign groups. Families in predominantly Kurdish southeast Turkey are pressing young daughters or wives to take their own lives to spare the men of the family from serving time. Women’s organisations in the city of Batman say that around 80 female suicides were recorded in the city in 2006 alone’. [29a]
22.63 On 23 August 2007, an article published in the Guardian noted that “On the streets of Batman, a city with a population of 250,000, an alarming number are harbouring suicidal thoughts, and acting on them. Across Turkey, men are twice as likely as women to take their own lives, but, defying that trend, more than 300 women in Batman have attempted suicide since 2001… The numbers are increasing. By June this year [2007], 19 had tried to take their lives and most were successful. But ’women’s groups and human rights advocates believe the suicides are tantamount to murder. Stories have emerged of girls as young as 12 being locked in rooms for days with rope, poison or a pistol.” [38a]

22.64 Los Angeles Times in their 9 January 2007 article stated that:

“The killing of women and girls by male relatives who think the females have brought shame to the family’s honor is an atrocity that has plagued Turkey and other Islamic countries for generations. Thousands of women have died, been attacked or compelled to commit suicide in so-called honor killings.
“In Turkey, the government has finally taken action. Under pressure from an invigorated women’s movement and eager to win approval from the European Union, the government has launched a major campaign against honor killings. …
“Turkish imams have joined pop music stars and soccer celebrities to produce TV spots and billboard ads condemning all forms of violence against women… the nation’s top Islamic authority has declared honor killing a sin.
“Late last year, jail sentences for men and boys who commit the crime were stiffened, and new provisions in the penal code make it harder for a court to reduce sentences.” [42]
22.65 An International Herald Tribune article dated 12 July 2006 noted that:
“In the past six years, there have been 165 suicides or suicide attempts in Batman, 102 of them by women. As many as 36 women have killed themselves since the start of this year, according to a United Nations ’official’s finding on violence against women. There have been so many unnatural deaths that the United Nations dispatched a special envoy to the region last month to investigate. After a fact- finding mission, the envoy, Yakin Erturk, concluded that while some suicides were authentic, others appeared to be honor killings disguised as a suicide or an accident.” [82]

22.66 The same International Herald Tribune article further noted that:

“In an effort to bring honor killings out from underground, Ka-Mer, a local ’women’s group, has created a hotline for women who fear their lives are at risk. Ka-Mer finds shelter for the women and helps them to apply to the courts for restraining orders against relatives who have threatened them. Ayten Tekay, a caseworker for KaMer in Diyarbakir, the regional center, said that of the 104 women who had called Ka-Mer this year, more than half had been uneducated and illiterate. She said that in many cases the families had not wanted to kill their relatives but that the social pressure and incessant gossip had driven them to murder.” [82]
22.67 UN Human Rights Council: Addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Its Causes and Consequences, Mission to Turkey, 5 January 2007 noted that:
“More specifically, there are reasonable grounds to assume that some recorded cases of suicides in fact constitute grave violence, either because the victim was forced to commit suicide or because a murder was disguised as a suicide. Patriarchal oppression, manifesting itself in diverse forms of violence against women, including forced marriage, early marriage, incestuous sexual abuse and honour-related violence, is often a factor that underlies suicides.” [20d]
Virginity testing
22.68 The CEDAW 32nd Session, January 2005 Based on Shadow Report for Turkey prepared by Women for Women’s Human Rights - New Ways, endorsed by the Turkish Penal Code Women’s Platform noted that:

“The new Turkish Penal Code Article 287 on ‘Genital Examination’ does not explicitly state that ‘virginity testing is banned’ and fails to seek the consent of the woman as a necessary precondition; hence as it stands the article continues to provide a basis for this widespread practice of women’s human rights violation.” [95a]

22.69 International Helsinki Federation Annual Report on Human Rights Violations (2006): Turkey, 8 June 2006 noted that “In April [2005] , Iskenderun Aggravated Penal Court acquitted the police officers on the basis of insufficient evidence since the Forensic Institute reported that the girls objected to virginity test which was supposed to obtain evidence on their rape claims.” [10a] (p441)
22.70 UN Human Rights Council: Addendum to the Report of the Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Its Causes and Consequences, Mission to Turkey, 5 January 2007, noted that:
“Other surveys demonstrated links between suicidal behaviour and factors such as forced virginity testing or childhood sexual abuse... Virginity testing - a practice often used by families to ‘determine’ a girl’s chastity - has also partially been criminalized. Virginity testing authorized by a judge or prosecutor remains legal even if the woman refuses to consent to the intrusive practice.” [10b] (p16)
22.71 The same UN Human Rights Council 2007 report further called for Turkey to “Amend remaining discriminatory articles in the Penal Code, such as article 287, which allows virginity testing without the woman’s consent under certain circumstances and article 104 that may be interpreted as criminalizing consensual sexual relations between teenagers aged 15 to 17.” [10b] (p21)

22.72 The CEDAW 32nd Session, January 2005 Based on Shadow Report for Turkey prepared by Women for Women’s Human Rights - New Ways, endorsed by the Turkish Penal Code Women’s Platform further noted that “Unfortunately the practice of virginity testing still exists in Turkey, performed in various public institutions and penitentiaries and even employed by families when women are suspected of having premarital sexual relations. The practice not only discriminates against women based on virginity, but also violates women’s human rights and bodily integrity, sometimes to the extent that it causes women to commit suicide or to be killed by their families in the name of ‘honor’.” [95a]

Treatment of women in detention
22.73 As reported in a recent BIA News article dated 2 November 2006:
“A recent study of violence against women by state security forces has shown that at least 70 women were raped while under detention between 1997 and 2006 while 166 others were sexually harassed. The total number of women who have sought legal support and assistance in this period is 236. A report issued by the Judicial Assistance Project for Sexual Harassment and Rape under Detention said that only two of the 236 applications made for support came from Germany while the rest of the incidents were recorded in Turkey… The ’project’s lawyer Eren Keskin told bianet that harassment and rape were specifically employed as deterrent methods in east and southeast Turkey while kidnapping of women concentrated in the cities of Tatvan and Mardin. Keskin acknowledged that women subject to this form of violence had ‘great difficulties’ in applying for judicial aid and said that as most women faced such incidents at very young ages, there was a need for a new institution other than the ’coroner’s office, which could deal with psychological reports.” [102f]
22.74 The International Helsinki Federation (IHF) for Human Rights 2006 Turkey report published 8 June 2006 noted:

“Derya Orman, Gülselin Orman and Seyhan Geylani Sondas were arrested by the police in Istanbul in April because one of them did not have an identity card with her. They stated that the police requested them ‘sexual favors’ in the station in order to release them. They reported that they were stripped naked, sexually harassed and forced to sexual intercourse by the officers on duty, including a policewoman. HRA officials reported that the applicants were mistreated by the prosecutor when they went to his office to file complaints against the police officers.” [10a] (441)

22.75 The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR Global Report 2006, Turkey, June 2007, stated that:
“Cooperation with the Government and NGOs to meet the basic protection and material needs of refugees and asylum-seekers with an emphasis on the protection of refugee women and children... More than 240 refugee women and adolescent girls were provided with sanitary supplies on a monthly basis. Medical care, health and psychosocial support was provided to victims of SGBV. The Turkish Social Services and Child Protection Agency provided protection to 25 separated children, as well as legal assistance to victims of domestic violence.” [20a] (p2-3)
22.76 The Report of the UK Border Agency Fact Finding Mission to Turkey 11 – 20 February 2008, interviewed a number of sources on the issue of treatment of women in detention noted that Mr Ondul, the Chairman of the Human Rights Association advised that since Turkey was listed for EU accession in December 1999, it had continued to make improvements to the existing legislative framework in relation to mistreatment in prisons and detention. On 30 November 2002, the government had removed emergency regulations, thus allowing detainees to consult legal advisors and had increased the severity of sentences for cases of torture and mistreatment. [59] (S4.2)

22.77 Mr Ondul, Chairman of the Human Rights Association also said that while avenues of legal redress were available to individuals who had been subjected to mistreatment at the hands of the police authorities, police impunity remained a problem. Officers were able to continue their police duties while prosecutions against them are ongoing. [59] (S4.8)

See also Section 11 Arrest and Detention – Legal Rights
22.78 Mr Ondul, Chairman of the Human Rights Association, also added that there was no independent Ombudsman in Turkey to investigate complaints of mistreatment. Turkey was yet to ratify the Optional Protocol on Torture (OPCAT)… The Human Rights Foundation of Turkey was campaigning for Turkey to sign OPCAT and get it approved by the Turkish parliament. [59] (4.15)
22.79 Mr Beyter Chairman of Mazlum Der told the UKBA FFM that there was no statutory body in place to follow up complaints of mistreatment. A Human Rights body affiliated to the Prime Minister’s office is in place with district and provincial branches across the country where individuals can report cases of human rights violations.However, Mr Beyter said that individuals tended not to report incidences of mistreatment to these boards therefore the boards were unaware of any trends relating to the issue of mistreatment. [59] (5.10)
Complaints procedure for women mistreated in custody
22.80 A letter from the British Embassy in Ankara to the Country of Origin ISInformation Service, dated 27 March 2007, sets out details of the complaints procedure for women mistreated in custody, in terms of answers to a series of questions:
“I refer to your letter of 21 February for additional information on the complaints procedures available for women, who have been mistreated in custody in Turkey. The answers to your questions follow.

1. What precisely does a Turkish woman need to do in order to complain about her treatment by the Turkish police either during her arrest/questioning or while being held in police detention?

There are currently a number of different avenues of complaint available in Turkey:
a) The most usual route is to submit a written allegation to the Provincial Chief Prosecutor, who will then arrange an investigation.

b) Alternatively, complaints about police treatment can be submitted directly to the Interior Ministry

c) A third option is to submit a complaint to the provincial Human Rights Board. The Boards consist of local government and non-governmental representatives and are have responsibilities across the full range of civil and political rights. They are unable to instigate a prosecution but they do have investigative powers and will submit their findings to the prosecutor. In 2004, 9.64% of applications to Human Rights Boards related to torture and mistreatment.
2. What forms does she need to fill in?
a) This option does not require a form, although complaints must contain details of places, times, persons and their actions. A lawyer may submit a complaint on the victim’s behalf.

b) This option is most commonly pursued via an online form available on the Ministry of Interior Website at www.icisleri.gov.tr. The form must be completed in Turkish.

c) The Regional Human Rights Boards use a standard 4-page application form, copies of which are available on-line, from public and NGO offices. The form can be filled in personally, or by a relative or representative. Forms can be submitted by e-mail, fax, post or via a ‘human rights application box’ located in various public buildings in every town. An English version is available from the Prime Ministry website at www.basbakanlik.gov.uk Applications must be submitted in Turkish.
3. If she is required to attend in person can she be accompanied by a lawyer or other representative, such as a representative of an NGO?

If required to attend in person, she may always be accompanied by a lawyer. NGO representatives are unlikely to be allowed to attend police interviews, but may accompany the plaintiff at other stages of the proceedings.

4. Can the complaint be lodged from a different police district from the one where the alleged ill-treatment took place?
As outlined above, complaints are not submitted directly to the police. Complaints to the prosecutor and human rights board are submitted in the same province (an average province in Turkey has a population of 700,000 - 1 million). Complaints to the Interior Ministry are handled centrally, but involve local prosecutors.
5. How effective are these remedies in practice?

Investigations into allegations of mistreatment occur after almost all allegations are submitted, but as outlined in the 2006 Progress Report, impunity remains a problem in Turkey. Prosecutions are often made but convictions are rarer.


6. Are there any human rights groups active in Turkey who provide assistance to women in this situation?
There are no human rights groups focusing exclusively on women in this situation, but a number do provide this service to men and women. The most important of these is the Human Rights Association, which has branches in 35 cities in Turkey. Each can be contacted by phone or e-mail. Details are available from the website www.ihd.org.tr. The Human Rights Foundation will also compile medical evidence for submission to prosecutors and rehabilitation for torture survivors. It has offices in Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, Adana and Diyarbakir. Contact details for each branch are available on the website www.tihv.org.tr.” [4r]

22.81 The same letter noted that an “EU Twinning Project which aims to set up an independent Complaints Authority for both police and gendarmerie in Turkey was launched on 12 March [2007]. The UK IPCC will be the twinning partner in this project. Procedures are therefore expected to change.” [4r]

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22.82 A letter from the British Embassy in Ankara to the Country of Origin Information Service, dated 17 April 2007, sets out details of the complaints procedures available for women who have been mistreated in custody by the National Guard or Jandarma:
“1. Complaints are dealt with by a centralised body known as the Gendarme Human Rights Violations Investigation and Assessment Centre (JIHIDEM), which is responsible for the investigation and assessment of complaints and their submission to the prosecutor for action. Applications can be made to JIHIDEM in a variety of different ways:

• Via an on-line form available on the Gendarme website (an English version is available at http://uyg.jandarma.tsk.mil.tr/JIHIDEM/FORM/frmIngBasvuruGD.aspx)

In person, by phone or by petition to the relevant provincial command centre

• In person, by phone, fax, letter, petition directly to JIHIDEM.


2. Contact details for JIHIDEM are as follows

JIHIDEM


Jandarma Genel Komutanligi

Korg. Hulusi SAYIN Kislasi 06500

Bestepe, Ankara
Phone: 0312 456 1186

Fax: 0312 212 8463



0312 215 1417
3. I can find no indication that applications must be made in Turkish, but this is highly likely to be the case. Information about the complaints procedure and forms are available only in Turkish and English (for the diplomatic community). As outlined in my previous letter (above), there are various human rights groups in Turkey who will assist anyone wishing to make a complaint.

4. According to JIHITEM’s own statistics, as of 8 April 2007 only 20% of total applications fell within JIHITEM’s remit. 65% of applications had something to do with Gendarme activity; the remaining 35% had been sent to the wrong organisation. Of the valid applications, 70% were found to be ungrounded, with judicial procedures being initiated in the remaining 30% of cases (please note that these statistics are taken from the Turkish version, not the English version, which has been mistranslated and implies that no judicial proceedings of any kind have been initiated). Statistics on the total number of applications are not available but I understand that total application numbers are extremely low. We are not aware of any successful prosecutions. These figures call into question the effectiveness of the JIHITEM as it is currently constituted.” [4p]

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Protection of victims of violence
22.83 The US State Department (USSD) 2007 report on Human Rights Practices published 11 March 2008 noted that “Women’s NGOs reported that more than 150,000 women were victims of domestic violence between 2001 and 2005. The government continued to show slow progress on implementing a 2004 law stipulating the need for shelters for women victims of domestic violence in towns with a population of more than 50,000. According to the government, it’s Institution for Social Services and Orphanages operated 23 shelters for female victims of domestic violence and rape with a total capacity of 405. The government reported that provincial government offices, municipalities, and NGOs operated 18 shelters, and that one private foundation operated a shelter… Government officials worked with advocacy groups such as KA-MER to hold town hall meetings and set up rescue teams and hot lines for endangered women and girls.” [5g] (Section 5)
22.84 The Report of the UK Border Agency Fact Finding Mission to Turkey 11 – 20 February 2008, notes that Mr Zorluoglu, Head of the Directorate General for Regional Authorities said that under the municipality law 5393, each municipality with 50,000 people or more was obliged to establish shelters for women and children. Smaller municipalities could build shelters too but there was no legal requirement for them to do so. He further added that the building of shelters was a new area of responsibility for municipalities but he was hearing at the centre more about the municipalities building shelters. [59] (S14.3)

22.85 Several of the sources interviewed during the 11 February 2008 FFM mentioned the fact that according to the new municipality by-laws there should be a women’s shelter in each municipality of 50,000 or more people. Women for Women’s Human Right’s – New Ways (WWHR) said this provision had yet to be fully implemented. (S1.3) The Social Services Child Protection Agency, SHCEK, said that there was no time frame for the completion of such shelters. (S11.14) Mr Temucin Tuzecan, Director of Stop Violence against Women campaign, said that the majority of these shelters had not been built because a lack of government guidelines. [59] (S2.13)

22.86 The Social Services and Child Protection Agency (SHCEK) indicated that they directly operated 23 shelters (also known as ‘Guest-Houses’) across Turkey. Each shelter had a manager of university graduate level education in a relevant social science, social workers, psychologists, nurses and other staff. The staff worked together to identify the conflict dispute and the type of legal aid or support assistance that a woman might require. Shelters also worked with women who wished to reunite with their families. [59] (S11.6)
22.87 SHCEK’s 23 centres had a total capacity to accommodate 477 women. SHCEK explained that there was ongoing work to build 10 more shelters, but this would need to be assessed in light of availability of staff and suitable accommodation. However, ideally, SHCEK would prefer to concentrate on working to prevent the abuse of women, thus preventing the need to build more shelters. [59] (S11.7)
22.88 The Report of the UK Border Agency Fact Finding Mission to Turkey 11 – 20 February 2008, noted that Ms Zumra Yimaz, Head of the Directorate of EU Coordination, Justice Ministry, said that the right to seek a remedy is laid down in section two of the Turkish Constitution under ‘Fundamental Rights and Duties’. Article 36 provides that: “Everyone has the right of litigation either as plaintiff or defendant before the courts through lawful means and procedure. No court shall refuse to hear a case within its jurisdiction”. In light of this article, women and men alike have equal rights and freedoms and can therefore access the judiciary with equal ease. [59] (S10W)

22.89 Ms Zumra Yimaz further added that, pursuant to the last paragraph of Article 1 of the Family Protection Law, all applications lodged at the Family Court for incidents of domestic violence, as well as the execution of the verdict, are exempt from fees. In addition, if individuals who wish to file a lawsuit in the civil courts for other reasons prove that they are poor by way of a document issued by the headman, they will be able to benefit from Articles 465 to 472 of the Code of Civil Procedure that govern ‘judicial assistance.’ [59] (S10W)

22.90 The UKBA FFM, interviewed a number of sources on the issue of Protection of victims of violence noted that Mrs Olcay Bas, Head of Department, Directorate General for Women’s Status also said that there was no gender discrimination and both men and women had equal access to the justice system, including legal representation. (S13.14) Professor Fendoglu, President of Human Rights Presidency, Prime Ministry, agreed that the legislative framework, in line with EU standards, provided equal access to both men and women. [59] (S17.10)
22.91 The Turkish NGO, Women for Women’s Human Rights – New Ways (WWHR) told the FFM that, for women seeking redress against human rights violations and other issues, there were many women lawyers available who were active within the Bar Association, some of whom provided a free legal service for those unable to afford legal costs. [59] (S1.14)
22.92 When asked whether there were female lawyers able to take up sensitive cases and to what degree free legal assistance was provided to women who did not have the means to pay, Mr Firat and Mrs. Zumra Yilmaz stated in their written submission:

“Pursuant to the last paragraph of Article 1 of the Family Protection Law all applications lodged at the Family Court for incidents of domestic violence as well as the execution of the verdict are exempt from fees. In addition, if individuals who wish to file a lawsuit at civil courts for other reasons prove that they are poor through a document issued by the headman they will be able to benefit from Articles 465 to 472 of the Code of Civil Procedure that govern ‘judicial assistance’. [59] (S10W)

“Judicial assistance comprises:
“Temporary exemption from all trial related fees and expenses.

Payment of costs for witnesses and experts by the state as an advance payment.

Exemption from providing collateral for the trial costs.

Temporary exemption from notification fee and costs.

Legal representation, where necessary, whereby the fee for such representation shall be paid later.

Payment of all fees and costs collected by the execution office by the state as an advance payment.

Temporary exemption from stamp duty.

Temporary exemption of fees and duties for documents and copies issued by notary publics.

“For criminal prosecutions, victims do not pay any prosecution fees. At the end of the prosecution, the suspect found guilty covers the prosecution fees.” [59] (S10W)


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