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SHORT FILM COMPETITION

“INNOCENCE – INNOCENCY” as part of human rights violations What is experienced within the scope of human rights violations and victimizations in Turkey and other countries of the world.
AST organizes a short film competition to develop an awareness of unjust practices. This Competition covers sub-topics such as political prisoners, torture, deprivation of basic human rights, etc., including innocent women, infants, and seniors in prisons.
The goal of this competition is to develop an awareness of unjust practices; to develop individuals in short film making; to reflect aesthetic skills in filmmaking; to be able to present the message clearly to the audience; to contribute to the formation of habit and taste in engaging in artistic activities.

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BORN AND RAISED IN PRISON: TURKEY’S CAPTIVE CHILDREN

International human rights standards are increasingly understood to require special and improved care for women prisoners with children. Pregnant women, women in the post-partum phase of childbirth, and crucially, newborns, require access to intensive and routine medical services and highest attainable prison standards. Imprisoned women with children face distinct challenges that other prisoners may not experience while they serve their sentences. In international human rights terms, rights of women with children fall under three categories and are protected by instruments of international law which enumerate the rights of prisoners, women, and mothers. In the Turkish Republic, governed by President Recep T. Erdogan and Justice and Development Party (AKP), the treatment of women prisoners and their children has deteriorated since 2016, the year during which Turkey experienced a general shift towards authoritarianism. At the time of this publication, the first quarter of 2020, the Turkish government’s treatment of women prisoners and their children falls radically short of standards detailed by landmark instruments put forth by the United Nations and adopted by the international community. Developments pertaining to the rights of women and children signal the continued deterioration of these rights under the current government without legitimate efforts to improve conditions by Turkish authorities.

This report is based on desk research and interviews with former prisoners conducted mainly via telephone and skype in January to March 2020. It was not possible to interview prisoners who remain behind bars and others who continue to live in Turkey as they fear government retribution for sharing their stories. The report proceeds by analyzing the current condition of prisons in Turkey as they pertain to pregnant women and women with dependent children. The analysis provides a succinct overview of the ongoing violations in Turkish prisons by comparing and contrasting current practices of the Turkish government with the universally recognized and widely ratified United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (Bangkok Rules). The analysis is composed of part commentary and part interview data. The details of each violation are interwoven directly into the comments to provide a vivid and relatable description of victims’ experiences. Volunteer interviewers for Advocates of Silenced Turkey conducted telephonic interviews with victims whose identities have been anonymized for this report. While some of these women have agreed for AST to publicize their identity, we have currently chosen to keep all data anonymous in order to protect the families of victims who continue to live in Turkey and may face persecution as a direct result of this publication. All interviews have been audio recorded with permission, transcribed, and translated with special attention paid to preserving the authenticity of the information shared by interviewees. Volunteers who conducted interviews utilized an organic conversational tone throughout each meeting, however, they were appropriately trained to effectively extract certain data from each woman. All questions used by interviewers were distilled from relevant international human rights instruments. The Tokyo Rules and Bangkok Rules in particular have played a critical role in shaping and directing the language and content of the questionnaire.

In the second and final part of the report, AST has created a catalog of all victims whose information has been made available through open-source research platforms. The desk research conducted by our associates has mainly relied on social media platforms, especially Twitter, which remain as final standing sources of real news in the Republic of Turkey. In a strictly controlled media environment, news regarding victims of the presiding government receives little to no attention. Thus, our cataloging efforts rely on publicly available information often volunteered by victims or close friends and relatives of victims on social media platforms. The information contained in the catalog section of this report will continue to be updated with increasingly more reliable data and sources as they become available over time.

RECOMMENDATIONS

Advocates of Silenced Turkey urges conscientious objectors, relevant human rights organizations, and UN special rapporteurs to encourage the government of Turkey to implement four major recommendations related to improving the living conditions of captive mothers and babies, by:

 Urging the Turkish government to effective immediately revise its policy of imprisonment towards pregnant women and women with dependent children. Non-custodial sentences shall be preferred where possible and appropriate, especially when prison conditions pose a threat to the lives of mothers and children.

 Urging the Turkish Ministry of Justice to eliminate excessive overcrowding in prison dormitories, dedicate increased resources to the physical and mental wellbeing of women and children, provide maternity support before and after birth, and ensure access to adequately nutritional food.

 Encouraging independent organizations to organize and promote transparent research on the number of children affected by their mothers’ confrontation with the criminal justice system in order to contribute to policy formulation and program development, taking into account the best interests of the children.

 Urging Turkish authorities to liaise with international criminal justice experts to develop better institutional safeguards & provide training to prison administrators and staff in order to prepare them to respond correctly to the day-to-day needs of imprisoned mothers and children.

 

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KEY HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS IN TURKEY SINCE THE SO-CALLED COUP ATTEMPT

Following the so-called coup attempt on the 15th of July 2016, the Turkish government under the authoritarian leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken a wave of oppressive actions against not only the alleged coup plotters but also those that are perceived as critics of the regime. Currently, as part of Turkey’s post-coup crackdown, more than 130,000 people including judges, academics, teachers, journalists, police and military officers, and other public servants have been dismissed from their jobs. In correlation, more than 217,000 have been detained and 160,000 have been arrested. Amnesty International reports that detainees were “being held arbitrarily” with “no evidence establishing reasonable suspicion of criminal behavior” and that “only a tiny minority of them were accused of taking part in the actual events of the attempted coup”.

Amid the massive crackdown of hundreds of thousands of dissidents, human rights organizations and the U.N. Human Rights Council have noted that human rights are violated on a large scale by the Turkish government. Arbitrary killings, suspicious deaths of people in custody, forced disappearances, tortures, ill-treatments, injustice, and threats – mostly against the followers of the Gulen Movement, Kurds, and the Leftists – have been reported widespread during this large-scale witch-hunt.

As people continue to be arrested and many more tortured and abducted, the present brief of Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST) highlights some of the key human rights concerns that have taken place in Turkey during this on-going period.

●  UNPRECEDENTED SCALE OF DISMISSALS: 

More than 130,000 public servants, with their names attached in lists to emergency orders, were dismissed by emergency decrees. These public servants included over 4,463 judges and prosecutors, 6,021 academics, 6,000 health-care professionals, 33,500 teachers, and 44,500 police and military officers. Not only were people dismissed arbitrarily but also banned permanently from working in the public sector – many were even banned to practice their profession.

  • COLLAPSE OF JUDICIARY SYSTEM:

With approximately 4,463 judges and prosecutors (including two judges from the Turkey’s highest court) dismissed permanently, over one-fifth of Turkey’s judiciary has been removed. Of those dismissed, at least 2,200 were jailed with their assets frozen due to their alleged links to the Gulen movement. Consequently, the climate of fear paralyzed the judges and prosecutors who still have their positions. The fear combined with the heavy government influence in the court system led to the collapse of the judiciary system and the deterioration of human rights in the country. As a result, Turkey ranked 109 out of 126 countries in 2019 on the rule of law index of the World Justice Project.

  • VICTIMIZATION OF LAWYERS:

Lawyers are among the many groups affected by the post-coup crackdown in Turkey. They were unlawfully associated with their clients’ alleged crimes. Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that many lawyers were targeted with criminal investigations with little or no evidence. According to the Arrested Lawyers Initiative, over 1,500 lawyers were persecuted over the past three years including 14 lawyers who were presidents of provincial bar associations – of those persecuted lawyers, one third remained imprisoned before and during their trials, and 274 were convicted of membership of armed terrorist organizations and sentenced to long prison sentences. Furthermore, approximately 34 bar associations were shut down by presidential decree with alleged affiliations to terrorist organizations.

  • PERSECUTION OF ACADEMICS:

Following the coup attempt, 3,003 private schools and 15 universities linked to the Gülen movement were closed by a presidential decree. Eventually resulting in the displacement of over 60,000 students across the country. Over 8,500 academics reportedly lost their jobs either due to direct dismissals or university closures since September 2016 – and many of them were imprisoned. Large-scale dismissals of academics and teachers significantly damaged the education sector thus diminished the right to education.

  • BOOKS DESTROYED:

Turkey’s education minister Ziya Selçuk announced last week that 301,878 books had been destroyed as the government cracks down on anything linked to Fethullah Gülen. Turkish newspaper BirGün reported that 1.8m textbooks had been destroyed and reprinted for containing the “objectionable” word Pennsylvania, which is where Gülen lives.

  • THE MEDIA PURGE FOLLOWING THE ATTEMPTED COUP: 

In the aftermath of the failed coup, the government closed down 200 media outlets – including 53 newspapers, 37 radio stations, 34 TV channels, 29 publishing houses, 20 magazines, and six news agencies – with accused links to the Gulen movement, Kurdish opposition, or Leftists groups. Consequently, a total of 2,308 media workers and journalists have lost their jobs. The government canceled hundreds of press accreditations and revoked passports of an unknown number of journalists and their family members to ban them from traveling abroad. In addition, the government imprisoned a record-breaking number of journalists in the wake of the coup attempt – with that, Turkey became the world’s largest prison for journalists. The Platform for Independent Journalism (P24) reported that at least 126 journalists and media workers were in prison in Turkey as of October 2019 – among them, many were put in long solitary confinement. 

The absence of freedom of expression is not only a recurring problem for journalists but for citizens as well. In 2018, the Ministry of Interior reported that more than 7,000 individuals were detained for their social media posts after investigating 631,233 digital materials. In relation to the censorships and content restrictions in the country, Wikipedia has been blocked in Turkey since April of 2017. Currently, out of the 180 countries, Turkey ranks 157th on the Press Freedom Index of Reporters Without Borders and is listed among ‘not free’ countries by the Freedom House.

  • CRACKDOWN ON HEALTH CARE SECTOR:

Turkish government has shut down 14 hospitals and 36 medical centers after the coup attempt on the pretext of alleged ties to the Gülen movement. Therefore, an estimated 21,000 health care professionals were laid off – including doctors, academics, nurses, midwives, and other hospital staff. Of those, 5,261 are medical doctors and academics who specialize in the medical sciences. The figures of how many health care professionals have been detained, arrested or currently in prison are estimated in the thousands. Given the longstanding issue of hospital and staff shortages in the country, the dismissals of health care professionals and the closure of hospitals left many patients in despair of medical care.

  • PRISON CONDITIONS:

With the persecution of tens of thousands of critics, the current population in Turkish prisons is 4-5 times higher than the normal capacity – it has increased from 171,267 inmates in 2015 to 260,144 in 2018. Given the capacity of 211,766, inmates are forced to remain in overcrowded cells. In order to free up space for more political prisoners, the government released nearly 34,000 convicts from prisons. The inadequate provision of health care to prisoners also remains a serious problem. Officially reported by the Ministry of Justice Prison and Correctional Facilities, there were 271 doctors serving nearly a quarter-million of the prison population – of whom, only eight were full-time. Insufficient access to freshwater, proper heating, ventilation, and lighting are other concerns for prison conditions. There are 62,669 political prisoners, 4,000 of them being women and 780 of them being children.

  • TORTURE AND ILL-TREATMENT:

Despite the government’s zero-tolerance claim for torture policy, human rights groups have reported widespread and systematic use of torture and ill-treatment in police custody following the coup-attempt – including severe beatings, threats of sexual assault and actual sexual assault, electric shocks, waterboarding, sleep deprivation, stress positions, long solitary confinement, and depriving of food and water. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stated acts of torture and ill-treatment aimed “at extracting confessions or forcing detainees to denounce other Individuals” in its report on Turkey in 2017. The Human Rights Association (HRA) reported that the number of incidents where prisoners were subjected to torture and ill-treatment in detention centers and prisons was 2,178 in 2016, 2,415 in 2017, and 1,505 in 2018. The Stockholm Center for Freedom (SCF) reported a total of 126 suspicious deaths and suicides since the coup attempt – most of those occurred in detention centers and prisons, seemingly a direct result of torture and ill-treatment.

  • ABDUCTIONS AND ENFORCED DISAPPEARANCES:

In the aftermath of the coup attempt, forced disappearances made a comeback in Turkey. Opposing politicians and respected human rights groups claimed at least 128 abductions or possible enforced disappearances of individuals. Most of the victims were identified as dismissed public servants with alleged ties to the Gulen movement or critics of the government. Allegedly, victims were abducted outside detention facilities and illegally questioned and tortured by Turkey’s intelligence agency. Moreover, Turkey’s intelligence agency reportedly abducted over more than 100 alleged Gulen affiliates from 18 countries – individuals often deported illegally – against the universal conventions – by cooperative governments without due process.

  • WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN PRISON:

The prison conditions for women and children are exceedingly alarming. According to the Justice Ministry, as of 2017, nearly 10,000 women and 3,000 children under 18 are in Turkey’s prisons. The inhumane prison conditions also hold weight in women prisons. They face additional issues of the male security staff frequently obstructing their privacy during hospital visits, oftentimes leading to an incomplete examination.  Among the prisoners, there are more than 30 pregnant women or women who just gave birth and 780 children under 6 years old imprisoned along with their mothers – including 149 infants under 1-year-old. Pregnant women are forced to stay with other inmates in overcrowded cells, also denied access to proper prenatal care – posing serious risks to their well-being. Likewise, mothers with children are also forced to share a cell with inmates.

Even when prison authorities are willing to let the child see a doctor, they do not allow mothers to accompany them. Children have to sleep in the same bed with their mothers and are not assigned a cradle or a separate bed.

The state pays $2 a day per prisoner for food. Since children are not technically incarcerated, they are not allotted any daily food rations and share their mother’s meals.

More than %80 of children in jail with their mothers do not receive any education.

Only %18 receive kindergarten or nursery services, but even then, there is a shortage of educational materials.

  • RESTRICTIONS ON RIGHT TO TRAVEL:

Another unlawful activity being pursued during this period is revoking the passports of government critics with perceived affiliations to the Gulen movement, Kurdish opposition, Leftists groups and their family members. On this ground, the Turkish government put restrictions on approximately 155,000 passports, reported by the SCF. Since their passports are restricted, many people, with the fear of persecution, use smuggler routes to flee from the country. Unfortunately, many died in the Evros River and the Aegean Sea. Turkey revoking its citizens’ passports also causes travel struggles for those across the world.

  • SEIZURE OF DISSIDENTS’ ASSETS:

The Turkish government abuses laws to seize assets of its critics. As of March 2018, the government had seized the assets of approximately 1,124 businesses and 127 individuals. According to the Savings Deposit Insurance Fund of Turkey, the net worth of the seized assets is an estimated $32.24 billion since the 2016 coup attempt. Moreover, in most cases, the government freezes the assets of those on trial, financially crippling them and their families.

SOURCES

  1. https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2016/07/turkey-independent-monitors-must-be-allowed-to-access-detainees-amid-torture-allegations/ https://www.amnesty.org/en/countries/europe-and-central-asia/turkey/report-turkey/
  2. https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/turkey/

          https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Countries/TR/2018-03-19_Second_OHCHR_Turkey_Report.pdf

  1. https://turkeypurge.com/turkey-jails-2431-judges-prosecutors-dismisses-4424-to-date-top-court
  2. https://worldjusticeproject.org/sites/default/files/documents/ROLI-2019-Reduced.pdf
  3. https://silencedturkey.org/lawyers-on-trial-abusive-prosecutions-and-erosion-of-fair-trial-rights-in-turkey-2

         https://arrestedlawyers.org/2019/09/01/new-report-mass-prosecution-of-lawyers-in-turkey/

  1. http://silencedturkey.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/AcademicsAtRisk.pdf
  2. https://www.theguardian.com/books/2019/aug/06/turkish-government-destroys-more-than-300000-books
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/11/brothers-critical-turkish-regime-arrested-after-tv-programme

         https://tr.euronews.com/2019/07/12/verilerle-15-temmuz-sonras-ve-ohal-sureci

  1. https://expressioninterrupted.com/freedom-of-expression-and-the-press-in-turkey-211/
  2. https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/turkey/
  3. http://www.tuik.gov.tr/PreHaberBultenleri.do?id=27610

          https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/turkey-coup-attempt-latest-releases-almost-34000-prisoners-in-amnesty-amid-international-alarm-over-a7221451.html

  1. https://www.state.gov/reports/2018-country-reports-on-human-rights-practices/turkey/
  2. https://www.ihd.org.tr/sample-page-2/
  1. https://stockholmcf.org/suspicious-deaths-and-suicides-in-turkey-updated-list/
  2. https://correctiv.org/en/top-stories-en/2018/12/06/black-sites/
  3. http://www.tuik.gov.tr/PreHaberBultenleri.do?id=27610

         https://7dnews.com/news/inmates-facing-poor-living-conditions-and-death-in-turkish-prisons

  1. https://stockholmcf.org/turkeys-dismissed-academics-want-their-passports-back-after-state-of-emergency-lifted/
  2. https://twitter.com/platformpj/status/1234421262052732928/photo/1

         http://www.platformpj.org/report-the-erosion-of-property-rights-in-turkey/

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PRESENTATION ABOUT PERSECUTION OF WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN TURKEY

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PRESENTATION ABOUT PERSECUTION OF WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN TURKEY

The prison conditions for women and children are exceedingly alarming. According to the Justice Ministry, as of 2017, nearly 10,000 women and 3,000 children under 18 are in Turkey’s prisons. The inhumane prison conditions also hold weight in women prisons.
They face additional issues of the male security staff frequently obstructing their privacy during hospital visits, oftentimes leading to an incomplete examination. Among the prisoners, there are pregnant women or women who just gave birth and 677 children under 6 years old imprisoned along with their mothers – including 149 infants under 1-year-old. Pregnant women were forced to stay with other inmates in overcrowded cells, also denied access to proper prenatal care – posing serious risks to their well-being. Likewise, mothers with children were also forced to share a cell with inmates.

Detail information is included in 17 pages presentation.

 

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CALL FOR INVESTIGATION: Brutal Stabbing Attack on Businessman Hazim Sesli at Menemen Penitentiary

 

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Brutal Stabbing Attack on Businessman Hazim Sesli at Menemen Penitentiary

Advocates of Silenced Turkey urges all relevant institutions of the International Human Rights community to petition the Government of Turkey as follows:

  1. The Ministry of Justice and the Menemen Type T Penitentiary must urgently carry out a thorough, prompt, independent and impartial investigation into the attack in the custody of Businessman Hazim Sesli in order to determine (a) how a deadly weapon was brought into the prison, (b) why the assailant was left unsupervised for the duration of this nearly fatal attack, and (c) whether prison staff have been involved in planning the attack.
  2. Turkish authorities must urgently provide information to resolve questions and suspicions about the Hazim Sesli incident as well as all other allegations of ill-treatment, including violations by guards and other prisoners, of Hizmet Movement members imprisoned for political reasons.

Facts of the Hazim Sesli Incident

Businessman Hazim Sesli, arrested after being detained as part of the investigations against the Hizmet Movement, was attacked while talking on the phone with his family at 4:20 PM on March 11, 2020, at the Menemen Prison. Sesli was stabbed in 7 different parts of his body by another prisoner. Sesli first received medical attention in the prison infirmary in the aftermath of the attack and was later transferred to a hospital for further treatment.

According to information received by AST, Hazim Sesli, as part of Usak 2. Assize Court’s case No. 2016/204 E, has been a prisoner at the Menemen Type T Closed Penitentiary since October 21, 2015.

Testimony received by TR 724 News indicates that while Mr. Hazim Sesli stayed in an 8-person dormitory-style cell until September 9, 2016, he was arbitrarily transferred into solitary confinement without an official explanation from the Menemen Type T Closed Penitentiary Administration. It was asserted that this transfer was requested by the Ministry of Justice. However, in all applications submitted by Hazim Sesli’s legal representatives, they were told by the Ministry of Justice that a transfer request had not been made; the ministry added that the decision to transfer Sesli was at the discretion of the Menemen Penitentiary.

Hazim Sesli had not been interviewed since his transfer to solitary confinement. On March 11, 2020, at exactly 16:20, Hazim Sesli was stabbed by Fatih Oktay while on a phone call with his family. While on the phone, Hazim Sesli first noticed the attack when the assailant accidentally stabbed the phone in his hands. Sesli attempted to protect his life against the stabber who repeatedly attempted to stab his heart. Prison guards intervened, however, Sesli had incurred 7 severe injuries, including two stabbing wounds on his left hand, two wounds on his left leg, and 3-4 wounds on his hips.

The assailant, Fatih Oktay, is a two-time murderer and known for skinning the head of another prisoner in the past. The fact that Oktay, a violent criminal, was left in the same phone area as Hazim Sesli without supervision raises suspicions and numerous questions about the security conditions at the Menemen Penitentiary. More crucially, when Hazim Sesli was brought back from the hospital after his treatment, a prison guard has reportedly intentionally brought Sesli to the assailant’s cell to confirm Sesli’s return to the penitentiary.

Relevant Human Rights Institutions

  1. United National Human Rights Committee

Petitions Team
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
1211 Geneva 10 (Switzerland)

Fax: + 41 22 917 9022 (particularly for urgent matters)
E-mail: petitions@ohchr.org

  1. Committee Against Torture

Petitions and Inquiries Section
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
1211 Geneva 10, Switzerland

E-mail: petitions@ohchr.org,
TB-petitions@ohchr.org,
cat@ohchr.org,
registry@ohchr.org

  1. Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission

Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission
House Committee on Foreign Affairs
5100 O’Neill House Office Building
200 C Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20515
United States of America

Phone: +1 (202) 225-3599
Fax: +1 (202) 226-6584
Email: TLHRC@mail.house.gov

  1. S Helsinki Commission

234 Ford House Office Building
3rd and D Streets SW
Washington, DC 20515

Email: info@csce.gov

  1. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention

Mr. José Guevara,
Ms. Leigh Toomey,
Ms. Elina Steinerte,
Mr. Sètondji Adjovi,
Mr. Seong-Phil Hong

Email: wgad@ohchr.org

  1. The Honorable Dunja Mijatovic

Office of the Commissioner for Human Rights
Council of Europe
Avenue de I’Europe F-67075
Strasbourg Cedex, France

Tel: +33 (0)3 88 41 34 21
Fax: +33 (0)3 90 21 50 53
Email:  commissioner@coe.int

  1. The Honorable Abdülhamit Gül

Minister of Justice
06659 Kizilay
Ankara, Republic of Turkey

Email: info@adalet.gov.tr

 

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Phone: 646-504-2088

 

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WOMEN IMPRISONMENT IN TURKEY INCREASED %470

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Since 2005, women imprisonment in Turkey increased by 470%.
As of 2019, there are more than 10,000 women in prisons, with more than 3000 children.
There are more than 780 babies imprisoned with their moms, and there are more than 500 babies who are separated from their moms due to imprisonment. Not only women who had just given birth, but also pregnant women are imprisoned.

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Human Rights Digest: February 2020 Articles

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TURKEY: MONTHLY HUMAN RIGHTS DIGEST February 2020

  1. The Lawless Judiciary: Philanthropist Osman Kavala Rearrested Hours After Acquittal

    [
    https://www.al-monitor.com/pulse/originals/2020/02/turkey-kavala-case-may-lead-countrys-expulsion-from-europe.html]

    On February 18th, Istanbul’s 30th Heavy Criminal Court acquitted businessman and philanthropist Osman Kavala who was one of eight defendants on trial for their alleged involvement in planning, managing and directing Gezi Park Protests. Kavala spent 840 days, or more than two years, in pretrial detention before the court acquitted him of all charges. Only a few hours after his acquittal, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s office issued a new order for Kavala’s re-arrest, this time due to allegations of his involvement in the failed military coup of 2016. The Prosecutor’s politically charged warrant for Kavala provides a glimpse into President Erdogan’s unrelenting crackdown on all dissidents through the extensive use of loyalist judges and prosecutors. In the words of Emma Sinclair-Webb, the Turkey director of Human Rights Watch, detention of Kavala immediately after his release has shown the judiciary is “lawless and vindictive.”

  2. Former Legal Advisor to the General Staff of the Turkish Armed Forces: “I am Honored to Be in Prison”

    [https://www.tv100.com/fetonun-askeri-yargi-davasinda-karar-haber-482207]

    On January 24, as part of the ongoing failed military coup trials, Istanbul’s 25th Court of Assize found 17 defendants guilty. The Court sentenced 4 defendants to aggravated life sentences, 2 to life sentences, and 13 to varying sentences between 7.5 to 10.5 years. All defendants had been in custody for years awaiting a trial, a long wait which amounted to punishment on its own. More importantly, the court’s partiality and willingness to carry out the Erdogan administration’s vendetta against political enemies drew a vocal criticism from Muharrem Kose, one of the defendants, who described the situation as follows: “I am honored to be in prison in a judicial order where men like Ahmet Altan continue to be behind bars. I don’t believe you will deliver a fair judgment today. May God give judges sitting on this bench a long life so that you can be tried legitimately for your illegitimate actions.”

  1. 5 Months Pregnant Mother Imprisoned & Forced to Give Birth Under Police Supervision

    [https://tr.euronews.com/2020/02/21/elif-tugral-bes-aylik-hamileyken-cezaevine-girdi-tutuklu-dogum-yapti-anne-yogun-bakimda]

    On February 21st, Elif Tugral gave birth to her second child, a son, after spending the final four months of her pregnancy in Sakran Penitentiary in the city of Izmir. Sentenced for 6 years and 10 months, Elif Tugral was found guilty of maintaining a bank account with the now-defunct Asia Bank (“Bank Asya”). Taken into custody while five months pregnant, Elif Tugral was forced to carry out the rest of her pregnancy under duress in abysmal prison conditions while suffering from a multitude of health issues, including a potentially fatal chronic intravascular coagulation condition. In words of her husband, Nuri Tugral, “[Elif] gets hospital visits but it’s very grueling. She travels to the hospital in prisoner transport vehicles for nearly 2 hours with lots of shaking and wobbling on the road.” After four painful months, Tugrul was taken to the hospital by 10 police officers who refused to leave and adamantly supervised her during and after she gave birth. In his reaction to the tragic event, Parliamentarian Gergerlioglu tweeted: “10 male officers brought the mother to the hospital. They waited at the door. Why, how would she even escape?”

  2. Guilty Until Proven Innocent: Former Secretary-General Sentenced Due to $1 Bill

    [https://www.sabah.com.tr/gundem/2020/01/30/eski-askeri-yargitay-uyesi-mehmet-simseke-feto-uyeliginden-hapis-cezasi-verildi]

    On February 1st, the Turkish Court of Cassation’s Penal Chamber sentenced Mehmet Simsek, the former Secretary-General of the Military Court of Cassation, to 7.5 years for his alleged affiliation with the Hizmet Movement. In trial, Simsek complained that he faces major public prejudice because of his removal from office and imprisonment after the 2016 coup attempt. He argued that he not only had no affiliation with the coup attempt but he had already submitted his plans for retirement in August of that year. In line with all political imprisonments under the leadership of AK Party and Erdogan, the Court of Cessation found Simsek guilty of all charges, presenting the 1 US Dollar bill found in his apartment as evidence of supposed affiliation with the Hizmet Movement. Simsek’s case sheds light on the breakdown of the Turkish criminal justice system under the current government’s draconian crackdown on all voices of opposition.

  3. President Erdogan uses 3.5 Million Syrian Refugees for Barter with EU

    [
    https://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-51687160]

    On February 29th, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made an official statement after ordering the Turkish-Greek border gate to be opened. In his statement regarding 3.5 million Syrian refugees who were taken into the country by Mr. Erdogan’s own administration, Erdogan proclaimed “We will not close these doors in the coming period and this will continue. Why? The European Union needs to keep its promises. We don’t have to take care of this many refugees, to feed them.” At the time of publication, 18,000 refugees were allowed to cross the border as part of Erdogan’s plan to extract more money and resources from the EU.


 

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Postponement of Freedom Forum 2020: Grave Human Rights Violations in Turkey

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Re: Postponement of Freedom Forum 2020: Grave Human Rights Violations in Turkey

We regret to inform you that we are postponing Freedom Forum 2020: Grave Human Rights Violations in Turkey in Washington, DC on March 24-25.

Given the coronavirus’ rapid spread around the globe, we have been closely monitoring news reports and communicating with health departments and local government outlets. Unfortunately, numerous cities and states have declared states of emergency and the health of our participants is our utmost priority. Following suit with other organizations who have postponed their events scheduled for the near future, including many that would have taken place at the National Press Club, we have decided to postpone the Freedom Forum 2020: Grave Human Rights Violations in Turkey.

A new date for the Freedom Forum will be determined and communicated to you in a timely fashion when local and international monitors declare that the threat of coronavirus has been contained.

We are very sorry to have to postpone this event as it will be a great gathering, but we hope you can understand the circumstances.

Hafza Y. GIRDAP
Spokesperson

 

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RELEASE ABDULLAH AYDOGAN: The 74 Year Old Political Prisoner

AST has written an official complaint letter to be shared with relevant United Nations institutions. Please join us in sending a letter to Nils Melzer in order to urge the Special Rapporteur to take action on Turkey’s cruel treatment of Abdullah Aydogan

Re: International Law Obligations to Release Abdullah Aydoğan

Dear Special Rapporteur Nils Melzer,

We write on behalf of Advocates of Silenced Turkey (AST), an advocacy group of concerned human rights defenders who promote international human rights, the independence and security of human rights defenders, the integrity of legal systems and the rule of law through advocacy, education, and research. AST plays a major role in documenting and disseminating information regarding human rights violations committed in the Republic of Turkey.

The Republic of Turkey, under the combined leadership of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has systemically detained, arrested, charged and/or imprisoned victims who suffer from old age and chronic health problems without exploring potential non-custodial measures. The presiding Turkish government’s ill-treatment of critically ill prisoners has been extensively documented by the United Nations’ Independent Experts, domestic NGOs, and international human rights organizations. In fact, there are 458 critically ill prisoners in Turkey’s criminal justice system.

In this instance, we are writing with respect to Abdullah Aydoğan, a 74-year old prisoner. Mr. Aydoğan has been in prison since 2017, continues to suffer a multitude of life-threatening health problems, and all of his appeals, legal and otherwise, have been unequivocally rejected by the Turkish judicial system.

Further Background

Abdullah Aydoğan, a 74-year old illiterate retiree, husband, and father of 1 daughter has been in prison since 2016. In August 2016, Aydoğan was taken into custody and later imprisoned for his alleged managerial role in the Gulen Movement. Until his first encounter with the criminal justice system, Aydoğan had no prior criminal record. After nearly 9 months in custody, Aydoğan was convicted for acquiring a banking account from Asia Bank (“Bank Asya”) in 1997; traveling abroad three times for hajj, umrah, and his daughter’s graduation ceremony; participating in a relief organization which organized charity activities in underserved villages and towns. Aydoğan was initially sentenced to 9 years and 9 months; the Supreme Court later reduced his sentence to 6 years and 3 months, confirming and ascertaining his sentence.

According to the information we have received through AST’s original research, Mr. Aydoğan was unable to leave his home prior to his imprisonment due to health issues. He spent his time exclusively at home for nearly five years and depended on his wife for care. A board of medical examiners unanimously agree that Aydoğan’s health problems pose a dire threat to his health if left untreated. Mr. Aydoğan suffers from bilateral sensorineural hearing loss, movement disability due to gonarthrosis (a degenerative joint issue), senile cataract, and benign prostatic hyperplasia.

Legal Analysis

The UN Human Rights Committee and the UN Special Rapporteur’s Mission to Turkey have both concluded after careful consideration that detentions, arrest, and convictions of critically ill persons may amount to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The ill-treatment of disabled and sickly prisoners by imprisonment and deprivation of medical services violates fundamental human rights outlined by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Finally, the Turkish government’s systemic persecution of disabled prisoners violates Articles 10, 14, and 15 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Conviction or detention of vulnerable persons is therefore unlawful.

A close investigation of Abdullah Aydoğan’s case reveals that his particular situation has been covered and protected by four distinct human rights instruments:

  1. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

  2. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment

  3. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

  4. Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners

While the violations of the first two instruments are self-evident, we would like to explain the violations of the other two instruments.

Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The detention and imprisonment of Abdullah Aydoğan constitute a grave violation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities to which Turkey is a state party. Most importantly, Article 15 provides, “(2) States Parties shall take all effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent persons with disabilities, on an equal basis with others, from being subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” The October 2019 report by the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities provides further clarification of the State duty to protect human rights of disabled members of society by delineating shortcomings of Turkish institutions:

  1. The absence of information about measures to protect the rights of persons with disabilities and prevent abuse and involuntary admission to psychiatric hospitals, residential facilities or other institutions;

  2. Insufficient accommodations available for persons with disabilities in prisons, reports of ill-treatment of persons with disabilities in prisons, limited access to remedies in cases of ill-treatment, and risks of reprisals;

  3. The lack of information about monitoring of residential facilities to prevent ill-treatment and the restrictions on monitoring by civil society organizations of persons with disabilities deprived of liberty

Basic Principles for the Treatment of Prisoners

In 1990, the United Nations established a set of principles for the protection of civil rights of prisoners while in custody. Principle 4 establishes the “responsibility of prisons for the custody of prisoners and for the protection of society against crime shall be discharged in keeping with a State’s other social objectives and its fundamental responsibilities for promoting the well-being and development of all members of society.” In light of this principle, Abdullah Aydoğan who has been unable to leave his home for nearly five years prior to his imprisonment poses absolutely no danger to the Turkish society at large. Furthermore, charges leveled against Aydoğan pertain exclusively to his involvement with various non-violent charity activities, meaning Aydoğan has never posed a danger to society at any point of his life. In short, Mr. Aydoğan cannot and does not pose a danger to society due to the condition of his health. Therefore, the Turkish State’s responsibility for the protection of society against crime can be effectively discharged in this instance.

Conclusion 

AST urges the Office of the Special Rapporteur to urge the Government of Turkey to:

  1. Immediately and unconditionally release from imprisonment Abdullah Aydoğan

  2. Immediately release from imprisonment all other critically ill men and women who suffer from life threatening illnesses and pose no risk to the social safety

  3. Put an end to the practice of imprisoning old, critically-ill, and disabled prisoners

  4. Put an end to the practice of charging Turkish citizens with criminal offenses based simply on their affiliation with government-sanctioned charity organizations

  5. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter.
Advocates of Silenced Turkey.
Letters can be sent by mail AND email:
Mailing Address:
Special Rapporteur on Torture
c/o Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
United Nations Office at Geneva
CH-1211 Geneva 10
Switzerland

EMAIL: urgent-action@ohchr.org

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Human Rights Digest: January 2020 Articles

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TURKEY: MONTHLY HUMAN RIGHTS DIGEST January 2020

  1. A Mother’s Plea for Help: The Tumor is Spreading, My Daughter is Sick

On February 27, 2018, Sevgi Sezer, a critically-ill primary school teacher, was imprisoned for 7 years and 6 months due to her affiliation with the Hizmet Movement. After nearly two years, Sezer continues to suffer from a malicious tumor on her back while forcedly sharing an overcrowded prison cell with 16 other women prisoners. Sezer was denied medical attention for a long time despite making many requests while the tumor on her back, a constantly growing vascular malformation, went undiagnosed for 9 months. Sezer’s deprivation of medical assistance led to the painful growth of the tumor, causing her immense suffering and severely limiting her mobility. The appeals court continues to stall action on Sezer’s case as she suffers despite concrete medical evidence that warrants close medical attention and release from imprisonment. Teacher Sezer’s mother made an emotional appeal to authorities: “I could not hug my daughter in my last visit because the tumor spread all over her back. I am calling government officials to take action; my daughter is sick, in pain. She needs treatment.”

  1. 70 Turkish Air Force Academy Cadets Receive Life Sentence for “Courtroom Behavior”

On January 3, 2020, the 24th Istanbul High Criminal Court sentenced 70 Turkish Air Force Academy Students, aged 18-23, to aggravated life imprisonment. The Turkish Court charged all 70 of the cadets with violating the constitution, merging their cases under the overarching July 15 Coup Attempt trials. While the cadets’ involvement in the coup attempt has not been evidenced, the court found the cadets guilty of intent to aid and abet the coup attempt. Moreover, the presiding judge changed his original sentencing to a lifetime sentence and defended his decision by blaming the alleged contrarian behavior of the defendants during court proceedings. While the cadets can appeal the court order, the hysteria revolving around the July 15 failed coup attempt has effectively eliminated all avenues of justice and exoneration.

  1. Philanthropist Melek Ipek, “Angel Mom”, Sentenced for Hizmet Affiliation

On January 9, 2020, the 24th Ankara High Criminal Court sentenced Melek Ipek and her son Cafer Ipek to 12 and 79 years of imprisonment, respectively. The overarching case brought against billionaire Akin Ipek and the Ipek Family Estate found all family members guilty for providing financial support to the charity activities of the Hizmet Movement. Since five family members had escaped Turkey due to the undue political and judicial process, the Ankara court put their cases on hold while charging Melek Ipek with “opposition to tax law”, a bogus charge that, as it now appears, has been included to target the Ipek family’s vast financial estate. The court ordered for the seizure of all financial assets, dividends, and shares of all Ipek family members who hold stock in the Ipek Holding Company.

  1. Another Victim of the Hysteria: Left-Leaning Sports Reporter Fired from Job

On January 8, 2020, Fatma Karaagac, a left-leaning former sports reporter for Haberturk TV, gave an interview regarding her termination. In her remarks, Karaagac complained that she was fired for international political reasons while the company firing her blamed her alleged affiliation with the Hizmet Movement. Karaagac was neither sued or summoned to court. The prosecutorial hysteria directed against the Hizmet Movement continues to ransack the lives of thousands of people. The unquestioned vilification of the Hizmet Movement by the Turkish government allows for opportunists and people with personal vendettas to accuse anyone and any time of Hizmet affiliation to cause serious damage to their lives. Fatma Karaagac is a recent and prime example.

  1. Former Teacher from Adana Sentenced 7.5 Years for Teacher’s Union Membership

On January 8, 2020, the Adana 12th Heavy Criminal Court found Mehmet Onuk guilty and sentenced him for 7 years and 6 months. According to the court order, Mr. Onuk’s alleged crimes consist of using ByLock, a mobile chat application, holding religious study circles in his home, and being a member of a government-sanctioned worker’s union. Mehmet Onuk, like countless others, was charged for these crimes as part of the ongoing persecution campaign against the Hizmet Movement.


 

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