Annual Report: Turkey 2013

Report
May 29, 2013

Annual Report: Turkey 2013

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  • In January, four people were convicted of participating in the 2007 murder of journalist and human rights defender Hrant Dink. They received sentences of up to 10 weeks (for possession of ammunition) to life imprisonment (for instigation of murder). The court ruled that the convicted men were not part of a wider organization and they were acquitted of “membership of an illegal organization”. The culpability of state officials in the murder was still not fully investigated.
  • In July, Sedat Selim Ay, a police officer convicted of ill-treatment of detainees in 2004, was promoted to a senior post within Istanbul's Anti-Terrorism Branch.
  • No effective investigation was carried out into the December 2011 bombing by the armed forces of Uludere/Qileban, a district in Şırnak province on the Iraqi border. The armed forces claimed to have targeted armed PKK members, but instead killed 34 villagers. Prosecutors failed to conduct a prompt crime scene investigation or to interview witnesses to the attack.
  • In October, an Istanbul court convicted three prison officials of “causing death through torture” in the retrial of public officials following the 2008 death in custody of Engin Çeber. The retrial followed the overturning of the court's earlier judgement by the Supreme Court of Appeals on procedural grounds. The case remained pending at the Supreme Court of Appeals at the end of the year.

Unfair trials

Unfair trials persisted, particularly in respect of prosecutions under anti-terrorism legislation before Special Heavy Penal Courts. Extended pre-trial detention during protracted trials remained a problem notwithstanding legal changes introduced in July seeking to limit its use. Secret witness statements that could not be challenged were used in court and convictions continued to be issued in cases which lacked reliable and substantive evidence. Thousands of such cases brought under anti-terrorism laws related to alleged attendance at demonstrations. Many of those accused were university students. Reforms to the Special Heavy Penal Courts passed by the Parliament in July had not been implemented by the end of the year.

  • University student Cihan Kırmızıgül was released from prison in March following 25 months in pre-trial detention. In May, he was convicted of criminal damage and “committing a crime in the name of a terrorist organization”. He was sentenced to 11 years and three months in prison. The conviction was based on his wearing of a traditional scarf that matched those worn by people alleged to have taken part in a demonstration where Molotov cocktails were thrown. One police officer also identified him as having been at the scene, contradicting the statements of other officers. An appeal was pending at the end of the year.

Abuses by armed groups

Bomb attacks by unknown individuals or groups continued to kill civilians. The PKK kidnapped civilians in violation of the principles of international humanitarian law.

  • In August, an explosion close to a bus station in the south-eastern province of Gaziantep killed nine civilians and injured more than 60 others. The authorities blamed the PKK for the blast but the group denied responsibility.
  • In October, two civilians were killed when their car hit a landmine close to the Aşağı Torunoba Gendarmerie station in the province of Tunceli/Dersim.
  • In August, the PKK abducted Hüseyin Aygün, a parliamentarian representing Tunceli/Dersim. He was released unharmed after 48 hours.

Conscientious objectors

No reforms were introduced to recognize the right of conscientious objection or to prevent the repeated criminal prosecution of conscientious objectors for their refusal to perform military service. People publicly supporting the right to conscientious objection faced criminal prosecution.