Human rights violations still continue as before. A number of national or international organizations regularly document serious human rights abuses in Turkey. A great deal of cases of individual complaints are being held by the European Commission of Human Rights (ECHR) and the European Court of Human Rights; almost all of the cases are related to arbitrary detentions, torture, forced evictions, disappearances under detention, extrajudicial executions and killings by unidentified assailants. Turkey is obliged to account for these widespread human rights abuses. Between 1990-1996, a total of 13 89 individual complaints were filed before the ECHR, among them 133 were declared admissible and other 274 inadmissible.
None of the successive governments could provide true and lasting measures to prevent human rights violations. Turkey has all the institutions which are required for a democratic country: parliament, presidency, executive, judiciary, etc. The parliament and governments are embodied through elections held every 5 years in line with the Constitution of the Turkish Republic. In light of the ongoing undemocratic measures applied ~y the Turkish Government, it is quite impossible to sustain the claim that Turkey is “a democratic country. The reason why human rights violations are so extensive is that the “reality” is totally different from what it looks like on the surface.
Turkey has a constitution as many democratic countries have. However this constitution was formulated by the Generals who took power in the wake of the 12 September 1980 Military Coup. Either the constitution or the other main laws which were prepared during this period are completely anti-democratic. Turkey, in fact, is ruled not by the government or the parliament, but the National Security Council (NSC)\ which is a part of the Constitution -usually not be found in democracies-. Even though the decisions taken by the NSC -which is composed of the Chief of General Staff and the General Commanders of Land, Sea, Air and Gendarmerie Forces-, are “advisory”, in practice, the governments are not in a position to oppose any of these decisions. All of the successive governments have made promises on human rights and democratization respects; however the influence of the NSC, not only over security but also over political, economical and cultural issues, increasingly multiplies. None of the duly elected governments have been able to be “in power”. In the history of the Turkish Republic, what is permanently “in power” is the NSC. In other words, those duly elected are not powerful, but the Generals are.
No improvement can be expected within this political and legal framework. Thus, in order to neutralize increasingly raised concerns of the international community, and with the aspiration to the ED membership, the successive governments, particularly in the last year, have made promises providing amendments to the Constitution and the domestic law; issued circulars against torture; released several prisoners of conscience. However the vital human rights questions are still unsolved. No improvement can be achieved without acquiring a radical change in the political system of Turkey. This means that, military and police need to be withdrawn from the political system, and duly elected civilian governments must be in power. Nevertheless, the recent developments have been to the contrary. The most recent example verifying NSC’s influence over all governmental issues has been experienced with the interference of 28 February 1997. The “Document on the National Security Policy” was elaborated and put in force in a way that the Constitution was also violated as a result. The coalition Government under the presidency of Mr.Necmettin Erbakan, the leader of pro-Islamist Welfare Party, had been obliged to resign under the pressure of the military. Laicism, which is among fundamental requirements of democracy and human rights, has been put forward as a pretext to justify regulations against democracy and human rights. Influence of the military over democratic institutions, in particular media and judiciary, increases steadily. Military has also played a significant role in the formation of the current government.
Promises by the present government have not been fulfilled, and seem to be insincere. Structural reforms are required to overcome fundamental problems, which are grounds for the human rights violations, in particular the Kurdish question. A statement by P.M. Mesut Yilmaz in the wake of the ED summit in Luxemburg implying that Turkey will not negotiate the human rights issues with the ED any longer is reason for great concern to us.
Freedom of Opinion
Restrictive laws remain to be the main obstacles to the freedom of opinion and expression. There are a total of 152 separate laws and 703 provisions, in particular the Anti-Terror Law and articles 311, 312, 158, 159 of the Turkish Penal Code, which restrict the freedom of opinion. Magazines, books and newspapers are being confiscated and banned. TV and radio channels are being closed. Thousands of people’ are being tried for the expression of their opinions; according to the Human Rights Association’s (HRA) reports, presently 105 people are serving their prison terms due to their expressed opinions. Mr.Esber Yagmurdereli, a human rights and peace activist, was put in prison to serve ‘a prison term of 22 years for a speech he made in a meeting organized by the HRA. However, he was ‘released by a local· prosecutor under a special amnesty referring to his health condition, mostly because of the pressure by the international public opinion, and his sentence was suspended for a 1 year on the condition that he would not commit the same offence during this period. He is now being tried to be imprisoned again. A total of 22 court actions have so far been brought against Mr.Akin Birdal, President of the HRA and the Vice President of the Federation International Des Ligules Des Droits de L’Homme (FIDH). Among them, 2 of the cases have been finalized and Mr.Akin Birdal has been sentenced to 1 year imprisonment for each. These cases are presently pending before the Court of Appeals. Similarly, Mr.Haluk Gerger, an academic, writer and a human rights and peace defender, was tried by the Istanbul State Security Court in connection with his article published in December 1993 in the daily Ozgür Gündem, and has been sentenced to 1 year in prison and a fine of TL.300 million under article 7 of the Anti-Terror Law. This sentence was approved by the Court of Appeals, and Mr.Gerger was put in prison on 26 January 1998. Mr. Ragip Duran, a journalist, has also been sentenced to 1 year in prison and a fine of TL.3 00 million under article 8 of the Anti-Terror Law. No significant steps have been taken at the trial of the accused policemen in the case of the reporter Metin Goktepe, who was killed under detention in 1996 in Istanbul. Dissidents, who express their views, are considered to be terrorism offenders as they are being charged. Those who oppose the “national” policies determined by the NSC are deemed as persons committed crimes against the State.
According to the HRA’s reports, in 1997, 298 journalists have been detained; 278 publications have been confiscated; a total of 259 years imprisonment and a fine of TL.64 billion 885 million have been issued against intellectuals, writers and others for expressing their opinions. Those who expressed their opinions recommending a democratic, political and peaceful solution to the Kurdish question have been harassed, tried and imprisoned.
Right to lift
Right to life is infringed by the Government itself through deaths and disappearances under detention, torture and extrajudicial execution. These violations are systematic and widespread. One of the main problems concerning the right to life is that the security forces being granted the arbitrary use, of their guns with impunity. It is quite worrisome that the present GoveI1llT.lent is unable to prosecute and punish those, who were revealed after a traffic accident in the Susurluk district to be “States gangs” including even some Ministers, MPs, and figures from military and security departments , and are accountable for a great deal of murders by unidentified assailants as well as other extrajudicial executions, victims of which are mainly the Kurdish businessmen and intellectuals, though it made promises on the contrary. The disappearances under detention are closely linked to the warfare prevailing in the southeast Turkey. Among these cases, 80 percent take place in the state of emergency region. According to the HRA’ s reports, in 1997, 66 people have been disappeared, 109 people have been murdered by unidentified assailants, 114 people have been extra judicially executed, 2514 people have died due to the conflict in the Kurdish region; 151 civilians have been killed and 239 wounded during clashes. Several dozen of people have died or been wounded by the ‘land-mines situated especially in the civilian settlement areas.
Although Turkey ratified the UN Convention against Torture and European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, torture is systematically used and widespread. According to the statement by the former Minister of Human Rights, Mr. Azimet Koytioglu, 28 types of torture techniques are used in police custodies. Having made an announcement in December 1996, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) stated that the CPT delegation found flagrant examples of torture. The HRA and the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) determined 37 torture techniques, such as electric shock, squeezing the testicles, hanging by the arms or legs, blindfolding, stripping the suspect naked, spraying with high-pressure water, etc. These techniques are used by the special team members and other interrogation teams. Through a legal amendment made in March 1997, the detention period has been reduced from 15 days to 7 days. Similarly it was reduced from 30 to 10 days in the state of emergency region. However, through our work at the HRA we report that arbitrary detention practices are continuing, detainees are not registered, and the police officers act indifferently towards the rules. According to the HRA’s reports, in 1997, 366 people have been exposed to torture under detention. This figure may not be reflecting all of the torture cases which took place during this term since most of the ‘cases are not reported because they cannot document to us. The real figure is much higher than documented.
Freedom of Association
Persecution against the human rights organizations and the HRA
Through constitutional and legal obstacles, workers are denied the right to collective bargaining, syndicate and strike. Strikes demanding rights and solidarity for workers have been deemed criminal by the laws. Public servants have not been given syndical rights yet. Although Turkey ratified the ILO Conventions, its domestic law has not been adopted to these Conventions, which are directly related to the laborers’ fundamental rights and freedoms. Parties, associations and trade unions are being closed, and thus, freedom of association is being infringed greatly. The human rights organizations also encounter these types of persecution. Human rights defenders are detained, tried or imprisoned; court actions are brought against human rights organizations for closure and their publications are banned. Two court actions for closure were brought against the HRA’s Headquarters. While one was resulted in acquittal, the other is pending. HRA’s branches in Diyarbakir, Izmir, Mardin, Sanliurfa, Balikesir, Malatya and Konya were closed down in May and August by the Governorships without any court orders. Branches in Diyarbakir and Sanliurfa, which were the most active ones in the region, still remain closed. The other 5 branches have been reopened through our application to the local authorities. The HRFT and the Mazlum-Der (Association for Human Rights and Solidarity with the Oppressed) are also being harassed. Local and international human rights organizations and monitors, and journalists are not allowed to access to the state of emergency region.
There are about 15 million Kurds living in Turkey. East and Southeast Turkey have been governed under martial law and, since 1987; this region has been governed by the state of emergency regime. There are 7 provinces still under the state of emergency. Although the state of emergency was lifted in some provinces, one cannot observe any indication that “ordinary” life prevails.
This vital question is being tried to be resolved by military means. During prevailing clashes civilians are targeted, settlement areas and forests burnt down. So far nearly 3 million Kurds have been forcibly displaced. According to a statement made in July by Deputy PM Bulent Ecevit, 3,185 villages and hamlets have been evacuated. A report prepared by the request of the US Congress states that the Turkish Government pursues a forced eviction policy. Food embargoes are conducted in many provinces and their townships. The International Red Cross is not allowed to access the region to monitor the situation. Having armed 65,000 Kurdish villagers, the government established the village guard system. A total of 7 political parties which included the solution to the Kurdish question in their program have so far been closed down; the Chairman and other senior officials of the People’s Democracy Party (HADEP) were put in prison for 10 months and then sentenced to heavy imprisonment. Their case is pending before the Court of Appeals. In addition to this, most recently 7 senior officers of HADEP, including the President Murat Bozlak, have once again been arrested under unreasonable pretexts. It seems that the HADEP may be closed down in the future. Meanwhile, a legal action was initiated by the Constitutional Court seeking for the closure of the Democratic Mass Party (DKP) which is chaired by a former Kurdish MP Serafettin Elyi.
In Turkey there are over 60,000 convicts and prisoners, 10,000 of whom are political prisoners. Prisoners in 562 prisoners around Turkey are held under inhumane conditions. Prisoners, especially the political prisoners, quite often stage hunger strikes in protest of the inhumane conditions and torture in the prisons. In July August 1996, a total of 12 political prisoners lost their lives in Bursa, istanbu1 and Izmir prisons, because they took part in hunger strikes to death. On 24 September 1996, security forces attacked the prisoners in Diyarbakir prison; 10 prisoners were brutally killed, 26 severely wounded with iron sticks and butts of rifles during the incident. According to the autopsy reports, these 10 prisoners were killed by torture. Then, as a result of raised public concern, a court action was brought against 60 security officers who are accountable for the killings. The Turkish Grand National Assembly set up a commission to investigate the massacre, and the Commission later confirmed that the 10 prisoners were brutally murdered by torture. Because of the inappropriate prison conditions, prisoners get epidemic diseases. Prisoners, who suffer from chronically diseases, especially those who carried out long-term hunger strikes, are not provided with the necessary medical treatment.