IRCT to Observe Second Hearing of President of Human Rights Foundation of Turkey

10 January 2017

On 11 January, the second hearing of Professor Sebnem Korur Fincanci, President of the Human Rights Foundation Turkey (an IRCT member) and a member of the Independent Forensic Expert Group (IFEG) will take place in Istanbul. IRCT Director for Governance and Policy, Miriam Reventlow, will join a delegation of human rights defenders to observe the hearing.

The trial of Dr Fincanci is of serious concern to the IRCT and its membership and is just one example of the growing crackdown facing hundreds of independent professionals in exercise of their ethical duties, including doctors, forensic experts, other health professionals, journalists and academics.

Dr Fincanci was arrested in June 2016, along with two other human rights defenders, for taking part in a solidarity campaign to defend the independence of the newspaper Ozgur Gundem, which is often critical of the government and aligned with Turkey’s Kurdish minority. If found guilty they could face up to 14 years in jail.

The IRCT and the Independent Forensic Group (IFEG) have signed a joint statement to President Erdogan on the unlawful charges against human rights defenders. The statement called on Turkish authorities to, “cease the harassment and intimidation of health professionals exercising their rights to free expression and association”.

“The IRCT, as part of the global movement for the rehabilitation of torture victims, continues to stand with Dr Fincanci, her family and other colleagues in solidarity and support at this challenging time,” says Miriam Reventlow.

The first hearing took place on 8 November 2016 when proceedings were postponed. Prior to the hearing, IRCT Secretary-General, Victor Madrigal-Borloz, joined a large number of human rights defenders, NGO representatives, and media representatives from around the world to make a statement of solidarity. A similar event will take place following the hearing on 11 January, to once again express how unfounded the allegations are and how invaluable the pursuit for truth is.

Miriam Reventlow will be joined at this event by representatives from other international organisations, including the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War- Europe, Red Cross Foundation Sweden, Zentrum Uberleben Berlin, Public Committee Against Torture in Israel and Physicians Group of Amnesty International Germany.

Human Rights On Trial in Turkey

Donna McKay* – 21.11.2016

It was standing room only inside Europe’s largest courthouse, a fortress of a structure just north of Istanbul’s historic city center. I was crammed alongside human rights defenders and doctors from across Turkey and around the world to support our colleague and friend, Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, a forensic physician and long-time torture investigator put on trial for exercising the very rights she has spent a career defending.

Accused of disseminating “terrorist propaganda” for taking part in a freedom of expression campaign, Dr. Fincancı is one of thousands of Turks who have faced punishment in recent months for criticizing a government that has increasingly flouted international law and human rights norms – and has shown a willingness to vilify anyone who opposes its actions.

Dr. Fincancı and her co-defendants pr2016-11-21-1479764745-5003646-SebnemDay1181.JPGesented their defense. Before the prosecutor could present his case, the three-judge panel chose to postpone the proceedings until January. This tactic, often used to sap the publicity surrounding a case, would effectively give the Turkish government more latitude in punishing Fincancı, and all those who dare speak out against it.

At a dinner that evening, rather than indulging in self-pity or fear, Dr. Fincancı – who also serves as president of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey – was upbeat. She thanked our delegation for supporting her, and said that if she were to face jail time, at least she’d gain access to prisons, which have long been off-limits to human rights investigators like her. It was a moment of both levity and courage that heartened everyone in the room.

Turkey’s democratic backslide is merely a chapter in what is fast becoming a global story of burgeoning anti-democratic forces. Dark clouds are on the horizon not just in Turkey, but in Russia, in Hungary, in Egypt, in France, and, yes, in the United States. The same day Dr. Fincancı stood trial, voters in the United States elected to the presidency Donald Trump, a man who has threatened to deport millions, re-introduce torture, and punish those who criticize him.

Turkey is an example of what happens when such authoritarian forces have a free hand. Days before our arrival, the leaders of the country’s opposition Kurdish party were arrested and detained. Dozens of journalists at the opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet were locked up. Whereas a few weeks ago we were optimistic that charges against Dr. Fincancı would be dropped, our optimism has since faded in the face of widespread suppression with such blatant impunity.


What we see in Turkey is the logical conclusion of threats like those Trump has made. He led chants of “lock her up” against his opponent Hillary Clinton. He pledged to bring back waterboarding “and a whole lot worse.” And he appears to be allying himself with the likes of Russian President Vladimir Putin, a man who has dropped bombs on hospitals across Syria, killing and violating international law with a shameless disregard for human life.

Together, leaders like Putin and Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan represent a threat to the global human rights movement and to human dignity everywhere.

For human rights defenders, it can feel as though we are moving from the golden years of human rights to the dark days. But at this moment, it’s more important than ever that human rights advocates show solidarity. It may seem like a small act, but rallying in person or online, volunteering or making a small donation, marching and protesting in the streets – these are all powerful gestures. Tyrants want to see us silenced. Our solidarity is proof that we cannot and will not be quiet in the face of repression.

For now, we can follow the lead of Dr. Fincancı, who is brave in the face of danger; funny and fearless in times of crisis; warm in a world that can seem cold to the needs and suffering of others. In each of us the flame of hope burns bright, and together we can light the way forward.

*Executive Director, Physicians for Human Rights (PHR)

Attacks on Civil Society in Turkey, Human Rights and Solidarity

LUTZ OETTE* – 17 November 2016

Protests and a show of strength demonstrate the importance of challenging a state that reverts to the arbitrary exercise of power.

Dr. Şebnem Korur Fincani, a forensic doctor, university professor, and human rights defender, has been a leading figure in the struggle against torture worldwide. Now she stands accused, together with two prominent journalists, Erol Önderoĝlu and Ahmet Nesin, of having committed serious crimes, including propaganda for terrorism.

The crime? Acting as a one day guest editor-in-chief for the now banned newspaper, Özgur Gündem Daily, to show solidarity with the editors who have faced prosecution.

As someone who has worked closely with Dr. Fincanci, I, and many others around the world who have come to know her as a passionate and compassionate defender of human rights, was appalled when I heard about the prosecution. This is not an ordinary case in what are extraordinary times in Turkey.

True, Özgur Gündem, a forum for Kurdish voices, has been the subject of repeated attacks on its press freedom going back to the 1990s, with the European Court of Human Rights repeatedly finding Turkey to be in breach of its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights. But today journalists, human rights defenders and others are experiencing a full-frontal assault.

This assault threatens to severely weaken the very fabric of civil society, and the tradition of civic engagement and resistance that is part and parcel of modern Turkey. When meeting doctors, lawyers and academics who do not fit the mould of the new dispensation, it is not a question if but how many, and what charges are pending against them, or whether they have been dismissed from their posts already.

Over a hundred journalists are in prison, making Turkey one of the main jailers of this profession worldwide. Eren Keskin, a prominent lawyer, has had to defend herself against a staggering number of more than a hundred charges. Thousands of academics have been dismissed by decree, without any due process. The judiciary has been purged, and cases bear the hallmarks of what Otto Kirchheimer in his classic work on the subject, called political trials, in which courts are used to pursue political goals.

Having a good defence, and relying eventually on the European Court of Human Rights to prevent or at least correct any injustices, would be at the core of legal strategies to counter unjustified criminal prosecutions. Yet, these steps are clearly not enough in the circumstances of what appears for all intents and purposes to be a concerted campaign, fully unleashed in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt in July 2016.

In response, therefore, we decided to revert to direct action. We, that is a group of national and international journalists, human rights defenders and activists who got together both because we highly value the work of the accused and to defend freedom of the press and human rights in Turkey, organised a solidarity forum and demonstration, with plenty of media in attendance, and flooded the court room for the hearing of the case on 8 November 2016 before the Istanbul Heavy Penal Court.

Our intervention was not a typical trial observation in the sense of ensuring the propriety of proceedings. It was rather a more tumultuous affair in which the judges gave up attempts to limit the number of attendees, with many standing in the aisles while others were squeezing on the overflowing benches.

It directly challenged the legitimacy of the very court, created space to express counter-narratives, and provided intellectual and emotional support to the defendants. Was it successful? Two of the defendants present (the third defendant was absent), Dr. Fincanci and Mr. Önderoĝlu, gave passionate statements in defence of freedom of expression before the trial was postponed.

The eventual outcome of the trial is anyone’s guess but the defendants greatly welcomed the joint national and international solidarity, and found it empowering in what are very testing times for them.

The combined protest and show of strength through our presence demonstrated the importance of challenging a state that reverts to arbitrary exercise of power at every single step. It also served as antidote to voices fond of talking about the end of human rights as a liberal project; human rights have for a long time been about much more than that, certainly in Turkey.

Political trials also hold a message for those who are quick to dismiss courts, such as in the United Kingdom, if they are not siding with the government and fulfil the wishes of “the people”. They would do well to read the works of lawyers who fought against Nazi Germany. Key figures such as Ernst Fraenkel and Franz Neumann stressed the essential role and value of an independent judiciary, and of the rule of law while being mindful and critical of the biases and shortcomings of the administration of justice in liberal democracies.

Developments in Turkey are yet another reminder that this struggle needs to be fought again and again, and to make sure that those who are at the frontline of it receive our continuous support and solidarity.

*Dr. Lutz Oette is a senior lecturer in law at SOAS, University of London, and Director of the Centre for Human Rights Law at SOAS.

IRCT: “IRCT Member in Turkey Warns of Torture in the Aftermath of Failed Coup”



IRCT member in Turkey Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) has released a statement following Friday night’s failed coup d’état in Turkey, expressing its deep concern about the mass arrest of thousands of soldiers and civilians as well as allegations of torture and ill-treatment of detainees.

Images have recently surfaced, showing dozens of detainees huddled together naked and handcuffed on the floor. According to HRFT, the images suggest that the detainees have also been subjected to torture and ill treatment.

The IRCT is deeply concerned about the mass arrests and allegations of torture and ill treatment of detainees, calling on Turkey to ensure the physical and psychological wellbeing of all prisoners, commit to a fair and just treatment of detainees in accordance with international human rights standards and investigate all allegations and reports of torture and ill treatment in accordance with the principles of the Istanbul Protocol.

In the past five days, the Turkish authorities have ordered thousands of judges and university staff to resign their positions and on Wednesday, a three-month state of emergency was declared.

This happens in a context where the space for dissenting voices has been rapidly shrinking in recent years. The IRCT is deeply concerned that the attempted coup may be used as an excuse for further erosion of fundamental rights and calls on the Turkish authorities to ensure rule of law and full compliance with international human rights standards.

People in Turkey who have been subjected to torture and ill-treatment, as well as those who have been affected by the severe social violence atmosphere related to the coup attempt are encouraged to contact one of HRFT’s rehabilitation centres for assistance.

To read the full HRFT statement click here.

To go to official web site of IRCT click here.

Joint NGOs Statement Following the Arrest of the President of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey

The undersigned organizations, members of the Human Rights and Democracy Network (HRDN), express their deep concern about the recent arrest of the President of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT), Ms. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, together with MM. Erol Önderoğlu (journalist and Turkey representative of Reporters Without Borders) and Ahmet Nesin (journalist and writer).

According to the HRFT and media reports, Ms. Korur Fincancı and her colleagues were arrested on 20 June on charges of “terror propaganda”, following their participation in a solidarity campaign with the Turkish newspaper Özgür Gündem. HRFT informs that following their arrest, they were detained in Bakırköy Women Closed Prison and Metris Prison respectively.

Ms. Korur Fincancı is one of the leading figures of the fight against torture and ill-treatment in Turkey. A well-respected academic and human rights defender, she contributed as a rehabilitation and forensic expert and human rights activist to the support of many torture victims, and to the global prevention of and fight against torture and ill-treatment, in Turkey and worldwide.

Ms. Korur Fincancı’s arrest takes place in a worrying context, where intimidation and harassment of human rights defenders and other persons who support the fight against torture and illtreatment in the country is widely reported. These actions have a repressive effect on activities of civil society, which performs essential functions in protecting human rights and upholding democracy and the rule of law in Turkey.

In its Concluding Observations on Turkey of May 2016, the UN Committee against Torture (CAT) expressed that it was “seriously concerned about numerous consistent reports of intimidation and harassment of and violence against human rights defenders, journalists and medical doctors who provide assistance to victims of torture” and “numerous reports received of arbitrary detention of journalists and human rights defenders on terrorism-related charges […]”. The CAT further urged Turkey to “refrain from detaining and prosecuting journalists and human rights defenders as a means of intimidating them or discouraging them from freely reporting on human right issues” and “ensure an independent review of cases in which journalists and human rights defenders are presently on trial or appealing sentences handed down against them for membership in, engaging in propaganda for, or facilitating the activities of a terrorist organization […]”.

Together with the HRFT, the undersigned organizations call on Turkey to:

1. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Ms. Şebnem Korur Fincancı, Mr. Erol Önderoğlu and Mr. Ahmet Nesin,

2. Release them immediately and unconditionally, and drop all charges against them since their detention is arbitrary and solely aims to prevent freedom of expression and their human rights activities in solidarity with press freedom,

3. Put an end to all acts of harassment, intimidation including at the judicial level, against all human rights defenders and journalists,

4. Put an end to the crackdown on human rights defenders in line with Turkey’s international commitments,

5. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders,

6. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Turkey.

Brussels, June 24, 2016

Association for the Prevention of Torture (APT)

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW)

European Association for the Defence of Human Rights (AEDH)

EuroMedRights Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF)

International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

International Federation of Action by Christians for the Abolition of Torture (FIACAT) International Partnership for Human Rights (IPHR)

International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT)

World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), within the framework of the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders

You can download the joint statement of NGOs.

IRCT Has Released a News Story Over UNCAT Turkey Review

Committee Against Torture Urges Turkey to Take Serious Action to End Torture and Stop Crackdown on Civil Society


The UN Committee against Torture has expressed serious concern about torture and ill-treatment in Turkey, particularly in the context of counter-terrorism operations in the south-east of the country, and is calling on the Turkish Government to publically condemn acts of torture and commit to effective investigation and prosecution of all perpetrators. The Committee is also urging Turkey to stop its crackdown on civil society including on health professionals working to provide support and rehabilitation to victims of torture and ill-treatment.

The recommendations follow a two-day hearing in Geneva where the Committee carefully scrutinised the performance of Government in eradicating torture.

As part of the hearings, IRCT member the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) travelled to Geneva to brief the Committee on its key concerns. These concerns related to torture in unofficial places of detention, torture during the curfews in the south-east of the country, lack of independent institutions to investigate and monitor torture and ill-treatment and the deliberate targeting of individuals and organisations working to support victims of torture and ill-treatment. HRFT was recently fined because of its provisions of rehabilitation to persons who were tortured during the Gezi Park protests.

Among the key issues addressed to Turkey are:

  • The multiple concerns about impunity for torture and ill-treatment and the need to create an independent and effective investigation mechanism and ensure that the credible evidence lead to prosecution and convictions with sentences that match the seriousness of the crime. The Committee specifically addressed issues pertaining to the continued application of statutes of limitation and the use of counter charges to prevent victims from seeking redress.  
  • The serious concerns about torture and ill-treatment and extrajudicial killings committed by law enforcement and security forces in the south-east part of the country. Here the Committee saw it necessary to recall the absolute prohibition against torture and once again highlighted impunity as a key concern and recommended the issuance of a clear public policy statement against torture and effective investigations and prosecution. The Committee also expressed serious concern that the curfews have resulted in restricted access to basic goods and services such as healthcare, causing severe pain and suffering.
  • The dramatic increase in excessive use of force against demonstrations, the expansion by the Domestic Security Package of powers to use firearms against protesters, and the lack of effective investigations into this abuse.
  • The numerous and consistent reports of intimidation, harassment and violence against human rights defenders including health professionals providing rehabilitation support to torture victims. The Committee recommended that Turkey refrained from these reprisals and ensures that health professionals are not prosecuted for providing healthcare to victims of torture and ill-treatment.
  • The need to adopt formal regulations explicitly authorising non-governmental organisations, medical professionals and bar associations to undertake independent visits to places of detention.
  • Finally, the Committee extensively analysed the treatment of refugees and asylum seekers in Turkey and expressed deep concern about the lack of assurances of individual review of asylum requests and the risk of collective returns. The Committee also issued recommendations to ensure appropriate reception conditions and establish procedures for identification of torture victims among asylum seekers.

“We now have an up-to-date expert assessment of the state of torture and ill-treatment in Turkey, which is far from positive. It is clear that most safeguards are absent or failing; monitoring and investigation mechanisms are controlled by the State; when prosecutions do happen, the sanctions mock the severity of the crime; and the State is not only failing to provide rehabilitation, it is actively targeting those trying to support victims of its abuse. We sincerely hope that this will be a wake-up call for the Turkish Government and for those neighbouring states who have ignored the deplorable state of human rights in Turkey for too long,” said IRCT Advocacy Director, Asger Kjaerum

Human Rights Foundation Turkey report to CAT available here.

Committee against Torture Concluding Observations on Turkey available here.

Free Speech Isn’t the Only Casualty of Erdogan’s Repression


By Selahattin Demirtaş*

DIYARBAKIR, Turkey — When Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, recently paid a visit to Washington, he gave Americans a taste of the kinds of policies he employs at home. His guards reportedly roughed up reporters outside a think tank while an LED-lit van that said “Truth + Peace = Erdogan” drove around the United States capital.

Many American policy makers are horrified by Mr. Erdogan’s efforts to kill off what is left of free speech in Turkey. Even President Obama admitted that he was “troubled” by the direction of the country, a NATO ally.

While the American public is right to be concerned about Mr. Erdogan’s efforts to stifle free speech and imprison journalists, as a Kurd I am saddened that the criticism ends there. There has been hardly any real mention of the government’s abuses in the fight against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or P.K.K., the deportations of civilians, the destruction of Kurdish towns and the imprisonment of Kurdish politicians in Turkey.

Both Europe and the United States have turned a blind eye to the human rights violations in Turkey’s Kurdish towns over the past year. Europeans did so because they were desperate to strike a deal with Mr. Erdogan to get Turkey to contain Syrian refugees. Washington, for its part, feels that Turkey is indispensable in the fight against the Islamic State.

But let me tell you what this pragmatic approach is hiding: Ever since peace talks between the Turkish government and the P.K.K. broke down last summer, the country has been in havoc.

Last August, Kurdish youth groups close to the P.K.K. began an insurgency in some Kurdish towns. The government responded first with tear gas and plastic bullets, later with 24-hour curfews that lasted for weeks and finally with tanks and artillery. Photos from some of the besieged towns look like early pictures from the Syrian civil war. More than 300,000 people had to evacuate their homes. The death toll is over 1,000, hundreds of whom are civilians, according to the Turkish Human Rights Foundation. Large parts of the Kurdish towns of Cizre, Silopi and the historic Sur are now heaps of rubble.

While the government and the P.K.K. have different views on why peace talks collapsed, there is no doubt about what motivates Mr. Erdogan’s continuing military campaign. He is stoking nationalist sentiment with an eye to a possible referendum this summer that would expand his constitutional powers.

Perhaps a little background is necessary here: Kurdish people living in Turkey have been waging a struggle for greater freedoms for decades. Generations have perished in prisons and torture chambers as Turkey has gone through successive military coups. When I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s, we were not allowed to speak Kurdish, speak about speaking Kurdish or even sing in Kurdish. I became a human rights lawyer in part because my older brother went to jail for trying to do grass-roots activism — just organizing peaceful demonstrations under a political party was enough to get him labeled a terrorist.

We have come a long way in terms of Kurdish cultural rights, but Turkey is still far behind the rest of the world in basic democratic freedoms. True, the peace talks with the imprisoned Kurdish leader Abdullah Ocalan over the past few years did bring us a much-needed cease-fire and a breathing space to celebrate our political views. But since then, the negotiations have fallen apart and the Turkish government has sought to reverse those gains. The Turkish government is meanwhile trying to expand its draconian antiterrorism laws to censor speech and other political activities.

Mr. Erdogan became even more intransigent about the peace process after my party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, or H.D.P., which advocates for Kurdish rights, cleared for the first time a 10 percent threshold in parliamentary elections in June 2015 and gained entry to the Parliament. This has impeded the president’s ability to change the Constitution to expand his powers.

Since last summer, hundreds of our party members have been arrested and dozens of our elected mayors have been dismissed or detained. Meanwhile, Turkey has been shelling Syrian Kurds who are fighting the Islamic State across the border in Syria.

Mr. Erdogan is targeting our party precisely because we stand in the way of the authoritarian order he is trying to establish. The H.D.P. is a progressive coalition of Turks, Kurds, socialists, democratic Islamists, liberals and minorities dedicated to democratic reforms, gender equality, diversity and Kurdish rights. We ran on a party list that included people from Turkey’s many ethnic groups, including Kurds, Turks, Armenians, Assyrians and Yazidis — from all walks of life. I am a co-chairman of the party because every possible political unit, from municipal governments to local chapters, is led by a one man-one woman partnership. Our party was founded to provide common ground for all of the people of Turkey who want to see more democracy.

All of this is anathema to the despotic, male-dominated nationalism fueled by Mr. Erdogan.

In Washington, Mr. Erdogan presented himself as “fighting terrorism” and complained that the United States hasn’t supported his campaign against the Kurds in Syria and Turkey. Someone should tell him that he is actually turning into a source of instability for the Middle East. By ending the peace process with the P.K.K., by creating a repressive security state, by shelving the rule of law and by cracking down on free speech, he is drowning what is left of Turkey’s democracy — making this country more susceptible to radicalism and internal conflict than ever.

*Selahattin Demirtas is a co-chairman of the Peoples’ Democratic Party.

Turkey: Arbitrary Detention of 20 University Academics and Researchers

TUR 001 / 0116 / OBS 010
Arbitrary detention / Release
Judicial harassment
January 19, 2016

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Turkey.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the Human Rights Association (IHD) and the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) about the arbitrary detention of 20 university academics and researchers [1] across the country, among whom Mr. M.D. Ümit Biçer, HRFT Board Member and professor at the Kocaeli University.

According to the information received, on January 15, 2016 an anti-terrorism police operation targeting more than 1.000 academics in Turkey who had signed a statement denouncing state violence on Kurdish provinces was launched, leading to the detention of 20 of them. The academics are being investigated under laws prohibiting “making propaganda for a terrorist organization” and the ”denigration of the Turkish Nation”. Later on the same date, all academics were released but may face the above-mentioned charges.

On January 11, 2016, more than 1,400 academics in Turkey and abroad, including Mr. M.D. Ümit, published a statement led by Academics for Peace entitled “We will not be a Party to This Crime”. The statement expresses concern that the ongoing curfews, which have been declared in several cities across South East Turkey, are exposing their inhabitants to severe human rights violations, and asks that they are immediately lifted and that solutions for a permanent peace process be established. Furthermore, it calls the State of Turkey to put an end to the violence and prepare the conditions for the negotiations. However, soon after its publication, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan heavily criticised the academics and compared them to terrorists. In a public speech made on January 15, 2016, President Erdoğan referred to the academics as “the darkest of dark” and accused them of having committed “the same crime as those who carry out massacres”. Earlier last week, the President called the academics the “fifth column” for terrorists. In addition, several academics have also reportedly received threats via social media and by telephone, including by nationalist mafia boss Sedat Peker, who has publicly threatened the group saying: “we will bathe in your blood”.

The arrest of the academics takes place against the backdrop of the deteriorating human rights situation in Turkey. The authorities have launched a wide-range anti-terrorism operation, started in late July 2015 under the pretext of countering terrorism. In this context, at least 58 curfews have been imposed in several cities in South East Turkey (Cizre, Sirnak, Sur, Mardin, Diyarbakir, Hakkâri, Muş, Elazığ and Batman), leading to restrictions in access to basic services for approximately 1,377,000 people living in these districts and to the death between August 16, 2015 and January 9, 2016, of at least 162 civilians (including 29 women, 32 children, 24 people aged over 60) [2].

The operation turned into a massive crackdown against peaceful civil society actors depicted as “terrorist networks”. This campaign has been targeting dozens of peaceful activists who have been involved in the monitoring of human rights violations resulting from anti-terrorism operations and advocating for a peaceful resolution of the Kurdish issue. These peaceful activists include human rights defenders, particularly HRFT and İHD members, lawyers, political party representatives and journalists [3].

The Observatory calls upon the Turkish authorities to put an end to the ongoing harassment of human rights defenders, including academic figures, and to drop all charges against them, since they are arbitrary as they only aim at sanctioning their human rights activities.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities in Turkey, urging them to:

i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders in Turkey, including academics;

ii. Drop all charges against all academics and release immediately and unconditionally all human rights defenders currently in detention, since their detention is arbitrary as it only aims at curtailing their their human rights activities;

iii. Put an end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against the 20 academics and all human rights defenders in Turkey;

iv. Put an end to the crackdown on civil society under the pretext of countering terrorism and recognise the legitimate role of human rights defenders in line with Turkey’s international commitments;

v. Comply with all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, in particular with:

- its Article 1, which provides that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”;

- its Article 6(a-b-c), which foresees that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, (a) to participate in peaceful activities against violations of human rights and fundamental freedoms, (b) as provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms, (c) to study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters”;

- its Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”;

vi. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Turkey.


· President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, Cumhurbaşkanlığı Külliyesi 06560 Beştepe-Ankara, Tel: (+90 312) 525 55 55, Fax: (+90 312) 525 58 31, E-mail:
· Prime Minister of Turkey Ahmet Davutoglu, Vekaletler Caddesi Başbakanlık Merkez Bina, 06573 Kızılay / Ankara ; Tel: (0312) 422 10 00 ; Fax: +90 (312) 403 62 82 ; Email:
· Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Feridun H. Sinirlioğlu, No: 8 Balgat / Ankara – Turkey 06100; Tel : +90 (312) 292 10 00
· Minister of Justice, Mr. Kenan Ipek, 06659 Kizilay, Ankara; Tel: +90 (312) 417 77 70; Fax: +90 (0312) 419 33 70; E-mail:
· Minister of Interior, Mr. Efkan Ala, Bakanlıklar Ankara; Tel: +90 (312) 422 40 00;Fax: 90 312 418 1795;Email:
· Ambassador Izzet Selim Yenel, Diplomatic Mission of Turkey to the European Union in Brussels, Avenue des Arts 36-38, 1000 Bruxelles, Belgium; Fax: + 32 2 511 04 50
· Ambassador Mehmet Ferden Çarikçi, Permanent Mission of Turkey to the United Nations in Geneva, Chemin du Petit-Saconnex 28B 1211 Geneva 19, Tel: +41 22 918 50 80; Fax: +41 22 734 08 59; Email:

Please also write to the diplomatic mission or embassy of Turkey in your respective country.

[1The 20 university academics and researchers are Associate Prof. Dr. Aynur Özuğurlu, Associate Prof. Dr. Burcu Yakut Çakar, Assistant Prof. Dr. Derya Keskin, Associate Prof. Dr. Gül Koksal, Associate Prof. Dr. Güven Bakırezer, Associate Prof. Dr. Hakan Koçak, Assistant Prof. Dr. Hülya Kendir, Prof. Dr. Kuvvet Lordoğlu, Prof. Dr. Mehmet Cengiz Erçin, Assistant Prof. Dr. Mehmet Rauf Kesici, Assistant Prof. Dr.Mehmet Ruhi Demiray, Prof. Dr. Nilay Etiler, Prof. Dr. Onur Hamzaoğlu, Associate Prof. Dr. Özlem Özkan, Prof. Dr. Ümit Biçer, Prof. Dr. Veli Deniz, Associate Prof. Dr. Yücel Demirer, Prof. Dr. Zelal Ekinci, Research Assistant Adem Yeşilyurt, and Assistant Prof. Dr. Emek Bayrak.

[2Data collected by HRFT Documentation Center.

At Least 162 Civilians Killed in South East in Nearly 5 Months

At least 162 civilians were killed in the fallout of the confrontation between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Turkish security forces during curfews in southeastern provinces between Aug. 16, 2015 and Jan. 8, according to a report by the Turkish Human Rights Foundation (TİHV).

The report, released late Saturday, reveals that during the period in question, at least 32 children, 29 women and 24 elderly civilians were killed in areas placed under curfew in southeastern Turkey. It also states that the human rights of at least 1,377,000 civilians were violated during the 58 curfews that have been declared in 19 eastern and southeastern districts in the provinces of Batman, Diyarbakır, Elazığ, Hakkari, Mardin, Muş and Şırnak.

The report puts special emphasis on human rights violations after Dec. 11, 2015 and says that civilians’ lives have been hugely affected by the way curfews are imposed, the size of areas implicated, increasing military crackdowns and the hardened discourse by the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government.

A total of 14 children, 18 women and 15 elderly civilians were killed districts under curfews in Diyarbakır, Mardin and Şırnak provinces during the 79 days between Dec. 11, 2015 and Jan. 8, the report goes on to say. One of the children was still unborn and was killed when a pregnant women was shot. The report also includes statements from witnesses in the region, who said that at least 22 people were killed while inside their homes due to gunshots, their houses being hit by heavy weaponry or because they were unable to secure vital medicine due to curfews.

More than 260 members of the security forces have been killed in clashes with the PKK since a cease-fire negotiated by jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan and the government collapsed in July.

The TİHV also reported that some people were killed during protests in neighborhoods where no operations were being conducted against the PKK. Three people in Sur and one person in Nusaybin were slain when troops opened fire at protesters.

“Even though there have been no official statements, according to the media almost 10,000 troops are involved in operations in districts such as Cizre, Sur and Silopi, where curfews are in place. Furthermore, hundreds of armored military vehicles such as tanks have been dispatched to the districts and cities in question,” according to the report.