Below is a letter from the Diyarbakır Branch of the Human Rights Association on recent developments in the region. I’ve edited it somewhat due to its length. The full 3-page evaluation report can be downloaded here.
27 October 2009
To our esteemed and valued fellow human rights defenders,
Since 1988, the Diyarbakir Branch of the Human Rights Association has stood with those who have faced religious, linguistic, ethnic, class, and sexual discrimination, supported those who have had their fundamental rights and liberties violated, worked to provide victims with legal support, reported on violations, and striven to inform public opinon about these matters.
Since 2005, negative revisions have been made to the Turkish Penal Code, Anti-Terror Law, Police law and the Criminal Procedure Law. These changes have curtailed freedom of thought and expression and freedom of association. Human rights violations have sharply increased in parallel with these changes. It says in the European Union progress report announced on 13 October 2009 that Turkey has made progress in the areas of economic competition and statistical and scientific research, but that there’s been regression in the areas of human rights and democracy.
In the elections held on 29 March 2009, the Democratic Society Party (Demokratik Toplum Partisi – DTP) increased the number of municipalities under its control from 54 to 99. A major operation was carried out against the party two weeks after the election; in six months, more than 1,000 party members were 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. Fourteen and fifteen year-old children are being tried with the demand that they be punished with sentences between 10 and 25 years in prison for making the ‘V’ for victory sign with their fingers or throwing stones at police. In the last four years, security forces have increased the use of disproportionate force against children and children’s deaths have increased. In the latest EU progress report it’s discussed how police officers facing trial for “killing outside legitimate self-defence” have been “acquitted”.
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 1997, the EMASYA Secret Protocol on Security, Public Order and Assistance was signed between the Interior Ministry and the General Staff and handed over to military units without even consulting the leaders of provincial and local administration. By looking at this protocol we can understand how the country is managed. In the EU progress report it’s requested that this protocol be immediately terminated.
Recently, increases in human rights violations have been caused by intensified military operations and clashes in northern Iraq and eastern and southeastern Turkey, repression of non-violent social movements and political parties, and the growth of hardline nationalism.
The government’s process that was first shared with the public as a ‘Kurdish’ opening and later turned into a ‘Democratic’ one has most recently turned into a ‘National Unity Project’. While this project is found to be significant and positive, the rapid increase in human rights violations it has coincided with makes us apprehensive.
The following table is made up of the original data we normally gather from the 16 branches of the Human Rights Association in Eastern and Southeastern Anatolia:
The importance of the Human Rights Association’s work becomes evident when we look at the increase in human rights violations following the year 2005. We defend international human rights norms, and we think that cooperation with international organizations and institutions are important for this goal. We wish to point out that we’d like to work with you in such respects as mutual communication regarding the area of human rights, sharing experiences, publicizing our reports, bringing together the public, and education projects. We hope that we can remain in contact with you in the future. One of our biggest objectives is to provide the international community with reliable and accurate information about the human rights situation in Turkey.
With our respect,
Muharrem Erbey, Attorney at Law
Vice President of the Human Rights Association
President of the Diyarbakır Branch of the HRA