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Turks: Systematic Violations of Human Rights

ABUSES: Systematic Violations of Human Rights 

                                Amnesty International
                                International Secretariat
                                1 Easton Street
                                London WC1X 8DJ
                                United Kingdom
                                Tel: (44) (71) 413 5500
                                Fax: (44) (71) 956 1157


            Recommendations for action to combat systematic 
            violations of human rights

What the United Nations, the European Union and the Council of Europe have said about human rights in Turkey.

"...the existence of systematic torture in Turkey cannot be denied."
United Nations Committee against Torture, Report under Article 20, Convention against Torture, 9 November 1993

"The European Union expresses its concern at the aggravation of the human rights situation in Turkey...It has repeatedly condemned terrorist acts in Turkey, but it believes that the fight against terrorism should be conducted within the law and with full respect for human rights".
Statement of the Council of the European Union, 31 March 1994.
"In light of all the information at its disposal, the [European Committee for the Prevention of Torture] can only conclude that the practice of torture and other forms of severe ill-treatment of persons in police custody remains widespread in Turkey and that such methods are applied to both ordinary criminal suspects and persons held under anti-terrorism provisions".
European Committee for the Prevention of Torture,
Public Statement on Turkey, 15 December 1992

The European Parliament "condemns the PKK terrorist campaign...but stresses that indiscriminate and massive repression will only strengthen support for the PKK...[T]errorism cannot be combated by measures which strike blindly at the innocent as well as the guilty...The Turkish Government [must] insist that the army and police respect the human rights of all citizens".
European Parliament, Resolution of 15 July 1993

"Despite the Government's good intentions, very serious human rights violations, including torture and disappearance, continue to occur in Turkey."
Council of Europe, Parliamentary Assembly, Resolution 985 (1992)

"Turkey has not, frankly, done much to improve its record on human rights in the last two or three years and moreover it resents any advice on the issue."
Michael Lake, European Commission representative to Turkey, November 1994

What some UN member governments have said about human rights in Turkey:

"Turkey's primary human rights problems in 1993 continued to be the torture of persons in police or security forces custody during periods of incommunicado detention and interrogation; use of excessive force against noncombatants by security forces; restrictions on freedom of expression and association; disappearances and "mystery killings" that appear to be politically motivated; and terrorist acts by armed separatists, Islamic
extremists, and unknown persons."
 US State Department, Human Rights Report on Turkey (published February 1994)

"Unfortunately there has been no improvement in the human rights situation in Turkey. Things are getting worse."
 Klaus Kinkel, German Foreign Minister, Frankfurter Rundschau, 9 May 1994

"We are concerned about human rights in Turkey, and our Embassy in Ankara monitors developments closely. Unfortunately there is little sign of improvement."
 United Kingdom Foreign and Commonwealth Office, written reply to Member of Parliament, 7 July 1994 

"The Minister has...been constantly in touch with his Turkish counterpart in order to bring our concerns on gross human rights violations to his attention."
Austrian Foreign Ministry, 29 August 1994

Recommendations for action to combat systematic violations of human rights.

Gross human rights violations are being inflicted on civilians in southeast Turkey in the context of the 10-year-old conflict between Turkish Government forces and the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK). As security imperatives dominate, the impunity of all branches of the security forces is reinforced and this is resulting in a deterioration in the human rights situation throughout the rest of the country. 

During 1994 there were more "disappearances" than ever before. No reforms were planned or enacted to combat the widespread and systematic practice of torture, while the annual toll of deaths in custody rose once again. There is increasingly compelling evidence that the security forces were involved in at least some of the hundreds of political killings which have been committed in the cities of southeast Turkey. Rather than confront the fact of these violations and take steps to end them, the Turkish Government is choosing to deny that they are taking place at all.

Kurdish villagers are bearing the brunt of human rights abuses committed by both government forces and guerrillas of the PKK in the southeastern provinces which are under a state of emergency. Gendarmes have tortured, made to "disappear" and extrajudicially executed villagers in the course of security raids on rural settlements. Amnesty International has repeatedly condemned killings of civilians by PKK guerrillas, and "executions" of captured village guards (Kurdish villagers paid and armed by the government to fight the PKK) and alleged informers. In early December 1994 the leadership of the PKK made a public undertaking to observe Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which safeguard non-combatants such as prisoners and civilians, but on 1 January PKK guerrillas surrounded the village of HamzalΥ (Kurdish name: Sehhamza) in Mardin province and attacked it with heavy weapons. Eight women, seven children and four men were killed. 

A vivid demonstration of the ingrained habit of denial which is preventing the Turkish Government from confronting its human rights problems and taking steps to resolve them occurred during intense military operations against the PKK in the Tunceli area in the autumn of 1994, when dozens of villages were forcibly evacuated and burned, and several villagers "disappeared" or were later found dead. Faced with a stream of witnesses to the fact, the Turkish Government claimed that the violations were committed by guerrillas wearing captured soldiers' uniforms, or that the villagers were burning their own homes in the hope of winning compensation. When villagers traveled from Tunceli to Ankara and told Prime Minister Tansu C[,]iller that security forces arrived in helicopters to burn their village, she replied, "Even if I saw with my own eyes that the state had burned a village, I would not believe it. Do not think that every helicopter you see is ours. It could be a PKK*1 helicopter. It could also be a Russian, Afghan or Armenian helicopter" (Cumhuriyet of 28 October). 

Amnesty International is almost daily raising cases of prisoners of conscience, torture, "disappearance", and extrajudicial execution with the Turkish Government. The organization is receiving fewer and more perfunctory replies. In several cases of abduction, including that of ώerif Avώar (see below, page 7) the authorities spent vital hours and days making routine denials when prompt action might have saved lives. Amnesty International's findings, although corroborated by other NGOs and intergovernmental agencies, are ignored by the government. In September the Turkish Government denied access to Amnesty International's researcher on the grounds that he had links with the PKK. Amnesty International denied this and asked the authorities for specific information, which was not provided. 

Grave deterioration since 1990

Following the military coup of 12 September 1980 Turkey was ruled for more than three years by a National Security Council composed of five generals. In the years following the military coup there were hundreds of thousands of political prisoners, thousands of prisoners of conscience, and over 200 people died in custody, reportedly as a result of torture. 

No steps were taken to combat the problem of torture which was Amnesty International's principal concern in Turkey in the late 1980s as the number of prisoners of conscience in custody gradually declined. The volume of detentions had also decreased with the return to civilian government and a relatively low level of political violence. A result of this was that the numbers of deaths in custody fell. In 1989 there were eight reported deaths in police custody. During this period, however, in spite of repeated demands by Amnesty International and other organizations for safeguards against torture to be put in place for those held in police custody, no reforms were carried out.

In 1989 Amnesty International noted no cases of "disappearance" or extrajudicial execution. 

With the increase in the level of political violence by PKK and Devrimci Sol (Revolutionary Left) in 1990, the number and scale of security operations began to grow. In Turkey, interrogation of people suspected of political offences - particularly those arrested in connection with armed illegal organizations - is almost invariably accompanied by torture. In 1991 14 people died in police custody, and 13 in 1992. In 1993 there were 24 deaths in custody and at least 31 in 1994.

There were no more than a handful of reports of extrajudicial killing in 1990. In 1991 a pattern of such killings began in Mardin province. Amnesty International immediately responded by calling for the establishment of commissions of inquiry as outlined in the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions. The Turkish Government took no action. In 1992 there were more than 250 political killings, and good reason to believe that the security forces or their proxies were responsible for the majority of them. The Turkish Government continued to ignore the killings.

The first reported "disappearance" in the 1990s was that of Yusuf Eriώti, on 12 March 1991. There were at least three more that year. In 1993 there were at least 26, but in 1994 there were more than 50 confirmed reports of "disappearances" and scores of other reports as yet uncorroborated.

These deaths and "disappearances" cannot be explained as unfortunate consequences of legitimate anti-insurgency operations. The consistency of the methods, the victims targeted, and the suspected perpetrators, combined with strong evidence which has come to light in a small number of cases, makes it clear that these methods have been consciously adopted as a tactic by local security forces, while government and judiciary, by virtually ignoring the enormous numbers of killings, are effectively colluding with the perpetrators.

International community concern about Turkey

The last three years has seen a growing tide of concern, expressed publicly by intergovernmental organizations [opposite page 1] about escalating human rights violations in Turkey.  As the five Nordic countries said on 30 June in the Permanent Committee of the Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe (CSCE)*2, "these [human rights] commitments are of direct and legitimate concern to all of us...[and] should be natural subjects for contacts and cooperation between Governments". Turkey continues to flout legally and morally binding commitments it has voluntarily entered into as a member of the United Nations (UN), the OSCE and Council of Europe.

The intergovernmental expressions of concern must now be translated into concrete action by the relevant political organs of international organizations, including the UN. Despite the patterns of gross and systematic violations of human rights in the country and a public statement by the UN's own Committee against Torture [opposite page 1], the UN Commission on Human Rights - the main human rights body of the UN - has never dealt with human
rights in Turkey.  Despite an earlier public statement by independent experts - this time the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (ECPT) [opposite page 1] - the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe has also failed in its duty to act.

Governments which have longstanding relations with Turkey have also expressed growing concern about the persistence of human rights violations in Turkey [opposite page 1]. The international community should translate their concern into practical action through a variety of means. 

An opportunity for constructive intervention by the UN Commission on Human Rights

A clear sign from the UN Commission on Human Rights, noting the dangerous new patterns of violation, and making concrete recommendations for combating those violations would undoubtedly be taken seriously by Turkish commentators and media, by Turkish public opinion, and, in turn, by the Turkish authorities. 

Contribution by the theme mechanisms would be particularly useful. In his report dated 7 December 1993 (Ref: E/CN.4/1994/7), the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions stated "given the gravity of the allegations received and the fact that similar reports had come before him repeatedly, the Special Rapporteur had requested the Government of Turkey in 1992 to consider inviting him to carry out a visit to that country. However, consultations with the Government have not yielded any results." Amnesty International believes that the UN Commission on Human Rights should take appropriate steps to encourage the Government of Turkey to invite the Special Rapporteur, so that he would be in a better position to evaluate the reports he receives and to make recommendations aiming at increased protection of the right to life. In view of the fact that the pattern of "disappearances" is closely related to that of extrajudicial executions, an early visit by the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances may help to alert Turkish public opinion and media to the problem, while facilitating effective action to halt the spreading practice of "disappearances".

The dimensions of the problem of torture have been clearly established internationally, and are to a large extent acknowledged within Turkey. Amnesty International therefore believes that on this issue the UN Commission on Human Rights' role is unambiguously to require Turkey to make the long overdue changes proposed in the report of the UN Committee on Torture. Amnesty International suggests that the Special Rapporteur on torture could be requested to formulate practical recommendations for the speedy implementation of the Committee's proposals.


Four years ago, people did not "disappear" in custody in Turkey. In 1994 there were more than 50 reports of "disappearance", including four women.

The victims are civilians and include local politicians and journalists. Most of the "disappeared" are Kurdish villagers with no history of political activity, detained during the course of security raids because they were suspected, rightly or wrongly, of giving food or shelter to PKK guerrillas. In many cases, families suspect that their relatives died under torture, or that they were killed as a reprisal by soldiers when their comrades were killed in clashes with PKK guerrillas. In another clearly defined group of "disappearances" the victims have a history of political activity which would be regarded by the authorities as "separatist". Several had often appeared in
court on political charges, or had been repeatedly detained. 

"Disappearances" are not confined to the southeast, but have also occurred in Istanbul, Ankara, Adana and Elbistan. Kenan Bilgin "disappeared" in unacknowledged detention in Ankara following his arrest in the Dikmen district of the city on 12 September 1994. Nine people, including a lawyer, who were detained at Ankara Police Headquarters in September claim to have seen a person answering Kenan Bilgin's description, apparently being interrogated under torture. Another detainee, Talat Abay, who already knew Kenan Bilgin, spoke to him. The police denied holding Kenan Bilgin, who has not reappeared. Amnesty International is aware of no investigation into the circumstances of his "disappearance".

Apart from denying responsibility in specific cases of "disappearance" raised by Amnesty International, the Turkish Government has chosen to ignore, rather than investigate and halt, this new and disturbing pattern of human rights abuse. "Disappearances" occur because the safeguards contained in the Turkish Criminal Procedure Code are not only insufficient, but are being almost completely ignored. Detainees are very frequently not registered for several days after being taken into custody, and families are not notified. Families are therefore unable to establish whether or not their relative is in custody. A member of the Ankara Bar Association told Amnesty International: "People do not worry so much about torture nowadays - if your son or daughter just comes out of police detention alive, it is cause for rejoicing. Because police now habitually fail to register properly, every detention is a crisis -  the Human Rights Association and lawyers are being worn down." This, combined with the extremely long periods of incommunicado police detention and the established patterns of torture, creates the conditions in which "disappearances" can occur.

Often reports of "disappearance" become, with the discovery of a body, another extrajudical execution statistic. Indeed there is little reason to hope that the "disappeared" are still alive. The phenomena of "disappearance" and extrajudicial execution are two aspects of the same pattern.

Extrajudicial execution - the fingerprint of the state

People are being shot by unidentified assailants in the streets of cities in southeast Turkey virtually every day. In most cases, their relatives believe that they are being killed for political reasons by agents of the state. 

There were over 20 such killings in 1991 known to Amnesty International. There were 362 in 1992, over 400 in 1993, and 380 by November 1994. The perpetrators have in most cases not been identified, but local people believe they can guess who is responsible for each attack from the political background of the victims. Some of those killed appear to be victims of internecine feuding between the two wings of the Hizbullah movement*3.  

Some victims were involved in organizations that are legally recognized, but viewed with suspicion by the authorities and considered to be "separatist" - trade unions, political parties or newspapers. The clearest identifiable group of victims are members of the Peoples' Democracy Party (HADEP), a political party with largely Kurdish membership, which operates legally. Its predecessors HEP and DEP were closed down by the Constitutional Court for "separatism". More than 100 members and officials of these parties have been killed since 1992, including the parliamentary deputy for Mardin, Mehmet Sincar, who was shot in Batman on 4 September 1993.

Other victims had previously served terms of imprisonment for alleged membership of illegal organizations, or seem to have been suspected of involvement with the PKK. There is a strong correlation between those who have been harassed, detained, tortured and threatened by security forces, and those who have been killed with a pistol shot to the head in a city street, or abducted from a cafe['] or their place of work and later found dead.

Since 1991, Amnesty International has repeatedly recommended that the government set up one or more impartial and expert commissions to investigate the killings, and that such commissions should be given judicial powers to call and to protect witnesses, and to initiate prosecutions, as envisaged by the UN Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra- legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions. The Turkish authorities, however, remained complacent and were only prompted into action in January 1993 (when the death toll was approaching 400) by public outrage at the assassination of a prominent journalist in Ankara. A cross-party parliamentary commission for the investigation of what in Turkey are known as faili mec[,]hul cinayetler (murders by unknown persons) was established in February the same year, to report after three months. The president of the commission, the member of parliament SadΥk Avundukluoώlu, made an interim statement in August 1993 expressing concern about the nefarious activities of "confessors" (former members of the PKK now operating on behalf of the security forces, who have been involved in some killings) and mentioned that village guards had carried out extrajudicial executions. By November 1994 the commission had still not submitted a final report, nor proposed any concrete measures to stop the murders. In the 20 months since the establishment of the commission, the total death count has risen to over 1,200.

Strong evidence is emerging to support the view that Turkish security forces commit, or arrange for others to commit, the extrajudicial execution of people they consider to be enemies of the state. The involvement of security forces is irrefutable in some cases, such as those where the victims were abducted from courts. Necati Aydin and Mehmet Ay were detained on 18 March 1994. On 4 April they appeared in DiyarbakΥr State Security Court on charges of supporting the PKK. The court ruled that they should be released. The prosecutor lodged an objection, demanding that they should remain in custody. The objection was overruled, but the two men were never seen alive again. Members of their families waited in vain at the entrance to the court. On 9 April their bodies were found in a field 40 kilometres outside Diyarbakir. In this case, as in a number of other killings and "disappearances", the motivation for the killing seems to have been police officers' frustration over a court's decision not to remand detainees in custody. 

One victim, who later died in hospital as a result of an armed attack, was able to tell relatives and hospital officials that he recognized his attackers as police. Muhsin Melik, a founder of the ώanlΥurfa branch of HADEP, was attacked in June. Before he died of his wounds he said that he knew the faces of three of his attackers: "I recognized them. Because they had been following me for a long time. We had come face to face on a number of occasions. The people who shot me were people from the police team who were following me."

There are a number of other cases in which it appears that the higher echelons of the security forces have shielded one of their number from investigation and prosecution in connection with a political killing. In 1992 the voice of the gendarmerie commander in Silvan, scene of dozens of street killings, was recorded on tape while he incited a youth to kill a local politician*4. Amnesty International has repeatedly asked the government for information about criminal proceedings against the commander, but has never received a reply. In another case, the abduction and murder of ώerif Avώar in April 1994, village guards declared in court that they had carried out the killing on the orders of a gendarmerie officer after ώerif Avώar had been interrogated in Diyarbakir Gendarmerie Headquarters. One of the defendants admitted that they had carried out similar operations in the past on the orders of various commanders. "The government authorizes us to take some people and we do it...if we had not obeyed orders we would have been sacked."
(Turkish Daily News of 7 and 9 June 1994)


Torture continues to be reported on a daily basis from many parts of Turkey -  but particularly Istanbul, Ankara, ώzmir, Adana and the southeast. Torture is practised mainly in police stations and gendarmeries, during the days or weeks preceding a detainee's first appearance in court. Torture is applied in order to extract confessions, to elicit names of other members of illegal organizations, to intimidate detainees into becoming police informants, and as informal punishment for assumed support of illegal organizations. In the villages of the southeast various kinds of ill-treatment and torture are used to force villagers to join the village guard system.  

The provisions of the Turkish Criminal Procedure Code which govern the interrogation of detainees in police custody, and the way these provisions are put into practice, create an opportunity for torture. The following account was given by a high school student detained on 15 April 1994 at Koca Sinan Lyce[']e in Istanbul because she had participated in a press conference about a school boycott protesting against what she and other students considered unfair treatment in university entrance examinations. She was interrogated at Bahc[,]elievler Police Station. Her account underlines the loneliness and helplessness of incommunicado detention: "There were five of us - one male and four female. One was born in 1981. We were blindfolded, kicked and slapped. They took me and the boy, and took us through what seemed like a labyrinth. They asked me to take off my clothes. I took off my outer clothes, but left my underwear. The chief said, `It can stay'. I had heard that such things happened [in police stations] and tried to be as cold-blooded as I could. There were four or five interrogators. They sprayed me with cold water under pressure. When they first do it you can hardly get your breath, and it is painful. But after 10 minutes your whole body is numb." Then one of them said that he was going to rape me - `We are going to do this and that to you' - really unspeakable, insulting things." She goes on to describe being anally raped with a truncheon, subjected to falaka (beating the soles of the feet), and having her head beaten against the wall, before being released without charge. "At first I thought of doing nothing [making no complaint], that this sort of thing happens to lots of people, and that nobody would take any interest. I applied to the Human Rights Association, and got a medical report. Even though 13 days had passed, there was still tearing in my anus, and cuts in my feet." 

People suspected of offences under the Anti-Terror Law (which makes no clear distinction between non-violent offences and offences involving armed activities) can be held without access to family, friends or legal counsel for up to 30 days in the 10 provinces under a state of emergency, and for 15 days in the rest of Turkey. When not being interrogated, detainees are held in cramped, airless and insanitary conditions. With no access to the outside world they are at the mercy of their interrogators. Although prosecutions for torture are rare, care is taken to use torture methods which leave little or no medical evidence: hosing with cold water under pressure, hanging by the arms or by the wrists bound behind the victim's back, death threats, electric shocks, and sexual assault.

Inspections by the ECPT and the UN Committee against Torture have confirmed the findings of Amnesty International. In a public statement on 15 December 1992, the ECPT described torture as "widespread". During unannounced visits to Ankara and DiyarbakΥr Police Headquarters, ECPT delegations had found equipment clearly used for torture. 

The UN Committee against Torture, in its report under Article 20 of the Convention against Torture, stated that the use of torture in Turkish police stations was "systematic". This report (like that of the ECPT) was produced by an international governmental organization, under a treaty mechanism to which Turkey is a signatory and state party. The report was based on a three-year investigation which included extensive confidential discussions with the government and a visit to the country. Nevertheless, rather than confront the problem and take steps to end it, the Turkish authorities resorted once again to mere denial. In a statement dated 24 November 1993, the Turkish Ambassador to the UN questioned the impartiality, sources and methods of the members of the Committee who carried out the investigation and prepared the report. The recommendations contained in the report, which have never been carried out by the Turkish authorities, included the recommendation that the use of a blindfold during questioning should be expressly prohibited; that all detainees should be permitted to consult with their legal counsel; that detainees should be permitted access to a doctor of their own choice; that penalties for acts of torture should be reassessed by the legislature; and that prosecutors should act "promptly and effectively" to investigate allegations of torture or ill-treatment.

Meanwhile, the number of reported deaths in custody as a result of torture continues to rise. There were at least 29 during the first 10 months of 1994 - more than in any year since 1982. Most of the deaths occurred in the provinces under emergency legislation. 

The UN Committee against Torture report underlined the impunity which torturers in Turkey currently enjoy, and emphasized that "torturers should not feel that they are in a position of virtual immunity from the law." Amnesty International has learned of hundreds of cases of alleged torture during incommunicado detention, many supported by medical evidence, in which no judicial investigation was made, nor prosecution opened. Those who are persistent enough to bring their allegation to court face proceedings which almost invariably take years and result in negligible sentences for the torturers. 

Human rights abuses committed by PKK guerrillas

The PKK pursues its military objectives with a blatant disregard for humanitarian law. Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions (1949) forbids warring parties to harm those who are not taking part in a conflict. In particular, it outlaws the killing of prisoners and civilians - which PKK guerrillas do almost every day.

In 1994 the PKK was responsible for more than 200 killings of prisoners and civilians.  Most of their victims are Kurdish villagers who participated in the system of government-armed village guards. Village guards captured by PKK during the course of attacks are frequently "executed". Members of the extended families of village guards, including women and children, have also frequently been killed by the PKK, as well as local government officials and many teachers. Eleven children were killed when PKK guerrillas attacked the village of Daltepe, near Siirt, on 4 October 1993. On 27 October 1993 PKK guerrillas abducted 32 males, including six children, from Yavi, in the C[,]at district of Erzurum, and killed them.

Sixteen women and children were killed by grenades thrown by PKK guerrillas into the building in which they were sheltering during an attack on village guards in OrmancΥk, Mardin province, on 22 January 1994.
The PKK have also claimed responsibility for bomb attacks which were clearly directed at civilian targets. Ali Ertuώrul Tokac[,] and Ruhi Can Tul were killed by bombs placed on buses in Ankara on 14 January 1994. On 25 January 1994 a six-year-old boy was killed by a bomb planted in the DiyarbakΥr governor's office. On 22 June 1994 Joanna Griffiths, a British citizen, was among 11 foreign tourists injured by a bomb for which the PKK claimed responsibility. She died one week later as a result of her injuries.
Prisoners of Conscience 

During 1991 and 1992 the abolition of several articles of the Turkish Penal Code (TPC), combined with a certain reluctance by prosecutors and courts to convict in freedom of expression cases, resulted in a clear reduction in the number of prisoners of conscience. This, the only substantial progress in human rights in Turkey, was reversed in 1993 and 1994 as the number of prosecutions and convictions, mainly for statements about Turkey's Kurdish minority, rose steeply. By the end of 1994 dozens of academics, journalists, poets, human rights defenders and political activists were either on trial for expressing their non-violent beliefs, or actually serving sentences.

President Demirel apparently opposes the revision or repeal of Article 8 of the Anti-Terror Law. In a speech on 21 February 1994 he claimed that, "Nobody is seized because they have expressed their thoughts", but that it was proper to take legal action against writers whose statements could provoke violence. At the very time he was speaking, the lawyer Ahmet Zeki Okc[,]uoώlu was serving a 20-month prison sentence for expressing his non-violent opinion in a magazine interview - in particular for using the word "Kurdistan". On the day he began serving his sentence under Article 8 of the Anti-Terror Law, Ahmet Zeki Okc[,]uoώlu said: "For years I have opposed terrorism, opposed violence, and clearly declared my opposition. In my whole life I have never used a weapon. I have opposed those who have taken up arms. But the State has tried me as a terrorist and convicted me. Now I am branded as a terrorist throughout the world..."

These convictions clearly violate Article 10 of the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, which safeguards the right to freedom of expression, and to which Turkey is a State Party. Some convictions are particularly scandalous. Mehdi Zana, former mayor of DiyarbakΥr, and husband of the imprisoned Kurdish member of parliament Leyla Zana, is now serving four years for testifying to the Human Rights Sub-Committee of the European Parliament. He was a prisoner of conscience for more than 10 years following the military coup of 1980. 

A revision of Article 8 was submitted to the Judicial Committee of the Turkish Parliament in November 1994. Earlier proposals that the article should be amended to include a condition of advocacy of violence was rejected. It is not clear whether the current proposed text, which merely places a condition of "clear and present danger", would prevent the continued imprisoning of prisoners of conscience, if it became law.
Human rights activists are increasingly becoming the target for prosecution under Article 8. Six leading HRA officials, five of whom are lawyers, are already in prison for non-violent offences.

Practical steps towards ending human rights violations in Turkey

Amnesty International calls on member states of the UN to encourage the Turkish Government to take a number of modest and practical steps to address systematic human rights violations in its country:  

1. Urge the Turkish authorities to implement the recommendations contained in the November 1993 report of the UN Committee against Torture - specifically: that all detainees, including those detained on suspicion of offences under the Anti-Terror Law, should be given access to legal counsel, and that the maximum period of police detention should be reduced from the present maximum of 30 days, so that detainees are brought promptly before a judge. 

2. Express concern about the increase in well-founded allegations of extrajudicial execution and "disappearance", and urge the Turkish Government to extend invitations to the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, as well as the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, to visit the country in 1995.

3. Urge the Turkish authorities to account for the scores of people who have "disappeared" in security force custody since 1991. 

4. Urge the Turkish authorities to ensure that all reports of extrajudicial execution are fully investigated in accordance with the United Nations Principles on the Effective Prevention and Investigation of Extra-legal, Arbitrary and Summary Executions.

5. Call for the immediate and unconditional release of all prisoners of conscience held under Article 8 of the Anti-Terror Law, which provides for terms of imprisonment of up to five years for allegedly "separatist" statements, even where no advocacy of violence has been made, and urge the Turkish Government to amend Article 8 and other relevant articles of the penal code under which prisoners of conscience are being held.

6. Urge the Turkish authorities to ensure that the Law on the Prosecution of Civil Servants (which permits local governors to block prosecutions of security forces in the 10 provinces under emergency legislation) is not applied to allegations of killing, torture or ill-treatment by police or other civil servants.

Appendix: Some of Amnesty International's publications on Turkey

August 1991      Southeast Turkey: Attacks on Human Rights Activists and Killings of Local Politicians (AI Index: EUR 44/114/91) 

May 1992          Torture, extrajudicial executions, "disappearances" (AI Index: EUR 44/39/92 )

November 1992   Walls of Glass (AI Index: EUR 44/75/92)

July 1993               Escalation in human rights abuses against Kurdish villagers (AI Index: EUR 44/64/93)

February 1994      A time for action (AI Index: EUR 44/13/94)

February 1994      "Disappearances" and Political Killings - A manual for action (AI Index: ACT 33/01/94). Chapter 5, Turkey: Responses to an emerging pattern of extrajudicial executions

March 1994           More people "disappear" following detention (AI Index: EUR 44/15/94)

June 1994              Dissident voices jailed again (AI Index: EUR 44/45/94)

September 1994   Human rights defenders at risk (AI Index: EUR 44/88/94)

October 1994         Kurdish politicians in danger of extrajudicial execution (AI Index: EUR 44/121/94)


*1 The PKK has no helicopters. Foreign helicopters would be unable to penetrate hundreds of miles into Turkish territory unidentified and unchallenged.

*2 Now the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)

*3  Hizbullah is not the branch of the Lebanon-based Shi'a Hizbullah which carried out acts of political violence in Turkey in the mid-1980s, but a shadowy organization established in Batman in 1987 and belonging to the Sunni branch of the Islamic faith, like most of the Muslim Kurdish population in that area. The movement is committed to the establishment of a fundamentalist Islamic state in Turkey.

*4 See: Turkey: Walls of Glass. AI Index: EUR 44/75/92, November 1992.


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