Speech by Husnu Ondul in the 11th General Assembly of IHD

Distinguished Guests
Distinguished Membrs of the Press
Distinguished Delegates,

Human Rights Association is holding its 11th General Assembly in a heavy oppression environment created by the "security" approach which was intensified after the wake of 11 September. Security approach is based on the refusal of liberties. It is brought to the agenda with a prespective to increase the authorities of the State mechanisms on the free human being. However, the propoganda of this approach is ironically made for "liberties". This is why the argument to fight for security is oftenly used. Limitations on the freedoms are explained as measures to be taken for the "good" of people. In line with this trend, the USA and several European countries are limiting freedoms and rights of people by laws in the name of fight against terrorism. Mostly "foreigners", migrants and refugees have been subject to limiting measures. Ones belong to Muslim society are regarded as "suspicious people". Last year on 29 October 2001, British author with Pakistan origin, Tarık Ali, was taken under custody in Munich airport. Two months ago, well-known Turkish academician Haluk Gerger was not permitted to enter the USA at the New York airport.

Nevertheless, the owners of this new trend seems not to be stable. The world democratic public opinion and particularly American and European people are strongly reacting to these policy of Fight against terrorsim. What makes human rights defenders be more hopeful is just that reactions of the people against their governments who produce policies violating human rights and freedoms. İt is the solidarity of the people of the world and the common reaction against war and polcies of violence making us more courages.

Distinguished guests, distinguished delegate friends,

Human Rights Association follows an anti-war policy. In this framework, it reacts to the possibility of a war against Iraq. We are against to the development of new influential areas and usage of power to penetrate into the regions with rich oil and energy resources by the various countries including the USA on top. Similarly, we oppose to the support of the USA to the out of law practices of Israel. We are opposed to the oppression applied to the people of Palestine by Israel. We would like to underline once more that we have always opposed, and shall continue to do so, to the violence used by States or political organisations on civil people. The justice cannot be ensured by using violence against civil people. We would like to address here to an important international development. The Treaty for the establishment of the International Criminal Court has just been entered into force. Extraordinary efforts of human rights organisations contributed to the realisation of it. We call on States including Turkey to sign and ratify the Rome Treaty as soon as possible.

Instead of using violence to solve problems, there is a need to work in elimination of deepening inequalities among countries and people. There is aneed to establish strategies to eliminate the poverty. The globe needs justice which cannot only be ensured by recognition of the principle on the legal equality of the States. What we are talking about is the justice in distribution of goods and services produced in the world. People are dying in masses because of hunger. Billions of people in the world are deprived of basic health and education facilities. We believe that more fair and equal world can be created. The existing situation is contradicting to the ideal of the United Nations and it is clear that millions of people are deprived of human rights and fundemental freedoms in contradiction to the supranational human rights documents. We, as human rights activists, want this situation changed. We are right to demand more free and equal world which respects to the honour of human beings.

Distinguished guests, distinguished delegate friends,

During the last one year, the 57th government has been engaged with an intensive legislative activity. In the field of human rights and freedoms, 34 articles of the Constitution was amended on 3 October 2001, the Civil Code was completely renewed in autumn of 2001, and three packages for legislative amendments in various laws have been approved in 2002.

During our period of work, Turkey has experienced two major economic crisis in November 2001 and February 2002. More than two million have been subject to job losses. The national income per capita declined by 50%. Poverty has increased. New economic policies dependant to the IMF policies were implemented. Laws on Sugar and Tobacco which will deeply affect the agricultural sector and farmers have been enforced. In parallel to this financial crisis, amendments were made on laws in the field of individual and political rights.

The death penalty has been abolished for the peace time on 3 August 2002. Abolition of the death penalty is an extraordinary development for Turkey. The second important development is related to the amendments made on the use of languages other than Turkish. Changes and implementation of those changes cannot be found satisfactory today. However, it is a progress from a Constitution ignoring the differences to reach a situation where the use of right is taken under guarantee by law, even it is not satisfactory. These arrangements are related to the learning of a language and broadcasting in that language in radio and televisions. We shall follow implementations in this field all together.

How the language ban is contradicting to the Laussaune Treaty but pertained, arrangements related to the Community Foundations are both contradicting to the Laussaune Treaty and to the equality principle of the Constitution. It should be possible for the Community Foundations established by citizens from different religions to be subject to same legal procedures in acquiring property as citizens from different religion and other Foundations have. Due to the difficult procedures foreseen in the implementation regulation of the related Law, arrangement made to allow the implementation of the decisions of the European Court of Human Rights in domestic law is not satisfactory.

Amendments made in the Turkish Penal Code, Anti-Terror Law, Associations Law and the Law on Demonstrations and Meetings do not facilitate the use of rights in these fields and do not have the characteristic to change antidemocratic essence of these laws. It cannot be argued that the amendments made in the Law on Authorities and Duties of Police did bring any limitation on the authorities of the police. It is clear that changing the places of the articles, merging some articles or using different words with same meaning shall not change the essence. Reducing the detention period to 4 days in the Constitution is a positive development. However, deprivation from legal counselling in the first 48 hours in the State Security Court related crimes cannot be accepted. I should stress here again that the HRA defends the elimination of the State Security Courts. Although it is an important development to provide the Judge possibility to see the defendant when an extension of detention for another three days is required in the State of Emergency region, the existince of seven day detention period is already a problem. We wholly oppose to the implementation of institutionlised detention.

Distinguished guests, distinguished delegate friends,

The HRA has closely followed all legislative amendments and made its own analysis to share with the public opinion. We have not only analysed the normative arrangements, but also followed their implications in the implementation.

The torture in Turkey is still used as sytematically and extensively. Measures to be taken for the prevention of torture should be introduced under four headings: Educational, administrative, judicial and legal measures. Furthermore, for the prevention of torture there is an urgent need to have a strong and stable political will. This political will should also be declared to the public aloudly. This fatal problem cannot be solved with statements that torture is an individual practice and with assessments that the police is uneducated. In the first six months of 2002, the HRA recorded at least 381 torture incidents.

Protection of human rights cannot only be ensured by amending and changing laws. Of course it is important to take rights and freedoms under legal protection. However, how it is implemented and acts of enforcement bodies are equally important. One of the important example has been experienced on the amendment of Article 312 of the Turkish Penal Code. Although the authorities has explained that the amendment was made to extend the freedom of expression, the Chief Prosecutor of the Court of Appeal has understood that the amendment was made to extend his authority. Therefore, it is this differences among approaches which establishes the sources of violation. The boom in the cases in the field of freedom of expression is not just a conincidence, but directly related to mentality and approaches. We should remind that in the first six months of 2002, 2260 people have been subject to legal proceedings. In addition, the Article 169 of the Turkish Penal Code is extensively use against people who express their thoughts. This is forcing the law.

In Turkey, neither monolistic-authoritarian constitutional and legal framework of which lines were drawn by the 12 September military coup was passed beyond, nor the mentality that sort. Therefore, there is no possibility to define Turkey as a democratic and laic country. Turkey is contradicting to the principle of laicism both with compulsory religious courses and with the Religious Affairs Board structured to produce services to only one sect of the religion. Discussions on the constitutional status of the Religios Affairs Board are forbidden in the political parties law. This means that the model is not a laic model. It can therefore be possible to talk about the existance of a state religion. Society in Turkey has pluralist ethnic, language, religious and cultural structure. Within this circumstances, the State takes a part in religions and believes both structurally and in practice. This also bring out discriminative implementations. To give an example, there is de facto Shiite belief and culture. It exist and continue to exist. However, as the legal system does not recognise its existence, it is not under the legal guarantee.

There a few other points that I would like to address in the context of the democracy and the primacy of the law. There is a structure and implementation in Turkey which contradicts with the principle of superiority of the civil authority. Structuring the National Security Council as an Constitutional organ and giving equal rights to members of the military together with elected government members are contradicting to the spirit of the democracy.

There is no country in the world that the judiciary is in pussillanimity in terms of judicial independency and arbitration guarantee to be defined as democratic country. Human rights as I mentioned above is protected by law. The most important part of the protection is the judicial protection. The 57th government has not fulfilled its obligations in the field of primacy of law, except the Law on Lawyers. The judiciary in Turkey faces the problem of independency as it was also mentioned by the Chief Judge of the Court of Appeal in his opening speech for judicial year in 5 September 2002. The Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors is dependent on the administration in terms of executive secretariat and budget. In addition the dual structure of the judiciary, civil and military, still exists. Civilians are taken to military courts. As a result, non-existence of the the principle on the primacy of the law creates problems directly in protection of human rights.

Distinguished guests, distinguished delegate friends,

Human rights and democracy are the main questions of Turkey. The most important coil of this question is the Kurdish problem. Our approach on bringing peaceful solution to this problem has been based on the demand for having high democratic standards in Turkey. Our approach has not changed. Society of Turkey demands for high-standard democracy in Turkey.

A region of Turkey, the Southeastern Anatolia, has been governed under extraordinary measures since 24 years. Fundemental rights and freedoms have been limited by decrees contradicting to the Constitution. These Decrees have not presented and discussed in the Grand National Assembly. The provinces where the State of Emergency has been removed are de facto administered by extraordinary governing measures under the name of adjacent regions to the State of Emergency which is not defined in the Constitution. Instead of lifting the State of Emergency completely to move to a democratic governance, it has been understood from the press, which are neither confirmed nor denied, that the existing governing methods with all authorities under the name of "coordinator governer", the dual legal system and its applications and dual governance model shall be sustained. The HRA is against to this. We want equal rights and freedoms for every citizen and in everywhere of Turkey. Neither geografical and cultural differences nor the ethnic origin, language and relion differences require different legal arrangements. Respect to the legitimacy of differences of citizens in Turkey is fundemental. It is fundemental also that all citizens should legally and actively have the human rights and freedoms

As it is identified by the Parliamentary Commission on Forced Migration in 1998, 3688 villages and hamlets were evicted during the armed conflict lasted 15 years in the Southeast. As a result over 3 million people were forcibly displaced. On 9 May 2000, under the coordinaton of the General Secretariat of the National Security Council, an action plan containing 107 articles was prepared and put into implementation with a secret cadre and budget. According to the statement of the Supergovernor of the State of Emergency made in October 2002,a total of 51 thousand people migrated back to their villages. This figure even when it is compared to the official statements on the number of displaced people, given as 500.000 shows that return of IDPs was not ensured. The forced displacement was an administrative practice applied by violating human rights and fundemental freedoms. Measures to be taken should have been based on participatory approaches in the context of comprehensive regional development programmes. The return to village should have been encouraged by eliminating extraordinary governance models and ensuring the existence of human rights and freedoms. There should have also been measures initiated to remedy losses and provisison of financial supports. No progress has been made in this field. On the contrary, threats and murderings took place.

By basing on the Population Law, names were prohibited in the State of Emergency Region. This application disregarded the decisions and interpretations of the Court of Appeal in favour of freedom in choosing names. It cannot be accepted to put a ban on the right of parents to name their children.

In the last one year of our working period, over 11 thousand university students gave petitions to have Kurdish language as an elective course. More than thousand parents and students were detained and arrested. Hundreds of students were dismidded or given discipline penalties and suspension from education. According to us, these detentions, arrests, and penalties given were against of law. Similarly, students of Religios highschools were subject to inhuman behaviours. Children at age of 13-14 were subject to detentions, handcuffs and so on. These children were blamed to be militant of "shariat" believes. 336 of those were deprived of their right to education. More than 2 thousand parents and students were detained.

In this period of time, ten thousands of public servants who used their syndical rights were referred to courts and exiled.

Distinguished guests, distinguished delegate friends,

On 20 October 2002, 5 days later when we held our 10th General Assembly, the long-lasting hunger strikes and death fasts were initiated in prisons of Turkey. In every stage after the initiation of hunger strikes, the HRA has continously been engaged with elimination of isolation, and not launching F type prisons. We tried to increase sensitivity and to create a public opinion through our own activities or joint activities with other human rights organisations, democratic mass organisations both at domestic and international level. However, we could not be successful to prevent either deaths of 32 people in the 19 December 2000 military operation implemented in 20 prisons of Turkey or death of 69 hunger strikers. The ministry of Justice and the political power have lodged behind the argument of "State policy" on F type prions. This State policy was created despite the demands of citizens. And neither the HRA nor political parties and democratic mass organisation were able to change this policy. It seems to us that the a systematic and long-lasting effort is waiting for us to fight against isolation. Discussion on the issue, production of news were prohibited in this period. Several court cases were launched against people who wrote and spoke on the issue. Turkish Medical Association, TUMYARGISEN were taken to courts. An investigation was launched against İstanbul Bar Association. 6 branches of the Human Rights Association were closed. Executives of the HRA were tried. Istanbul and Ankara Branches of the HRA were raided. The Headquarter of the HRA was raided. Several other memebrs of the Ngos and democratic mass organisations were detained. The Chairperson of İstanbul HRA Branch, Ms Kiraz Biçici, was tried at the State Security Court and prosecuted to 3 years and 9 months heavy imprisonment since she defined the 19 December 2000 prison operation as a "massacre". She was blamed to aid the illegal armed organisation on the grounds of Article 169 of the Turkish Penal Code.

The HRA wants the elimination of the isolation in prisons. The HRA is determined to continue to its fight for provision of conditions respectful for the honour of human being in prisons.

I would like to draw your attention to changing type of pressures on the Human Rights Association. During the 14 years time from the establishment of the HRA, the number of court cases launched against the HRA was 300. This figure went up to in last two years to 437. There is quite rare number of human rights organisation in the world that their memebrs were killed (14), its president was attacked to be killed, and attacked by para-military groups and public organisations. The pressures of the last two years are having the label of judicial pressurre.

Distinguished guests and distinguished delegate friends,

We have experienced an election period surrounded with political bans, language bans and the pressures and barriers before the freedom of expression. We have analysed election declarations of 18 political parties and presented our views and demands to the public opinion. At the moment, the interest to the human rights and freedoms has shifted to the decision to be taken at the Copenhagen European Council on 12 December 2002. State organs, various political parties together with over 200 civil society organisations have intiated a movement focussing on obtaining a date for negotiation.

We are reacting to the arguments of the state organs and various circles that "Turkey has fulfilled its undertakings" as it is unreal. The HRA has presented its analysis on the National programme for the adoption of acquis communautaire and on enforced legislation. This analysis covered what has been realised, not realised, weaknesses and unchanged essences of amended laws. Therefore the argument that Turkey has fulfilled its undertakings is an illusion.

Secondly, Turkey has not become a democratic country with amendments made in laws. İkinci konu yapılan değişikliklerle Türkiye'nin demokratik bir ülke haline gelmediğidir. The ban on the president of a political party which received the highest votes in elections shows what sort of democracy is valid for Turkey. Thirdly, it is not possible to talk about any progress in the implementation. Forthly, the governing elite has not internalised the democracy. Governments negotaite the boundaries of their citizens rights and freedoms in their relation with the EU. We cannot be the partner of this shameful manner. Fiftly, the governments assess the obtaining of negotiation date as a political gaining of the State. Sixtly, the boundaries of the human rights and freedoms are seen as a part of what the foreign policy of the State needs and requirements.

HRA demands and fights for human rights and freedoms independent from the EU-Turkey relations. In relation between Turkey and the EU, it is clear that the motive which make the governing elite in Turkey move for human rights and basic freedoms is the EU process in human rights and fundemental freedoms. We do not see human rights and freedoms as a commodity which can be imported or exported. The HRA believes in the determinative role of internal dynamics. For this reason, we intensify our efforts to identify the status of human rights and freedoms, to prevent violations and to develop human rights and freedoms. We refuse a democratisation programme to be shaped according to the given accession date. Whatever the motive is, we always demanded human rights and freedoms in whatsoever circumstances are and we shall continue to demand. We as the HRA invite all actors of the process to follow a basic policy to develop and to materialise human rights and freedoms.

Distinguished guests and distinguished delegate friends,

Human rights movement of Turkey is progressing with paying heavy prices. Our efforts which we have shown voluntarily to the HRA shall give its products as freedom, equity, peace and democracy. We thank to all who has made contribution on this issue.

With my all best wishes

Hüsnü Öndül
President of the HRA

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