Turkey: Mr. Ali Oncu. Mr. Edip Yasar, and others | Letter

Re: Mr. Ali Oncu. Mr. Edip Yasar, and others

To: Mr. Ahmet Necdet Sezer, President of Turkey

From: Russell C. MacKay, member of LRWC

Date: 2006-04-13

I am writing, as a member of LRWC, in response to information obtained from the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights indicating a number of Turkish members of the Human Rights Association (HRA) have been subjected to harassment, arrest, torture, and mistreatment.

In particular, I am informed of the following occurrences:

1. On March 29th, 2006, Mr. Resit Yaray and Mr. Mursel Kayar, members of the HRA Batman branch, were arrested by police and detained in the Directorate of Security in Batman. They were attacked and beaten by police officers and sustained injuries as a result. At a hearing of some sort before the Public Prosecutor on April 2nd, 2006, they declared that they were only acting as HRA observers of the riots between security forces and Kurdish citizens that had recently taken place in Batman. Their detention continued, however, and they have now been transferred to the prison in Batman. I understand charges have been laid against these gentlemen of assisting and supporting illegal organizations;

2. On March 30thth, 2006, Mr. Mecail Ozel, a member of the HRA Diyarbakir branch, was arrested by police and detained in Ofis. Initially, the Directorate of Security denied his detention. His family did not receive any news of his whereabouts or well-being until April 3rd, 2006. On April 4th, 2006, he was brought before the Diyabakir Criminal Court and questioned by the Public Prosecutor. He was then detained for “assisting and supporting illegal organizations;

3. On April 2nd, 2006, Mr. Erdal Kuzu, lawyer and Secretary General of the HRA Mardin branch was arrested in the city of Kiziltepe together with Mr. Huseyin Cangir, Chairperson of the Mardin Branch. Mr. Kuzu and Mr. Cangir were
trying to prevent attacks by security forces on civilians. Both men were severely beaten after they were detained. Medical reports compiled after they were released and examined confirm this mistreatment;

4. On April 4th, 2006, Mr. Ali Oncu and Mr. Edip Yasar, members of the HRA Diyarbakir branch were arrested and detained by an anti-terrorism branch of the security force. I understand they have been brought before a Judge and the Public Prosecutor and ordered detained in Diyarbakir D Type prison. They were charges with “assisting and supporting illegal organizations.

In addition to the above-noted incidents, I am informed that several other persons are reported to have disappeared in the course of recent conflicts with the security force – particularly in the South and South-East areas of Turkey. I am informed that the number of person detained now exceeds 600. In addition to other abuses, these people are not being given proper access to lawyers. This is a blatant violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which was ratified by Turkey in September 2003.

Turkey has a responsibility to adopt such measures as are necessary to guarantee the life and physical safety of the above-named members of HRA. This duty arises from Turkey’s membership in the United Nations (UN) and its ratification of several UN conventions and covenants including:

  • International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights – Dec/23/03;
  • International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – Dec/23/03;
  • Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment – Sept/1/88.

Additionally, Turkey, as a member of the United Nations General Assembly, is bound the “Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers”,(welcomed by the UN General Assembly in 1990).

Article 16 states that:

“Governments shall ensure that lawyers are able to perform all of their professional functions without intimidation, hindrance, harassment or improper interference”. The Basic Principles on the role of Lawyers (welcomed by the UN General Assembly in 1990)

Article 17, furthermore, states that:

“Where the security of lawyers is threatened as a result of discharging their functions, they shall be adequately safeguarded by the authorities”.

The Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individual, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedom. (Declaration on Human Rights Defenders) further requires (see Articles 9(5) and 11) your government to conduct a prompt, impartial and effective investigation of the shocking threats made against the above-noted members of HRA.

Article 12(2) creates the mandatory responsibility of member states to protect lawyers in the practice of their profession:

LRWC respectfully urges your government to act in accordance with the provisions of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the international and regional pacts and treaties ratified by Turkey and ensure the implementation of the Declaration of Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 8, 1998, in particular article 1 which provides that “every person has the right, individually or collectively, to promote the protection and fulfilment of human rights and fundamental liberties at the national and international levels”.

The arrests of lawyers and representatives of HRA in Turkey cannot be seen as anything other than an alarming signal of very serious deterioration of the rule of law in Turkey under the current regime.

LRWC calls for an immediate and thorough investigation into the threats, intimidation and detention of these lawyers and representatives, for the results obtained to be made public, and for those responsible to be brought to justice. LRWC also calls upon the government of Turkey to take swift and effective action to ensure the security of all human rights defenders so they can continue to carry out their legitimate and important work defending human rights.

Please advise LRWC by mail, e-mail or fax of the actions that the government of Turkey is taking to:

1. ensure the present and future safety of the above-named persons and other members of HRA and;
2. investigate the threats, intimidation and detention of these human rights defenders with the goal of identifying the person(s) responsible and bringing them to trial.

LRWC awaits your response. Thank you for your attention to our concerns.