Country of Origin Information Report

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Torture
8.25 According to the Turkish Constitution, the use of torture is prohibited, everyone has the right to life and the right to protect and develop his material and spiritual entity. Article 17 states that “no-one shall be subjected to torture or ill-treatment; no-one shall be subjected to penalty or treatment incompatible with human dignity”. [36e]
8.26 The US State Department Report (USSD) 2007, published on 11 March 2008, noted that “The constitution and law prohibit such practices; however, members of the security forces continued to torture, beat, and otherwise abuse persons. Human rights organizations reported a rise in cases of torture and abuse during the year. In a July 5 report, Amnesty International (AI) noted that a ‘culture of impunity’ allowed police and Jandarma to escape accountability for torture and enabled courts to disregard medical evidence of torture and accept as evidence statements allegedly extracted under torture.” [5g] (section 1c)

8.27 The same USSD 2007 report also noted that:

“According to the HRA and Mazlum-Der, there were 451 incidents of torture in the first six months of the year. The HRF reported that during the year 452 persons applied to ’HRF’s centers for assistance. Of these, 248 cases involved torture or abuse inflicted during the year; the rest involved incidents that occurred previously. HRF stated that there were 10,449 credible reports of torture or abuse from 1990 to 2005. A number of human rights observers claimed that only a small percentage of detainees reported torture and abuse because they feared retaliation or believed that complaining was futile.” [5g] (Section 1c)

8.28 The International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF) (Events of 2006), published on 27 March 2007 noted that “Torture remained a serious concern, although the reported number of cases of abuse continued to decrease. The HRFT received about 200 complaints from persons alleging to be victims of torture during the year. It also registered two cases in which persons died while held in custody by the security services, and 14 deaths of remand and convicted prisoners under circumstances giving rise to concern that the victims may have been subjected to treatment amounting to torture.” [10c] (p181)
8.29 The IHF Human Rights 2007 report further noted that “The implementation of legislation aimed at preventing torture remained ineffective and, as observed by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, safeguards against torture – such as access to a lawyer and qualified forensic doctors – were not adequately enforced. An amendment to the Law on the Prosecution of Public Servants re-introduced privileges preventing prosecution of officials accused of torture and ill-treatment. Officials found guilty of torture and ill-treatment were rarely suspended.” [10c] (p181)
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8.30 The Human Rights Watch (HRW) World Report 2008, published on 31 January 2008 stated:

“Ill-treatment appeared to be on the rise in 2007 and was regularly reported as occurring during arrest, outside places of official detention, and in the context of demonstrations, as well as in detention centers. This trend was further exacerbated by the passing in June of a new police law granting wide-ranging powers of stop and search. After the new law came into force, cases of police brutality were also reported in the context of the routine identity checks permitted in the new law… Fatal shootings of civilians by members of the security forces remain a serious concern. Although police typically state that the killing occurred because the individual has failed to obey a warning to stop, in some cases these may amount to extrajudicial executions.” [9b]

8.31 The 2008 HRW report also noted that:
“Turkish courts are notoriously lenient towards members of the security forces who are charged with abuse or misconduct, contributing to impunity and the persistence of torture and the resort to lethal force. Many allegations of torture or killings in disputed circumstances never reach the courts and are not investigated. Some controversial court rulings in the first half of 2007 stand out. In May the Court of Cassation quashed the 39-year sentences of two gendarmerie intelligence officers for the November 2005 bombing of a bookshop in the southeastern town of Şemdinli that resulted in one death.” [9b]
8.32 The 2008 HRW report further noted that, “As of this writing, the European Court of Human Rights has issued 242 judgments against Turkey in 2007 for torture, unfair trial, extrajudicial execution, and other violations.” [9b]
8.33 The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) visited Turkey from 7 to 14 December 2005 and their report issued on 6 September 2006 noted that:

“The CPT’s delegation interviewed scores of persons who were, or had recently been (2005), in police/gendarmerie custody. The great majority of those persons stated that they had not been physically ill-treated whilst in custody. This positive development was confirmed during the delegation’s discussions with various other interlocutors, such as public prosecutors, State doctors entrusted with the medical examination of persons in olice/gendarmerie custody, and representatives of Bar Associations and local branches of the Human Rights Association. [13a] (paragraph 17) However, the picture which emerges from the information gathered by the CPT’s delegation is not entirely reassuring. The delegation did receive, in each of the three Provinces visited, several allegations of recent physical ill-treatment during police/gendarmerie custody, in a few cases of a serious nature.” [13a] (paragraph 18)

8.34 The same CPT 2006 report also noted that:
“Medical evidence consistent with some of the above-mentioned allegations was found in the end-of-custody medical reports and/or in medical reports drawn up on entry into prison… It should also be noted that some persons interviewed alleged ill-treatment of a psychological nature, such as threats of physical ill-treatment or to take into custody other members of the detained person’s family, not to mention verbal abuse.” [13a] (paragraph 18)
8.35 The CPT 2006 report continued:
“The information gathered during the CPT’s December 2005 visit would indicate that the curve of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials remains on the decline. However, there are clearly no grounds for complacency, all the more so as reports continue to appear of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials in different parts of the country. The CPT trusts that the Turkish authorities will continue to pursue vigorously their efforts to combat all forms of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials.” [13a] (paragraph 20)

8.36 The European Commission Turkey 2007 Progress 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.” [71c] (p12)

8.37 The EC 2007 Progress report on Turkey also noted that: “The legislative safeguards introduced by the zero tolerance policy on torture continue to have positive effects. The downward trend in the number of reported cases of torture and ill-treatment was confirmed. The reforms regarding access to lawyers have shown positive results (See access to justice Annex D). Turkey pursued its efforts to strengthen the system for the medical examination of alleged cases of abuse. The number of forensic medicine centres in Turkey has been increased, and the Council for Forensic Medicine started a project to strengthen the implementation of the Istanbul Protocol.” [71c] (p13)
8.38 The EC 2007 Progress report on Turkey further noted that:
“However, cases of torture and ill-treatment are still being reported, especially during arrest and outside detention centres. There is no independent monitoring of places of detention by independent national bodies, pending the adoption of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture. The use of statements obtained in the absence of legal counsel or which are not confirmed in front of a judge is prohibited by the Criminal Procedure Code. However, the Court of Cassation ruled that the ban on the use of such statements does not apply retroactively. There are cases where lower Courts have not removed such evidence from the case file, although allegations of ill-treatment were made by the defendant.” [71c] (p13)

8.39 The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) visited Turkey from 19 to 22 May 2007 and noted that:


“…There had been no favourable response from the Turkish authorities to the various recommendations made by the CPT as early as 1999, and subsequently expanded on, to alleviate the harmful effects of his [Abdullah Öcalan] detention alone in Imralı High-Security Closed Prison. In particular, he was still not allowed to move freely between his cell and the adjoining room during the day, had no access - not even occasionally - to a larger exercise area with basic facilities, had no other activities and had no television set (either rented or purchased)…The CPT is firmly convinced that, whatever the circumstances, there can be no justification for keeping a prisoner in such conditions of isolation for eight and a half years. It calls upon the Turkish authorities to completely review the situation of Abdullah Öcalan, with a view to integrating him into a setting where contacts with other inmates and a wider range of activities are possible.” [13b]

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Turkish Armed Forces (Türk Silahli Kuvvetleri, TSK)
8.40 The Turkish General Staff website updated on 13 June 2008 noted:
“The Armed Forces of the Turkish Republic having great geopolitical and geostrategic importance comprise the Army, Navy and Air Force that are subordinate to the Turkish General Staff. The General Command of Gendarmerie and the Coast Guard Command, which operate as the parts of internal security forces in peacetime, are subordinate to the Land and Naval Forces Commands, respectively in wartime… General Hilmi Özkok the 24th Commander of the Turkish Armed Forces retired on 30 August 2006 and the 25th new Commander of the Turkish Armed Forces is now Yaşar Büyükanıt.” [106]
8.41 As recorded in Europa World online, Turkey: Defence (website accessed on 7 August 2008), “The total strength of the active armed forces assessed at November 2007 was 510,600 (including 359,500 conscripts), comprising an army of 402,000, a navy of 48,600 and an air force of 60,000. There was a gendarmerie numbering 150,000 and a coast guard of 3,250 (including 1,400 conscripts). Reserve forces totalled 378,700 in the armed forces and 50,000 in the gendarmerie.” [1b] (Turkey: Defence)
Discrimination in the armed forces

8.42 The War Resisters’ International 2005 document stated that “There have been regular reports of Kurdish conscripts in particular being subjected to discriminatory treatment, especially when they are suspected of having separatist sympathies. Different sources make different assessments of the extent to which Kurdish conscripts face discriminatory treatment within the armed forces.” [53a] (Section on Draft evasion)

8.43 Amnesty International public statement dated 8 February 2007 stated:
“Amnesty International is deeply concerned at reports that on 26 January 2007 conscientious objector Halil Savda was ill-treated by military personnel in the disciplinary ward of the military barracks in Tekirdağ where he had originally been summoned to perform military service.” [12f]
See also Section 9:10 Conscientious objectors (Vicdani Retci)
Extra-judicial killings
8.47 For the year 2007, the Human Rights Association (HRA/IHD) Summary table for Human Rights Violations recorded:



EXTRA JUDICIAL EXECUTIONS

Deaths

Wounded

Killed and injured by security forces in Stop Warnings, and violation of authority on arm use by officials


29

23

Killed and injured by Village Guards

5

4

Total

34

27

[73b]

8.48 The Human Rights Association further noted the human rights situation from 1999 to 2007 as:

Human Rights Situation in some Rights Categories between 1999 and 2007


Violations

1999

2000

2001

2002

2003

2004

2005

2006

2007

Unknown killings

212

145

160

75

50

47

1

20

42

Doubtful deaths/deaths in custody because of extra judicial execution/torture paid guard village

205

173

55

40

44

47

89

130

66

Death in clashes


857

147

92

30

104

240

496

345

424

Torture and Ill-treatment

594

594

862

876

1202

1040

825

708

678

People who taken into custody

50318

35007

44181

31217

12406

9711

2702

5560

7197


Arrests

2105

1937

2955

1148

1196

774

621

1545

1440

[73a]
8.49 The Amnesty International (AI) report “No justice for victims of torture and killings by law enforcement officials” noted in 5 July 2007 that:
“Torture, ill-treatment and killings continue to be met with persistent impunity for the security forces in Turkey, Amnesty International said in a report published today. The investigation and prosecution of serious human rights violations committed by officers of the police and gendarmerie are flawed and compounded by inconsistent decisions by prosecutors and judges. As a result, justice for the victims of human rights violations is delayed or denied. The criminal justice system needs reform. It needs to firmly put the protection of the human rights of citizens above that of the perceived interests of state institutions and officials.” [12a]
8.50 The Human Rights Watch (HRW) World Report 2008, published on 31 January 2008 noted:

“Fatal shootings of civilians by members of the security forces remain a serious concern. Although police typically state that the killing occurred because the individual has failed to obey a warning to stop, in some cases these may amount to extrajudicial executions. The fatal shooting of Bülent Karataş near Hozat, Tunceli, in September 2007, bore the hallmarks of a summary execution. His companion, Rıza Çiçek, who survived serious gunshot wounds, explained how he was shot by military personnel while on a beekeeping trip. Another suspected summary execution was that of the villager Ejder Demir, shot dead near Özalp, Van, in September. Nigerian asylum seeker Festus Okey died of gunshot wounds incurred while in police custody in Istanbul in August.” [9b]

8.51 The European Commission 2007 Progress report published 6 November 2007 recorded that:
“No change has been made to the Turkish Armed Forces Internal Service Law and the law on the National Security Council. These laws define the role and duties of the Turkish military and grant the military a wide margin of manoeuvre by providing a broad definition of national security. No progress has been made in enhancing civilian control over the Gendarmerie when engaged in civilian activities… Overall, no progress has been made in ensuring full civilian supervisory functions over the military and parliamentary oversight of defence expenditure. On the contrary, the tendency for the military to make public comments on issues going beyond its remit, including on the reform agenda, has increased.” [71c] (p9)
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9 Military Service
9.02 According to Article 1 of the Military Act No.1111 (1927), every male Turkish citizen is obliged to carry out military service. [21] (p1) The length of military service is 15 months. University graduates may perform 8 months’ military service, or 12 months if they are trained to become reserve officers. All men between the ages of 19 and 40 are liable for military service. Men who have not fulfilled their military service by the age of 40 and who have not been legally exempt from service, may still be called up after the age of 40. [53a]

9.04 ‘Refusing to Bear Arms: A world-wide survey of conscription and conscientious objection to military service’ (Turkey: 2005 update) by War Resisters’ International states:

“Different military service regulations apply for Turkish citizens who are living abroad. They can postpone their service up to the age of 38, for a period of three years at a time. Turkish citizens living abroad may also partially buy themselves out of military service by paying a sum of 5,112 Euros. However, in this case they still need to perform a one-month military service. Turkish citizens who live abroad and who possess dual nationality may get legally exempt from service, on the condition that they lived abroad before the age of 18 and that they performed military service in another country. Exemption on this ground is only possible if the length of military service that has been performed in another country is considered to be comparable to the length of service in Turkey.” [53a]

9.05 An article ‘Lower House Seeking to Abolish Military Service in Turkey’ published in the NIS News bulletin in the Hague dated 22 March 2007 stated that:

“The Lower House is pressing for Dutch citizens of Turkish origin to be exempted from national service in Turkey. The current policy is harmful for integration; in the view of a large majority...Turkey has a compulsory national service period of fifteen months. Turks living abroad can buy off this obligation for 5,112 euros. After that, they still have to serve a reduced national service period of three weeks in Turkey...The Dutch army and the police give interest-free loans to soldiers and policemen of Turkish origin who wish to buy off their obligation. They are given paid leave for the three-week course. Similar financial support for employees is provided by five of the twenty largest local authorities. In this way, Turkey receives 12 million euros a year from Dutch citizens who buy off their national service obligation, TV programme Netwerk reported on Tuesday.” [76]

Deferring Military Service
9.06 In the Journal of Turkish Weekly November 2004 an article by Prof. Dr. Bulent Cicekli on ‘Turkish Citizenship Policy since 1980’ by Assc. Prof. Dr. Bulent Cicekli, noted that:
“… Turkish nationals acquiring another foreign nationality upon their will without obtaining the required permission or those persons abroad avoiding to perform military service within statutory limits despite official notification and so on may receive the sanction of dismissal (kaybettirme) (Article 25)...

“In addition to the amendments made in the Nationality Act, the facilities given to dual nationals in relation to military service constitute further incentives in favour of dual nationality. On the basis of principles to be determined by the decision of the Council of Ministers, Turkish citizens who are born or residing abroad or who have immigrated to a foreign country before the age of majority and who have also acquired the nationality of the state of residence shall be exempted from the obligation to perform military service upon their request, provided that they produce documents to the effect that they have performed military service in the other country, which they are the citizens of.” [113]


9.06 The same article by Prof. Dr. Bulent Cicekli further noted that:

“Whereas in cases where military service is not obligatory as in the UK, the dual citizen is still under the obligation of performing military service…

Thus, those who are nationals of another state as well as of Turkey shall be exempted in Turkey from the obligation to perform military service in case they have performed military service in the other country of nationality. This too clearly functions as an incentive in favour of dual nationality.

With the second amendment realised by the Act No. 4112, the requirement of performing compulsory military service is no longer made a condition for permission to renounce Turkish nationality...

Renunciation of Turkish nationality is subject to the permission of the Council of Ministers under the following conditions:

a) Having sound mind and majority,

b) Having performed or been regarded to have performed compulsory military service. It is possible that the Ministry of Defence gives permission regarding those whose exemption from the condition of performing compulsory military service is viewed as indispensable. However, the person having renounced Turkish nationality in this manner is obliged to perform military service in case he is re-naturalised.


It is a very significant indicator of the citizenship policy not to require anymore the performance of military service in relation to the permission for renouncing nationality. Taking into account the fact that a significant portion of persons who reside abroad and may be able to request permission for renouncing nationality will be a young and male population, this importance shall be much better appreciated.” [113]
9.06 According to Article 35 of the Military Act No.1111 (1927) a number of provisions allow people liable to military service to defer their service, principally for educational reasons. In accordance with Article 35c, military service for those attending a school in Turkey or abroad is deferred until the end of the year in which they reach 29. Under Article 35e, the military service of university graduates who attend a postgraduate programme is deferred until the end of the year in which they reach the age of 33. Furthermore, for those post-graduate students whose studies in local or foreign post-graduate programmes are proved to be an innovation or development in the respective field of study, military service is postponed to the end of the year in which they reach the age of 36. [21] (p13-14)
9.07 As recorded on the website of the Turkish Ministry of National Defence (undated, website accessed on 13 February 2006):

“All recruitment procedures of our citizens, (residing abroad with the title of employee, employer, craftsmen or any other profession having the working or residence permit), such as final military roll call, summons and conscription can be postponed by the Ministry of National Defence until the end of the year they completed the age of 38 (until December 31st of the year they completed the age of 38)…The military service of the undergraduate and postgraduate students who work as part time workers and as workers who are not subject to income tax and whose residence and working permit are given due to their status as students, can not be deferred.” [100] (Section on Deferments)
9.08 The Turkish government has never considered introducing legislation on conscientious objection. A brochure published by the armed forces in 1999 in fact stated: “In our laws there are no provisions on exemption from military service for reasons of conscience. This is because of the pressing need for security, caused by the strategic geographic position of our country and the circumstances we find ourselves in. As long as the factors threatening the internal and external security of Turkey do not change, it is considered to be impossible to introduce the concept of ‘conscientious objection’ into our legislation”. [53a]


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