26 July 2016

To the Press and Public Opinion



As the Human Rights Association (HRA) and the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT), two organizations, driven by the motivations of reckoning with the military coups and avoiding coup attempts, we would like to share once again some of our opinions that we have already expressed in the recent days:

  • Those who attempted at a military coup on July 15, 2016, like those who made such attempts before, have committed a crime against humanity. All necessary legal actions should be taken against the plotters, as foreseen by the Constitution and the laws. They should be fairly tried and within the rule of law; and those who have been found guilty should be punished.
  • Currently, our country is living in the times of emergency. Certainly, the regulations that will enable coping with these times should be made urgently; without compromising the obligations under the international law, and without touching the essence of the fundamental rights and freedoms.
  • Despite the commonality of the terminology, it is impossible to cope with the times of EMERGENCY we are living in today, by relying on the STATE OF EMERGENCY LAW enacted on October 27, 1983 during the military coup of 12 September, with the aim of consolidating the junta rule. Military coup attempts cannot be discarded by military coup mentality and laws deriving from it. On the contrary, application of such laws reinforces the military coup mentality.
  • However, the concerned STATE OF EMERGENCY LAW allows the issue of governmental decrees having force of law and immune from judicial control. As such, the legislative power (the Grand National Assembly of Turkey), which has already been severely eroded, will be rendered completely ineffective. Furthermore, the destruction of the democratic principles such as the rule of law, judicial independence, separation of powers, and respect for human rights will be deepened.

Following our above-mentioned concerns, the “Decree having force of Law” with a number. 667 concerning the measures taken within the scope of the State of Emergency, is published in the Official Gazette on July 23, 2016. This decree that is devised ignoring the human rights and the fundamental principles of the rule of law, is clearly incompatible with the Turkish Constitution Article (15) Clause (2); European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) Article (15); and even with the articles of the Turkish Constitution concerning the decrees during emergency states.

The Turkish Constitution Article (15), Clause (2) clearly states that the right to life should be protected; material and moral integrity cannot be violated in other words torture, ill-treatment and degrading treatment are prohibited; criminal law cannot be applied retrospectively; one is considered innocent unless proven guilty (presumption of innocence); and that no one can be forced to disclose religious beliefs, opinions, and can be charged because of these. These are rights that should be protected under any circumstances, and can by no means be restricted.

Indeed, as stated in the Article (15) of the ECHR (to which Turkey is a party); the right to life regulated in the Convention’s second Article, the prohibition of torture, ill-treatment and degrading treatment regulated in the Article 3; the prohibition of slavery and forced labor regulated in Article 4; and the principle of no punishment without law regulated in the Article 7 can by no means be restricted.

Besides, Turkey is a party to the UN International Covenant to the Civil and Political Rights.  Under any circumstances, the “guarantees to due process” regulated in both conventions cannot be subjected to any measures that will restrict the protection of the unexceptionable rights. Deviation from the fundamental principles of fair trial as they appear in the Constitution and conventions, including the presumption of innocence, is strictly prohibited. (The General Comment no.29 concerning the UN International Covenant to the Civil and Political Rights Article 4: Exceptions concerning the state of emergency, Paragraph 11 (2001))

Briefly, the Turkish Constitution Article (2), Clause (2) and the ECHR Article (15) regulate the fundamental rights and freedoms that should be protected under any circumstances. These rights cannot be violated nor limited even in a state of emergency.

The Decree having force of Law published on July 23, 2016 is comprised of clauses almost none of which can be linked to the subject and duration of the state of emergency declared. These clauses can not be explained on the basis of principle of proportionality.

The Decree having force of Law Article (2) Clause (1) declares the closure of the private health institutions and establishments, private education institutions and establishments, private student dorms and guesthouses, foundations/associations and their commercial enterprises, foundation universities, syndicates, federations and confederations that are identified to be owned by, adhered or related to the Pro-Fettullah Terror Organization (FETO/PDY).

Article (2) Clause (2) of the same decree states that “institutions and establishments that are not mentioned in the annexed list, yet are identified to be owned by, adhered or related to the formations or groups or terror organizations determined to pose a threat to the national security; will be closed down by the minister’s approval upon the proposal of the commission to be formed within the related ministry”.

First, it should be stated that the closure of the institutions and organizations, and the seizure of all their assets directly and without court decision is a violation of the right to a fair trial guaranteed by the Constitution; of the presumption of innocence mentioned in the Constitution Article (15) Clause (2); the right to association; and finally, of the right to property. As these institutions and establishments are shut down without a court decision, there is the possibility that they obtain these rights back via judicial process in future.

The expression “identified to be owned by, adhered or related to the formations and/or groups and/or terror organizations determined to pose a threat to the national security” appearing in this regulation, points to a subjective evaluation left to the National Security Council, and hence the Government. As such, it provides the ministries with unlimited and nonobjective extra-constitutional authorities.

This enables the Government to exercise the State of Emergency Decree having force of Law to all opposing social institutions and establishments. As long as the state of emergency is maintained, these institutions and establishments will feel the menace of closure like a sword of Damocles hanging over their head, which will restrain them from freely criticizing the Government. This implies a destruction of the political space, hence the democratic life, and a complete suspension of the legal security and guarantee.

The Articles (3) and (4) pave the way for the Supreme Court members, judges, prosecutors, local administration personnel, and the higher education staff to be dismissed from profession without conduct of fair investigation. Furthermore, the prohibition of the concerned persons from civil service is not limited to the period of emergence state and is a lifetime prohibition. As such, these articles suspend all the guarantees regulated in the specific laws, and the Constitution.

Doubtlessly, persons –in the case of actions mentioned in the Articles 3 and 4 of the decree-, and institutions –when they are closed down according to the Article 2- can always claim their rights by judicial process.

The Article (5) of the Decree clearly violates the freedom of travel, by stating that the passports of those have been subjected to administrative acts, criminal investigation and prosecution will be canceled.

The Decree Article (6) Clause (1) Section (a) extends the maximum duration of detention to 30 days, and thus, violates the principle of absolute prohibition of torture, ill-treatment, and degrading treatment, which is guaranteed by the Constitution Article (15) Clause (2), as well as the ECHR Article (15).  It should be recalled that even under the absolute martial law, Article (15) of the related law limited the maximum duration of detention to 15 days; this could be protracted for another 15 days with a judge’s decision. The maximum duration of detention cannot be extended by a decree; as a martial law is not declared in Turkey; and the Article (26) of the State of Emergency Law concerning the detention periods was revoked on 1992. When the fact that maximum period of detention has been reduced on 1997, from 30 days to 10 days for the regions under the state of emergency, it would be more clear why the current situation is worrying.

As human rights organizations we will definitely make applications to launch the appropriate trial and complaint mechanisms (the European Court of Human Rights being in the first place) against the extension of the maximum period of detention to 30 days that brings a serious risk in terms of the violation of the principle of prohibition of torture; and against the regulations that will lead to the suspension of procedural guarantees (particularly access to an attorney at law).

The Decree Article (6), regulating several investigational procedures, limiting the access to an attorney at law, and mentioning a new enforcement regime; foresees the application of these regulations until the completion of the trial process concerning persons against whom legal actions are taken. This strongly suggests that the emergency state would extend behind the duration initially stated. From all aspects this situation is worrying, and implies the violation of the right to fair trial.

Like the provisory Article 15 of the Constitution of September 12; the Article 9 of the concerned decree, brings a complete impunity by stating that no legal, administrative, fiscal and penal responsibility will arise related to the functions fulfilled by the persons taking decisions and implementing actions within the scope of this decree.  This is in contradiction with the regulation stated in the ECHR Article (15) Clause (2), and Article (7). It should be underlined that despite the Article 9 of the Decree, the responsibility of those who play a role in the violation of human rights can by no means be ruled out.

The application of the Decree having force of Law with No. 667 as it is, is unacceptable since it is in contradiction with the Turkish Constitution Article 15, as well as several articles of the European Convention on Human Rights. While suspending the rights and freedoms on the one hand, it will also debilitate the fight against serious crimes, such as the coup attempts. Therefore, this Decree having force of Law devised ignoring the values deriving from the human rights and the rule of law, should be urgently revoked.



Human Rights Association

Human Rights Foundation of Turkey

To download the statement as word file please click here.

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.

Death Penalty Can Not Be Brought Back!

July 18, 2016

Following the coup attempt on July 15, bringing back the death penalty is put on agenda once again, with the discussions regarding the punishment of the coup plotters. Turkish penal laws and regulations contain ample clauses that define the punishments to be given to coup plotters. The revival of the discussions around death penalty by the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is completely unacceptable.

The fact that the issue is brought forward by the President Erdogan, who claims to be a political follower of Adnan Menderes, the former Turkish Prime Minister executed, poses ethical problems.

In a country where prime ministers, student leaders, and many others have been sentenced to death penalty and been executed, attempts at bringing back the death penalty  will have severe legal and political consequences, both at the national and international scenes.

Most importantly, death penalty is a form of state violence that suppresses the right to life. In other words, it is a wilfull homocide committed by the state. Right to life should be protected as the first priority. Suppression of right to life by the state as a punishment causes irreversible and irreparable damages, and leads to violation of humanitarian values. Therefore, it cannot be accepted by the human rights defenders.

UN Human Rights Committee Report dated 1982, clearly expresses this:  “It is the supreme right from which no derogation is permitted even in time of public emergency which threatens the life of the nation (article 4)..The protection against arbitrary deprivation of life which is explicitly required by the third sentence of article 6 (1) is of paramount importance. The Committee considers that States parties should take measures not only to prevent and punish deprivation of life by criminal acts, but also to prevent arbitrary killing by their own security forces. The deprivation of life by the authorities of the state is a matter of the utmost gravity.”

After a long period of struggle, Turkey has suspended all regulations related to death penalty, Article 38 of the Turkish Constitution being in the first place.

Besides, the European Human Rights Convention annexe 6 concerning the abolition of death penalty was accepted by Turkey on 26/06/2003 with the law no. 4913 suspending the death penalty. This law has been promulgated on 01/07/2003. The Protocol is ratified by the decree no. 2003/6069 dated 15/08/2003. The Protocol entered into force in Turkey on 01/12/2003 with the deposit of the ratification document to the Council of Europe General Secretariat.

Turkey is also a part to the EHRC annexe 13. This protocol is accepted by the “Law no. 5409, concerning the acceptance of the Protocol no. 13 to the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, Concerning the Abolition of Death Penalty in All Circumstances”, dated 16/10/2005. The ratification of the protocol has been resolved by the decree no. 2005/96849, and dated 17/11/2005. In Turkey, the Protocol No 13 that came into force on 01/06/2006. Article 1, entitled “The Abolition of the death penalty” is as follows:

“The death penalty shall be abolished. No one shall be condemned to such penalty or executed.”

Alongside the above mentioned protocols, Turkey has also accepted and promulgated the optional protocol no.2 annexed to the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. This protocol aims suspension of death penalty. For a country that has accepted the most essential codes of the United Nations and the Council of Europe, stepping back from these protocols will mean stepping out of the human rights system, and becoming a bad example at the international scene. Pact sunda servanda is an essential principle of the International Law.

Suspension of the death penalty is one of the most important requirements of the European Union. Stepping back from the gains will have severe political, economic, legal, cultural, and sociological problems.

President Erdogan, who governs the country via a de facto presidental system, and who is increasingly tending towards an autocratic government is bringing antidemocratic suggestions up for discussion. Silence of the democratic elements within the Justice and Development Party in the face of such a situation will be remembered as a shame in the Turkish democratic history. Not only Justice and Development Party, but all political parties should stand up against this kind of antidemocratic propositions incompatible with human rights.

Kurdish problem being in the first place, Turkey cannot bring solutions to its major problems. This created an atmosphere of on-going violence. In this context, bringing back the death penalty will lead to new political, sociological, and legal problems and will turn into a sword of Damocles hanging over the opponents.  Briefly, Turkey has suspended the death penalty and shall not bring it back. It should never be forgotten that human rights and democracy defender will struggle against any such attempt.


Human Rights Association

Human Rights Foundation of Turkey

We are Against Any Kind of Coup d’état, Attempt to Stage Coup d’état, and Anti-democratic Practices and Defend Real Civil Democratic Life and Respect for Human Rights

16 July 2016

On 15 July 2016, there was an attempt to stage coup d’état in Turkey. There is still danger of coup d’état. Many civilians, soldiers and police officers either lost their lives or were injured resulted from violence, clashes during this attempt. Since military vehicles, fighter jets were active in city centres particularly in civilian settlements, neighbourhoods, and clashes took place in these areas lead to serious concerns and fear among citizens. On the other hand, we also observed that there are some cases that some citizens showed reactions beyond democratic principles, and some lynches attempts. In short, Turkey is heading towards a fast and deep chaos of which extent is unknown.

We, as Human Rights Association (İHD) and Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT), would like to underline that we defend democracy and human rights principles under any condition and at any time. This is our fundamental position and we have been defending this position since we established our organisations. We condemn any kind of coup d’état and attempt to stage coup d’état, which mean complete denial of democracy and fundamental rights, freedom, and violence and lynches that remind civil war scenes. We offer our condolences to victims’ families and wish a speedy recovery for injured people.

This chaos is directly related to a fact that Turkey has not been able to solve its democracy and human rights problems. The Government has not implemented democratic principles such as plurality, transparency and participatory, but harmed fundamental rights and freedoms as well as rule of law, passed anti-democratic laws such as impunity law for soldiers-which reinforces military tutelage-, adopted policies based on violence rather than solving the Kurdish question through democratic and peaceful means, and conducting war at home as and in other countries. All these problems lead to a deep political and state crisis in Turkey.

Unfortunately, there are some statements on bringing death penalty back to Turkey lead to serious concerns about possibilities of our future. The only way to exit from this chaos is to obey and respect for rule of law, democracy and human rights, and to adopt peaceful policies at home as well as in other countries.

Democratic forces in Turkey will continue struggle for genuine democracy and against military or coup d’état regimes, anti-democratic practices, and increasing civilian authoritarian administrations. IHD and HRFT would like to repeat that we will main our human rights activities to determine and document human rights violations, to actively provide legal and medical assistance.

No to coup d’état and anti-democratic administrations!

Democracy and human rights are most important issues!


Human Rights Association (İHD) 

Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT)