Annual Report: Turkey 2011

Report
May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Turkey 2011

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  • In April, journalist Veysi Sarısözen was convicted under Article 7/2 of the Anti-Terrorism law for "making propaganda for an illegal organization" and sentenced to 15 months in prison for an article he wrote in Gündem newspaper. At the end of the year this was one of four convictions under the Anti-Terrorism Law pending at the Supreme Court of Appeals.
  • Taraf journalists continued to face threats and intimidation due to articles they had published in the newspaper. In November, the Justice Ministry permitted the opening of an investigation under Article 301 of the Penal Code, "denigrating the Turkish nation", against Rasim Ozan Kütahyalı for a series of articles criticizing the armed forces. In the same month, threats of violence against Orhan Miroğlu were posted on a website, HPG online, allegedly controlled by the PKK. Orhan Miroğlu was also being prosecuted under Article 216 of the Penal Code "causing enmity or hatred among the population" following an article he wrote in 2009 regarding the situation of Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin.
  • In November, arrests were made in a police operation targeting the Turkish Revenge Brigades Union, a clandestine group that had previously claimed responsibility for threats and acts of violence against prominent human rights defenders and others.
  • In September, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in the case of Dink vs. Turkey that the authorities had failed to take reasonable measures to protect the life of journalist and human rights defender Hrant Dink. They had failed to act on information that could have prevented his murder in January 2007, or to conduct an effective investigation following the murder; in particular the Court noted the failure of the authorities to examine the role of the security services. The Court also concluded that Turkey had violated Hrant Dink's right to freedom of expression in relation to cases brought against him under Article 301 of the Penal Code.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Allegations of torture and other ill-treatment persisted, especially outside places of detention, including during demonstrations, but also in police custody and during transfer to prison. In November, the UN Committee against Torture issued a series of recommendations to the authorities to combat "numerous, ongoing and consistent allegations of torture" for which the Committee expressed grave concern during their review of Turkey.

  • In January, Murat Konuş died after being held in police custody in Istanbul on suspicion of aggravated theft. Video camera footage showed him entering the police station in good health and being carried out three hours later. An official autopsy recorded injuries to his body and found that his death was due to cerebral bleeding. In May seven police officers were charged with causing his death through torture. The trial was ongoing at the end of the year.
  • In June, a landmark judgement saw 19 officials, including police officers and prison guards convicted for their part in the torture that resulted in the death of political activist Engin Çeber in Istanbul in October 2008. Of those convicted, three prison guards and a prison manager were sentenced to life imprisonment following an investigation and prosecution that contrasted starkly with other cases involving alleged torture committed by state officials. The convictions remained pending at the Supreme Court of Appeals at the end of the year.

Impunity

Investigations of alleged human rights abuses by state officials remained flawed and, when opened, criminal cases were routinely drawn out and ineffectual. The losing of evidence by state officials, and counter-charges being issued against those who alleged human rights abuses, contributed to the perpetuation of impunity. Independent human rights mechanisms proposed by the government were not established. For example, civil society was not effectively consulted over the draft law to establish the Human Rights Institution (a body proposed to protect human rights and prevent violations), which failed to provide the necessary guarantees of independence.