Annual Report: Turkey 2013

May 29, 2013

Annual Report: Turkey 2013

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  • In February, conscientious objector and human rights defender Halil Savda was imprisoned for “alienating the public from military service” under Article 318 of the Penal Code. In April he was given a conditional release from his 100-day sentence. In September, he was fined and temporarily prevented from continuing on his “peace march” in the southern province of Osmaniye. In December, Halil Savda was acquitted in two separate cases brought under Article 318. Another conviction under Article 318 remained pending at the Supreme Court of Appeals.
  • In October, the trial of pianist Fazıl Say began. Prosecutors brought the case under Article 216 of the Penal Code for “publicly insulting religious values” in tweets he made mocking religious individuals and Islamic conceptions of heaven.
  • In March, journalists Ahmet Şık and Nedim Şener were released after 375 days of pre-trial detention. Their prosecution, with other journalists, for “committing a crime on behalf of a terrorist organization” under Article 220/6 of the Penal Code continued at the end of the year. They stood accused of assisting the media strategy of “Ergenekon”, an alleged criminal network with links to the military and other state institutions, charged with plotting to overthrow the government.
  • Large-scale trials, targeting alleged membership of the PKK-linked Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), continued throughout the year. The trial of 44 journalists accused of KCK membership began in September.
  • A separate prosecution of 193 people, including academics Ragıp Zarakolu and Büşra Ersanlı for membership of the KCK continued at the end of the year. The evidence against Ragıp Zarakolu and Büşra Ersanlı was based on their involvement in the Politics Academy of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), a recognized political party. They were released in April and July respectively pending the outcome of the trial.

Torture and other ill-treatment

Allegations of torture and other ill-treatment in official places of detention persisted. In June, the Parliament passed legislation to create an Ombudsman's Office and a separate national human rights institution. The national human rights institution lacked guarantees of independence. At the end of the year, it was unclear how or whether it would fulfil the obligations of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture in providing independent monitoring of places of detention. Other independent mechanisms promised by the government, such as a police complaints procedure, were not established.

  • In March, boys held at Pozantı prison in the southern province of Adana were transferred, following allegations that prison officials had subjected them to abuse, including sexual abuse. An official investigation continued at the end of the year. The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture visited Pozantı prison in June but its report was not publicly available at the end of the year.

Excessive use of force

There were frequent allegations of excessive use of force by police during demonstrations, including beatings, throughout the year. Three deaths at demonstrations, allegedly as a result of excessive use of force, were reported.

  • In December, up to 50 students were injured following clashes with police on the campus of Ankara's Middle East Technical University. The clashes occurred following attempts by police to break up a peaceful protest that occurred during the Prime Minister's visit to the University. One student was hospitalized due to a suspected brain haemorrhage as a result of a police gas canister striking him in the head.


Investigations and prosecutions of public officials for alleged human rights violations remained flawed with little prospect of those responsible being brought to justice. Convicted officials frequently received suspended sentences and remained in post.