Evaluation of the Year 2009 from the Perspective of Human Rights on Human Rights Day
Joint press release 10 December 2009
Sixty-one years ago on December 10, 1948 the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted and proclaimed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
We would like to state with sorrow that after 61 years the world order based on rights and freedoms mentioned in the Universal Declaration has not yet become reality. Unfortunately, the basic idea that every person has rights and freedom just for being a human being and independent from his/her colour, race, language, religion and political and conscientious view has been seriously eroded.
Today our world is still characterised by the domination of inequalities between countries, peoples and classes. These inequalities are deepened by the economic crisis that resulted from the neoliberal policies in 2008 and its destructive effects were felt all around the world in 2009. According to the findings of International Labour Organisation (ILO) the number of unemployed people exceeded 230 million people in 2009. With unemployment the poverty gradually deepened and millions deprived of their most basic rights such as nutrition, clean water, health and shelter. Women and children are particularly severely affected by these developments.
Industrialisation and overproduction damaged our world’s ecological equilibrium and caused ‘natural’ disasters. Environmental rights have become a rights category that needs to be defended even more strongly today. Gas emissions damaging the atmosphere have turned into the most serious environmental problem and needs to be urgently dealt with.
While people have ‘real’ security concerns caused by social inequalities, poverty and fading perspectives for their future, the States, ignoring these concerns, put the world into a security “paranoia” to reproduce their legitimacy by using the “terror” threat, especially after the attacks 9/11.
The States, using this atmosphere that they have created as a justification, on the one hand strengthened the militarist and authoritarian administrative view by increasing the security measures and on the other hand, force the societies to consent to the human rights violations by exposing them to the “security or freedom” dilemma. The States perpetuated these policies in 2009 as such with some changes in discursive level.
2009 was a year with ups and downs
2009 was a year with ups and downs for Turkey where human rights continue to be violated while at the same time other positive developments raised our hopes.
A democracy that respects human rights still does not exist in Turkey and this fundamental problem of Turkey has not changed in passing years. The most important obstacle in front the democratisation of Turkey is the “Kurdish Issue” and “violence and clash atmosphere” caused by this issue. In this respect the activities that were initiated under the title of “Kurdish opening” or “democratic opening” are very important.
Keeping in mind that this kind of activities take time to produce the desired results, our hopes and expectations for the future are low because of the content of these activities and because of the ongoing rights violations the momentum for change is now fading. Some recent developments bring in mind that the initiative affords came to a halt and because of this hopes and expectations leave their places to serious concerns.
Human rights violations during 2009
Despite the opening and democratisation discourses, many human rights violations occurred during 2009, for example:
· Violence resorted to by law enforcement officers did not decrease in proportion to the previous years. Until 1 December five people in detention places and 33 people died in prisons in 2009. 46 people were killed by law enforcement officers in extrajudicial killings/stop warning/random firing incidents.
· 17 murders by unknown assailants were perpetrated in 2009. Unfortunately, the 60th government did not show a strong will in 2009 for the investigation of the enforced disappearances and murder by unknown assailants cases between 1980-2002. Disappeared people should be found, murder by unknown assailants cases should be investigated immediately and their perpetrators should be convicted. Nonetheless the case on the murders by unknown assailants that took place in Cizre District between 1994 and 1995 gives some hope.
· In 2009 the “zero tolerance to torture” discourse was still not fully implemented. This year until the end of November 436 people applied to HRFTHuman Rights Foundation of Turkey claiming torture and ill-treatment. 252 of them declared that they were tortured in 2009.
· Due to excessive use of force by law enforcement officers in meetings and demonstrations five people were killed and 269 people were wounded in nine meetings and demonstrations. Law enforcement officers detained 1414 people in the interventions and 369 of them were arrested. Another violation that should be evaluated in this context is the 177 juveniles that have been tried in heavy penal courts on charges of opposition to the Fight with Terrorism Law (FTL).
· The number of prisoners increased rapidly. There were 117,061 prisoners in November 2009. 40,206 of the total number of people in prisons were pre-trial detainees and 76,855 of them were convicted ones. The number of juveniles in prisons was 2,603 and constitutes 2.22 % of all prisoners. 44 chronically ill prisoners have been waiting for a proper medical treatment. The demand of the Human Rights Association, the Organisation of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed People (MAZLUMDER) and the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey for the monitoring of the İmralı High Security F Type Prison – which is a constant source of tension in society – was declined again this year.
The given codification system as a whole has a hindering effect in the face of the freedom of expression. Only in the Turkish Penal Code (TPCTurkish Penal Code ) there are at least 15 other articles that can be used as alternatives to limit the freedom of expression and there is not any attempt to amend these articles. The trials 355 people that continued during the first ten months of 2009 can be considered as violations of the freedom of thought and expression.
· There are still serious problems in the field of freedom of media. 34 journalists are in prison as pre-trial detainees. The number of newspapers and magazines that were sentenced with ban of publication for various periods of time was 29 in the first 11 months of 2009. The number of cases against books were 65 and 4662 websites were sentenced with restriction of access.
· The problems of freedom of organisation still increase. The closures of political parties are still easy and ordinary practices. The closure cases against parties and associations are six. 129 attacks on party and association buildings took place. Law enforcement officers organised 42 raids to offices. The raids on the office of the General Centre of the Confederation of Public Employees Trade Unions (KESKConfederation of Trade Union in the Public Sector ) and the Democratic Society Party (DTP) should also not be forgotten. The closure case against the DTP plays an important role in the progress of the democratic initiative on the Kurdish Issue.
· Coercion on human rights and peace defenders, and especially on the members of the Human Rights Association was doubled; many people were arrested and tried.
As a result, we as human rights defenders got wearisome and tired of making such long lists of severe human rights violations over the passing years. We call out once again with highlighting the values and principles of the Universal Declaration in its 61st anniversary;
We want a Turkey where the right to life is seen as sacred, ban of torture is absolutely abided by, people are not killed on the grounds that they did not obey the “stop!” warnings, people are not tried and put into prisons in connection with their thoughts, juveniles are not sentenced to decades of imprisonments, and people are not subjected to discrimination, hate speech, and lynch attempts and due to their ethnic origins, religious faiths, gender, sexual orientation, or political views. We want justice for all. We want the rule of law. We want a pluralistic democracy. We want violence to cease and live in peace.
For a Turkey like this, the unity and independency of judiciary should be secured, military tutelage on political and social life should be terminated, all coup d’état attempts and illegal military activities should be victimised, the State apparatus should be cleaned from gangs and illegal organisations, a libertarian and egalitarian, new constitution that improves and secures fundamental rights and freedoms should be created, impunity should cease to exist, the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) should be ratified, a civil National Human Rights Institution should be constituted with the participation of all parts of society and especially the human rights organisations and most important of all, brave and determinant steps should be taken for the peaceful, democratic and just solution of the Kurdish Issue.
Long Live Human Rights and Freedoms… Long Live democracy… Long Live Peace…
|Öztürk Türkdoğan||Şebnem Korur Fincancı|
|Chair of the Human Rights Association (İHD/HRAHuman Rights Association )||Chair of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV/HRFT)|