Re: Police raid of NGO offices in Diyarbakir
To: Mr. Abdullah Gül, President of Turkey
From: Naveen P. Mehta, LRWC Member
I am writing on behalf of the 250,000 members of United Food and Commercial Workers Canada (UFCW), the largest private sector union in Canada, and Lawyers Rights Watch Canada, a committee of lawyers who promote human rights and the rule of law internationally by protecting advocacy rights.
We have been informed by a reliable source that on 13 January 2012, the anti-terrorism unit of the Turkish police conducted a raid on the Diyarbakır offices of the Human Rights Association (İHD), the General Centre of the Public Workers’ Trade Union (KESK), the Education Workers’ Trade Union (Egitim-Sen), the Kurdish Language Research and Development Association (Kurdi-Der) and the Solidarity Association For Prisoners’ and Convicts’ Relatives (Tuhay-Der). The raid was apparently based on an illegal search warrant, as it was issued to the İstanbul Chief Public Prosecution Office, despite the Diyarbakır Chief Public Prosecution Office having exclusive jurisdiction for search warrants concerning associations located in Diyarbakır. The targets of these raids include human rights defenders and associations. Our reports indicate that they are peaceful activists from the Kurdish community who are not engaged in any terrorist activities.
We denounce and caution against harassment of human rights defenders and organisations in Turkey, particularly İHD members, members of trade unions and those fighting against impunity for serious crimes. We note that several İHD members are currently in pre-trial detention, including Mr. Muharrem Erbey (IHD General Vice Chairperson and Chairperson of its Diyarbakir Province branch who had been detained since December 2009), Mr. Arslan Özdemir, Ms. Roza Erdede, Mr. Ragıp Zarakolu (Honorary Board Member and Founder of İHD and publisher), and Ms. Büşra Ersanlı (lecturer at the Marmara University Faculty of Political Sciences and International Relations in Istanbul).
We remind you of the rights and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution of the Republic of Turkey, which your government has a duty to protect. These include, inter alia, article 19 which holds that everyone has the right to liberty and security of person; article 22 which protects the right to freedom of communication; article 25 which ensures the right to freedom of thought and opinion; article 26 which protects the right to express and disseminate thoughts and opinion by speech, in writing or in pictures or through other media, individually or collectively; and article 33 which ensures freedom of association.
Turkey is also bound to uphold international law. Article 12.2 of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, states 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”. Article 1 also states that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels.”
LRWC and UFCW Canada call on you to ensure in all circumstances that Turkish respect human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with international instruments ratified by Turkey. In particular, we urge you to take the following actions:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Ragıp Zarakolu, Ms. Büşra Ersanlı, Mr. Muharrem Erbey, Mr. Arslan Özdemir and Ms. Roza Erdede as well as all other members of İHD, KESK, Egitim-Sen, Kurdi-Der and Tuhay-Der, members of associations of families of victims of abusive anti-terrorism policies and lawyers, and in general, all human rights defenders in Turkey;
ii. Release immediately and unconditionally Mr. Ragıp Zarakolu, Ms. Büşra Ersanlı, Mr. Muharrem Erbey, Mr. Arslan Özdemir and Ms. Roza Erdede as well as members of associations of families of victims of abusive anti-terrorism policies and lawyers who are currently detained, since their detention is arbitrary as it only aims at sanctioning their human rights activities;
iii. Put an end to all harassment, including at the judicial level, of Mr. Ragıp Zarakolu, Ms. Büşra Ersanlı, Mr. Muharrem Erbey, Mr. Arslan Özdemir and Ms. Roza Erdede as well as all other members of İHD, KESK, Egitim-Sen, Kurdi-Der, Tuhay-Der, members of associations of families of victims of abusive anti-terrorism policies and lawyers and, in general, all human rights defenders in Turkey.