Archive for IHD

UPDATES FROM DIYARBAKIR’S IHD OFFICE

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on November 5, 2009 by Mizgîn
“Today’s human rights violations are the causes of tomorrow’s conflicts.”
~ Mary Robinson.

Here are a couple of statements from the Diyarbakır IHD office. The first is an update on the human rights situation in the Kurdish region of Turkey:

PRESS STATEMENT

27 October 2009

(Give the Republic’s biggest project a chance)

Dear press members

Although we’ve seen partial advancements regarding democracy and human rights in Turkey in recent times, we can still say that there are serious problems concerning the exercise of basic rights and liberties. Two forms of power are needed for human rights to find life in a country; the first is the power of Democratic Public Opinion, and the second is the power of the law. If these two forms of power don’t exist in a given country we can’t mention human rights. When we look at practices in Turkey in recent years, it’s clear that there are very serious complications obstructing the exercise of each of these forms of power.

In the European Union progress report released on 13 October 2009, it says that Turkey has made progress in the areas of economic competition and statistical and scientific research, but that there’s a chequered picture in the areas of human rights and democracy.

According to the EU report, with respect to the primacy of human rights and democracy, the protection of minorities, civil and political rights, civil oversight of expenditures on security forces, reform of the constitution, freedom of assembly and protest, freedom of belief, reform of local administration, the independence of the country’s forensic medical foundation, the independence of the judiciary, children being punished with sentences of 25 years in prison, the use of languages other than Turkish, the right to unionize, the rights of disabled people, the Kurdish question, the Cyprus question, the question of cultural rights, the problem of novels and discrimination, in some areas we’re still witnessing serious fluctuations – that is, regression – instead of halts to violations.

Fourteen days after the 29 March 2009 local elections, a major operation was carried out against the Democratic Society Party (Demokratik Toplum Partisi – DTP). Three operations have been carried out against the party in the last six months. More than 1,000 people have been detained. Due to a judicial decision prohibiting access to files concerning the situation of the detained people, 450 DTP members and activists have remained under arrest for months without knowing what they’re being charged with. The principle and practice of being released pending trial is violated for DTP members and child victims of the Turkish Anti-Terror Law. There country’s prison population now exceeds 120,000. In the last four years, security forces have increased the use of disproportionate force against children and children’s deaths have increased as a result. In the latest EU progress report this matter is raised by mentioning police officers who have been “acquitted” after facing trial for “killing outside legitimate self-defence”.

In recent years the army’s repression and tutelage over politics, the judiciary, media and society have reached extraordinary dimensions. The military very frequently goes before the press and makes statements on all varieties of political issues. In the EU progress report it’s requested that the 1997 EMASYA secret Protocol on Security, Public Order and Assistance Units be terminated.

When we look at our table of confirmed violations in the East and Southeast Anatolia region, we can’t say that a heart-warming picture emerges. When we evaluate violations in the last nine months of the year 2009, we see an erratic picture. The number of lives lost in clashes has decreased compared to last year, but we’ve observed that these losses continue and that there’s been a sharp increase in extrajudicial killings as well as murders carried out by unknown perpetrators.

We’ve also seen that the number of people killed and injured by mines and stand-alone explosive articles has increased. A serious increase of complaints regarding torture and maltreatment has been seen again. An increase in incidences of interference in and beatings at social actions has been confirmed in the last nine months. The disproportionate use of force has been triggered by a failure to open sufficient inquiries against those who use excessive force, the abscence of anger control, and the forcing of security forces to work excessive overtime hours.

It seems that everything changed for the worse following the Prime Minister’s July 2005 action and greatly important speech on the Kurdish question in Diyarbakır, especially in 2008, when violations reached their highest levels. Violations decreased considerably in the first three months of 2009 and have continued to increase since April. At a time when a democratic solution for the Kurdish question is being debated, we’re curious as to why violations are increasing non-stop.

In recent years the government has introduced an extremely hardline approach to policy and matters related to children. Slapping children with sentences of between 10 and 25 years in prison due to their flashing of the ‘V’ for victory sign with their fingers or for throwing stones, the aquittal of those responsible for the death of Uğur Kaymaz, the 28 September killing of Ceylan Önköl with an artillery shell, and the fact that those responsible for the loss of 18 month-old Mehmet Uytun’s life – who died as a result of a gas bomb that was deployed as his mother was breastfeeding him on the balcony of their home in Cizre – still haven’t been found, has damaged the trust of the region’s people in the state and judiciary and increased mistrust between local people and the state. Why has there been a serious increase in children’s deaths? Why haven’t the perpetrators been tried following these deaths? What’s the explanation for the fact that 98% of judicial and administrative inquiries opened about security forces between 2003 and 2008 ended in their favor and that 2% ended with light punishments?

The increase in human rights abuses in recent times has been caused by intensified operations and clashes in northern Iraq and Turkey’s Eastern and Southeastern regions, the repression of peaceful and nonviolent social movements and political parties, and the growth of hardline nationalism.

We find the work the government’s doing concerning the ‘Democratic opening’ to be meaningful and positive. However, the rapid increase in human rights violations that this process has coincided with perturbs us. We don’t understand the extreme reaction that’s been shown to the return of those who came from Kandil and Mahmur. They returned with the goal of opening the clogged political process and were met with a peaceful gathering, without throwing a single stone, initiating any violent rallies or shouting anti-state slogans. We think that there needs to be an end to the speeches to the effect that after this, every word and every step taken must be taken within an approach that considers all of the emotions in Turkey, that those who are going to contribute to a solution must be ‘more careful’, and that ‘we’ll turn back, we’ll start from the beginning.’

If we turn away from a Democratic solution to the Kurdish Question – the Republic’s biggest project – our country will be brought back a hundred years, and if there’s a solution it’ll be the end of an era and we’ll move into a bright period. It’ll be brought closer to Europe. We’re either going to forget the pain of the past and open a new page or we’re going to dig new graves. Believing in everyone’s dream of peace, from now on we request that prejudices and the past be left aside, that work be done to stop the flow of blood, and that steps be taken mindful of the weight of every word and action.

With our respect,

Muharrem Erbey, Attorney at Law

Vice President of the Human Rights Association

President of the Diyarbakir Branch of the HRA

The second statement, below, is an IHD statement on the murder of Ceylan Önkol:

PRESS STATEMENT

13 October 2009

(Why aren’t those who killed Ceylan being investigated?)

On 28 September 2009 at 11:30, 12 year-old Ceylan Önkol lost her life as a result of being fired upon while tending sheep. The incident occured in Xambaz hamlet near Şenlik village in the Lice district of Diyarbakır province. A Human Rights Delegation drafted a report after visiting the village where the incident took place and gathering everyone’s statements. Ceylan’s mother, father, older brother and indeed every witness asserted that they had heard a humming and vooming-type sound that came from the direction of Tabantepe police station, followed by an explosion. Even this assertion implies that a mortar had been fired at that time. They didn’t know the exact type of weapon that was used, but the family identified the item as a mortar shell. But the type of artillery doesn’t change the identity of the perpetrators. The perpetrators are the ones who have these very special weapons.

The UN’s Convention on the Rights of the Child was published in Turkey’s official gazete in 1994 and went into effect in the country the same year. The Convention’s sixth article states: ‘1. States Parties recognize that every child has the inherent right to life. 2. States Parties shall ensure to the maximum extent possible the survival and development of the child.’ The state has to protect and safeguard children. The fact that perpetrators aren’t being tried in an active and effective way as the number of children’s deaths increases leaves us human rights defenders concerned.

In the criminal report it says that a mortar had been fired before the incident occured. But that contention can’t be used to absolve the suspects of responsibility for Ceylan’s death. Has even the most minor inquiry about the perpetrators been carried out up until now? What was the sound that was heard before the explosion, and why was it heard by everyone? Is the topic of the mortar that had been fired before being removed from the line of inquiry?

Do sounds like that emerge when mortar shells are tampered with while they’re on the ground? According to the witness statements, was there or was there not a humming and vooming sound after it was fired? How come the criminal report that wasn’t given to Serdar Çelebi and Keziban Yılmaz (the Önkol family’s lawyers and members of the Human Rights Association’s Steering Committee) by the Lice public prosecturor’s office was given to the entire press in a surreptitious way? We’re interested in the answers to these questions.

In this region, we’ve seen other incidents resulting from articles that resemble unexploded ordinance and remants of war being tampered with or hit with a rock in areas where there are children. We showed that such incidents resulted in the child’s hand being severed and her entire body wounded.

In conclusion, we’ve been told that this incident result from Ceylan hitting an unexploded shell with a farming tool that she was holding in her hand. The report prepared by the criminal investigation unit at Diyarbakır Metropolitan Police Headquarters was not objective, and when the case file comes to the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, we’re going to object as the Human Rights Association and as the family’s lawyers.

We’re going to request that research be done to determine whether or not it’s possible to ascertain that a bomb had been deployed or not by looking at the components of the case file.

Muharrem Erbey, Attorney at Law

Vice President of the Human Rights Association, President of the Diyarbakır branch of the HRA

IHD: HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATIONS ON THE INCREASE

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , on September 2, 2009 by Mizgîn
“Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.”
~ Paulo Freire.

I have received a press statement from a comrade in the Diyarbakır Branch of the Human Righs Association (IHD). This statement is dated 9 July 2009, however I think it’s appropriate to post it now, since Interior Minister Beşir Atalay has proclaimed that the Ankara regime’s Kurdish “initiative” or democratic “intitiative”, or whatever the hell he’s calling it these days, has been an overwhelming success.

The irony is that since the actual and overwhelming success of the DTP during the 29 March elections, repression has been on the increase, at least in the Kurdish Region of Turkey. IHD has the cases, with evidence, to support its claims:

PRESS STATEMENT

(The Kurdish question will only be solved with the prevention of human rights abuses)

09 July 2009

Esteemed members of the press,

Although we were pleased to see an even partial decrease in human rights abuses in the first three months of 2009 after leaving behind a year of debating people’s most basic human rights, our concerns were increased by a sudden explosion of abuses following the local elections on March 29th. Fourteen days after the elections, the operation launched against the Democratic Society Party (DTP – Demokratik Toplum Partisi), detetions and arrests, the cancellation of green cards (cards from a social program designed to help disadvantaged people access health services) belonging especially to DTP voters in the provinces, the detention and arrest of members of the Public Workers’ Trade Unions Confederation (KESK – Kamu Emekçileri Sendikaları Konfederasyonu), the arrest of human rights and peace activists, and the initiation of a witch hunt, so to speak, people from all sectors were gathered together. In the operation against the DTP, 945 people were detained and 414 were arrested. In a manner illegal and contrary to human rights law, after their telephone conversations were listened to, many people were arrested on the basis of very ordinary conversations, suspects and lawyers weren’t allowed to see the files concerning their cases due to a secret decision, information concerning legal cases was given to the press surreptitiously and in violation of the law, the list of offenses detained people were charged with were also handed to the press, and detained people were declared guilty before the public without even knowing what crimes they were being charged with.

Although all sectors entered a period of expectation regarding a solution to the Kurdish issue following the 29 March local elections, the spike in arrests and detentions and the increase in operations on both sides of the border served to increase our concerns. The intensification and escalation of violations after distinguished President Abdullah Gül said ‘good things will happen’ regarding the Kurdish issue prompted a debate on how ‘good things’ are perceived.

In the first six months of 2009, the question of clearing mines along the borders and inside Turkey became a current topic; however, mines continue to claim lives as the question of who will clear them becomes more contested and the road to a solution is debated. Whoever plants them and for whatever goal, mines are a crime against humanity and mined fields must be located and their perimeters marked immediately. Later, these fields must be cleared and opened for agriculture.

With the understanding that the state must act as a welfare state, the state’s use of green cards as a political tool especially during elections is a very important indicator of the state’s character. It’s known that a large majority of people don’t have social security. It’s possible that following the elections, the security forces gave the district governorships reports concerning the electorate’s political preferences and that previously-issued green cards were cancelled according to this information. The implementation of green card cancellations increased especially extremely following the March 29 local elections. Following the elections, in our districts the green cards of 122,018 people were cancelled.

In our region, applications were received from five people asserting that they had experienced discrimination on the basis of their beliefs. Our organization considers freedom of belief important and it’s one of the rights that we defend.

In our region, the topic that comes to our attention the most is violations in prisons and detention centers. In Batman prison, due to a disciplinary punishment an inmate by the name of Resul Çelik wasn’t allowed to meet with his family for three months, and for 40 days his request to be transfered to another prison wasn’t being accepted. He couldn’t escape the depression he fell into and hanged himself. This incident was a death under detention. In the prisons in the regions, treatment isn’t given to seriously ill patients, they aren’t committed to infirmatories, and requests to be transferred to hospitals aren’t accepted. No one should be surprised if there’s an explosion in the near future as a result of the conditions and repression in the prisons.

Violations in prisons have continued to increase and become more severe. From the prisons, 33 people applied to us concerning violations of their right to health, 253 people applied concerning the obstruction of their right of communication, and 193 arrestees and inmates applied complaining of having received gratuitous and unjustified punishments, and all of these assertions were proven. 73 families applied to us because their meetings with imprisoned relatives had been obstructed due to disciplinary actions. 44 arrestees and inmates applied to our branch asserting that they had been tortured.

Regarding the heavy intervention by security forces into activities in our region such as Newroz over the last six months, camera images showing the butt of a police officer’s gun hitting the head of a small child show the degree of disproportionality prevailing at this stage. In 47 rallies and public meetings interfered in by the security forces, 501 people were detained.

Regarding the statement in the European Union’s latest progress report on Turkish accession that there is no freedom of thought in our country, how can we express that there are not positive developments in this area. It’s necessary to understand that our country can’t move forward with a democratization characterized by very timid and heavy steps and that in this sense Turkey won’t be able to join the European Union for a long time. In six months in our region 546 new lawsuits were opened against people because of ideas they expressed. 324 people received various punishments due to ideas expressed before the first six months of 2009.

In the first six months of the year, a total of 73 homes were raided. It was claimed in received applications that those in the raided houses had been subjected to indecent and severe interference. Finally, everyone was shocked by an application we received in which it was claimed that when security forces entered a house in the Ofis district of Diyarbakır on the account of a resident’s political activities, a woman was subjected to sexual violence and harassment. The chief public prosecutor’s office has opened a legal investigation and the Diyarbakır regional governorship an administrative one about this event.

In the first six months, 21 people were proven to or applied to our branch claiming to have been exposed to torture and maltreatment in detention units in our region. Compared to the past, torture and maltreatment in detention centers has decreased but the practice has been carried to the street. Now, in front of cameras, mobile squads and other security forces have been using disproportionate force against social activities in a way that has been resulting in heavy injuries. In six months 109 people applied to our branch claiming to have been exposed to torture and maltreatment outside of formal detention centers.

With the goal of abolishing the village guard system, for ten years the Human Rights Association has prepared statements and reports concerning very serious violations perpetrated by village guards. Most recently, the massacre in Bilge village in Mardin province shows once again just how correct our discourse is. The result of the state’s security perspective approach to the Kurdish problem is always death and tears. In the first six months of 2009, 49 people were killed 8 were injured as a result of violations of the right to life carried out by village guards. It was established that village guards were involved in 33 incidents of torture and maltreatment.

Finally, the number of occurences involving people being kidnapped and suggested to become spies has experienced an increase. In the first six months, 7 people applied to our branch asserting that they had been kidnapped and threatened into becoming a spy.

In our region, intervention is often brought upon demonstrations organized by civil society organizations and political parties; upon one person’s slogan or throwing of a stone, gas and teargas are used against all particpants. Heavy interference is personally confirmed by leaders from our branch who act as observers in the activities they participate in. In the first six months of 2009, 215 people were beaten and injured as a result of police intervention into public demonstrations.

Esteemed members of the press,

We can say that almost all of the violations in our region that come to our attention are directly related to the Kurdish problem. The lack of a solution to the Kurdish question is the reason for our country’s inability to democratize or join the European Union as well as the reason our economy is so sunken. A big part of the problem would be overcome with the acceptance of the Kurds’ existence, language and culture and the construction of a new civil and democratic constitution. The sit-down protests we initiated with the goal of putting the fate of disappeared people on the public agenda and trying the perpetrators has entered its 23rd week. The disappeared people that our branch has tried to locate with our own resources exposes the fact that the mistakes the state made in the past were not insignificant. We think that all the graves of the disappeared will be revealed only with the existence of a strong political will. We request that the state come face to face with the past, apologize to the loved ones of the disappeared, apprehend the perpetrators, that the political killings of Kurds be included in the Ergenekon investigation, and that the trial take place on the northern side of the Euphrates river. A truth commission including intellectuals, legal experts, non-governmental organizations, public institutions, judges and prosecutors needs to be established and its work begun immediately.

With the goal of ending the ending the disproportionate violence applied to actions and activities, we’re prepared to deliver human rights education through our branches found in 16 provinces to the security forces that serve in our region. We also recommend that the the security forces be given education in anger management.

Everyone has a role to play in resolving the Kurdish issue, guns must continue to be silent, and we want to keep the doors to dialogue open until the end. We hope that the PKK’s ceasefire will be extended beyond July 15th, and we hope the state also puts an end to operations and behaves with common sense by taking urgent steps with the goal of stopping the flow of blood. We don’t want to see deaths or severe violations any longer. We’re hoping to present a violation-free balance table in the first six months of next year.

With our respect,

Muharrem ERBEY, Attorney at Law

Vice President of the Human Rights Association, President of the Diyarbakır branch

When will we hear Sayın Atalay address these charges? Inquiring minds want to know.

Many thanks to the comrade who sent the information. And let me add that those who have worked in the IHD have been true heroes of the Kurdish struggle in Turkey, as much so as have our guerrillas. Among the many who have served the Kurdish people in this way, we can include Osman Baydemir, Akın Birdal, and Eren Keskin. There is a short history of the IHD at IHD’s website, which includes a list of IHD leaders and members who were murdered because of their work.

Serkeftin!