Saturday Mothers Cannot Be Outlawed!


Enforced disappearances under custody constitute a shame for humanity, a black hole for our civilization. Saturday Mothers who have been struggling for truth and justice are the pride and honor of not only Turkey but also the whole world. Saturday Mothers cannot be outlawed!


Last week’s shameful attack of the law enforcement against Saturday Mothers prick our consciences more and more with each passing day. Because the lapse of reason abides: Rather than apologizing to Saturday Mothers who were subjected to violence and detained, and instead of launching investigations about those responsible, the representatives and speakers from all levels of the political power that disregard criticisms have issued statements that defend and attempt to legitimize the attack while trivializing the mothers.


Such a statement was also made by Ömer Çelik, the speaker of AKP. Mr. Çelik claimed that there was no discrepancy between the attitude related to the reception of the mothers by the AKP leader during his office as prime minister and the recent attack. He, at the same time, announced that the vigils held by Saturday Mothers would not be permitted henceforward. The ground for such a ban was supposedly the instrumentalization of these vigils by some groups.


Indeed, Mr. Speaker, there is a contradiction between your attitudes; a grave one indeed.


The claim that there was no contradiction would have borne some plausibility if the promises made to Saturday Mothers, notably Mother Berfo, during the said meeting at Dolmabahçe in 2011 were kept, if the steps that were and still are exigent were taken in accordance with the significance and sensitivity of the issue.


As we have reiterated time after time, tens of files on the forcibly disappeared in Turkey have been brought to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) as no domestic remedy could be achieved resulting in impunity, which proves to be a protective and encouraging phenomenon for the perpetrators. The judicial process for a majority of these cases were undertaken and completed during the reign of AKP governments. The ECtHR has condemned Turkey in an ample number of cases that it concluded stating that the state had absolute liability, did not conduct effective, transparent, and independent investigations about disappearance claims, and did not carry out relief and reparation processes to relieve the pain of the families of the disappeared.


What have AKP governments, which have been holding power for the last 16 years continuously, done specifically following the said meeting in 2011? Have they launched effective, transparent, and independent investigations about disappearance claims? Have they fought against impunity? Have they eliminated the problem of statute of limitations that absolutely destroyed the hopes of the families of the disappeared? Have they signed without any reservations and put into effect the United Nations’ “International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance” which is a very significant and effective instrument in the prevention of this gross human rights violation that qualifies as a crime against humanity?

At this juncture, we would especially like to focus on this convention. The convention;


  • Absolutely bans acts of enforced disappearance. (In other words, it says no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for enforced disappearance.)


  • Holds all State Parties liable to take the necessary measures to ensure that enforced disappearance constitutes an offence under its criminal law and to take the appropriate measures to investigate disappearances and to bring those responsible to justice.


  • Provides that the rule of statute of limitations cannot be applied as acts of enforced disappearance constitute a crime against humanity.


  • Holds not only the persons who directly commit or order the act of enforced disappearance criminally responsible, but also superiors who disregard information which clearly indicate that subordinates under his or her effective authority and control are committing a crime of enforced disappearance, who fail to take all necessary and reasonable measures within his or her power to prevent or repress the commission of an enforced disappearance or to submit the matter to the competent authorities for investigation and prosecution criminally responsible as well.


  • Guarantees that each victim has the right to know the truth, to obtain material and moral damages in reparation and prompt, fair, and adequate compensation regarding acts of enforced disappearance. (The right to reparation also covers, where appropriate, other forms of reparation such as restitution, rehabilitation, satisfaction, including restoration of dignity and reputation; guarantees of non-repetition.)


When, in fact, ECtHR rulings that have not been satisfied and the convention articles are evaluated together, the reason why the convention has not been signed is grasped in all its clarity.


Moreover, we have also stated the following time and again: Saturday Mothers have been staging the most democratic, transparent, and peaceful protest in Turkey. They have very simple and clear rules based on the principles and values of universal human rights. These strong qualities would never render it possible for others to instrumentalize their peaceful protest in any way. Just like they did not in the 700th week… Claiming the contrary is nothing but to bend the truth. Unfortunately, all governments that are not able to adopt democracy whose conditions and limits have been determined by human rights as a value engage in such political truth-bending all over the world: Generals of the junta in Argentina had characterized Madres de Plaza de Mayo, mothers who have been searching for their disappeared sons and daughters, as crazy and had claimed that they had been manipulated by others. Today, however, the whole world remembers and commemorates Madres de Plaza de Mayo with respect, not the generals of the junta…


Enforced disappearances under custody as a gross and significant rights violation constitute a shame for humanity, a black hole for our civilization. Therefore, Saturday Mothers who have been struggling for truth and justice are the pride and honor of not only Turkey but also the whole world. Their protests cannot be outlawed and obstructed in any way because of the values they bear and by their nature. They speak the truth, address reason and conscience wherever and whenever they want…


Human Rights Association                                    Human Rights Foundation of Turkey