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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