Annual Report: Turkey 2011

May 28, 2011

Annual Report: Turkey 2011

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  • No progress was made in the prosecution of a police officer for intentional killing following the death in custody of Nigerian asylum-seeker Festus Okey in 2007. Following a flawed investigation, the prosecution remained stalled due to disputes regarding the victim's identity. In November, the presiding judge rejected an application by members of the Migrants' Solidarity Network to intervene in the case and issued a criminal complaint against them on the grounds that their submission to the court amounted to libel.
  • In June, the prosecutor investigating the death in custody of Resul İlçin in October 2009 in the south-eastern province of Şırnak ruled that no officials should face criminal charges. The decision was based on an official autopsy report which found that Resul İlçin's death was due to a heart attack, despite the report also recording severe injuries to the head and other parts of his body. An appeal against the decision to close the case was rejected by the local administrative court in July.

Prison conditions

Allegations of ill-treatment in prisons persisted, especially of remand prisoners directly following transfer. Denial of effective access to medical treatment and arbitrary limitations applied to prisoners' rights to associate with each other continued.

  • In July, leukaemia patient Abdullah Akçay died in prison following the refusal of requests for his transfer from custody on health grounds. The requests were based on medical reports stating that he could not be treated effectively while in prison.
  • In July, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture published a report based on a visit in January to the high security prison on the island of İmralı where PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan is imprisoned. The report recorded an improvement in some aspects of the prison regime, notably due to the transfer of five prisoners, ending his 10-year isolation. A report concerning another Committee visit to places of detention in 2009 remained unpublished pending government permission.

Unfair trials

Unfair trials under anti-terrorism legislation continued. In such cases, excessive pre-trial detention without consideration of alternatives by the judicial authorities remained routine, and lawyers had no effective mechanism to challenge the lawfulness of the detention in practice.

In July, important legal amendments ended the prosecution of children under anti-terrorism laws solely for their participation in demonstrations. However, the amendments allowed adults to be prosecuted under the unfair laws and failed to address the vague and overly broad definition of terrorist crimes in law.

  • In August, Erdoğan Akhanlı was remanded in custody pending trial under anti-terrorism laws. The prosecution case was primarily based on a statement later retracted by the witness, who alleged that it had been obtained under torture. Defence lawyers' applications for Erdoğan Akhanlı's release were denied by the court on the basis of the weight of the evidence against him. In December, he was released from detention pending the outcome of the trial.

Abuses by armed groups

Bomb attacks resulted in the death and injury of civilians.

  • In July, four activists travelling to the scene of an attack on an oil pipeline were killed when their vehicle hit a mine. A statement made by the PKK indicated that its members were responsible for laying the mine.
  • In September, nine people were killed when a civilian minibus hit a mine while travelling on a road close to the village of Geçitli/Peyanis in the south-eastern province of Hakkari. No group claimed responsibility for the attack. Eyewitnesses claimed that two military bags and munitions were recovered from the scene.

Workers' rights

Long-standing demands by trade unions for Istanbul's central Taksim Square to be opened for demonstrations on 1 May were granted for the first time in recent history, and the demonstrations passed peacefully in contrast to previous years. Constitutional amendments granted the right of collective bargaining for public sector employees but the right to strike was still denied to all civil servants. As a result, Turkey failed to comply with ILO conventions to which it is a party.