Hate Crimes in Turkey
Hate crimes (also known as bias-motivated crimes) occur when a perpetrator targets a victim because of his or her membership in a certain social group, usually defined by racial group, religion, sexual orientation, disability, ethnicity, nationality, age, gender, gender identity, or political affiliation. The US Department of Justice defines a hate crime as ...hate crimes, or bias-motivated crimes, are defined as offenses motivated by hatred against a victim based on his or her race, religion, sexual orientation, handicap, ethnicity, or national origin. While such a definition may make identifying a hate crime seem like a simple task, criminal acts motivated by bias can easily be confused with forms of expression protected by the U.S. Constitution.
- Hate crimes are criminal acts committed with a bias motive. It could be an act of intimidation, threats, property damage, assault, murder or any other criminal offence.
- Hate crimes always comprise two elements: a criminal offence committed with a bias motive.
- The target may be one or more people, or it may be property associated with a group that shares a particular characteristic.
- A protected characteristic is a characteristic shared by a group, such as "race", language, religion, ethnicity, nationality, or any other similar common factor.
- Which characteristics should be included in a hate crime law is a complex issue that must be resolved by taking into account each State’s own history and circumstances.
Hate Crime Laws
Hate crime laws generally fall into one of several categories: (1) laws defining specific bias-motivated acts as distinct crimes; (2) criminal penalty-enhancement laws; (3) laws creating a distinct civil cause of action for hate crimes; and (4) laws requiring administrative agencies to collect hate crime statistics.
The USA is best known for laws on hate crimes. In the United States federal prosecution is possible for hate crimes committed on the basis of a person's race, color, religion, or nation origin when engaging in a federally protected activity. Measures to add perceived gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, and disability to the list have been proposed, but failed.
International Bodies on Hate Crimes
There are several international bodies concerned with hate crimes. Often their work concentrates on discrimination, intolerance and racism.
- The UN has various committees working at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights
- CEDAW-Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
- CERD-Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
- CMW-Committee on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families
- The OSCE has developed the Tolerance and Non-Discrimination Information System (TANDIS)
- The European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) is the Council of Europe’s independent human rights monitoring body specialised in combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, antisemitism and intolerance.
Reports on Turkey
On 9 November 1999 ECRI published a first report on Turkey. It stated inter alias:
- Turkey does not appear to be the scene of large-scale or overt expressions of racism against individuals in the strictest sense of term. However, one of the main challenges facing Turkey in the field of ECRI's concerns would appear to be the need to reconcile the strong sense of national identity and the wish to preserve the unity and integrity of the State with the right of different minority groups within Turkey to express their own sense of ethnic identity, for example through the maintenance and development of linguistic and cultural aspects of that identity.
In the last report of 15 February 2005 ECRI stated in the Executive Summary:
- Since the publication of ECRI’s second report on Turkey, progress has been made in a number of the fields covered in the report. Turkey has ratified several human rights treaties, including the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. Major constitutional and legislative reforms have been introduced, aimed at reinforcing fundamental rights and freedoms and combating racism and racial discrimination more effectively.
- There has been some progress as regards freedom of expression, particularly in languages other than Turkish, freedom of assembly and freedom of association for members of ethnic and religious minority groups. Officials have been given training in human rights and local human rights bodies set up. In addition, provisions prohibiting discrimination in employment and introducing a sharing of the burden of proof in this area have been incorporated into the Labour Code.
- However, a number of recommendations made in ECRI’s second report have been implemented only partially or not at all... It appears that Article 312 of the Criminal Code prohibiting racial hatred is not always used to proper effect. There is still room for improvement in the matter of religious freedom, in particular as regards removing the reference to religion on identity cards and abolishing compulsory religious education in schools... There is still no national specialised body to combat racism and intolerance.
During the 74th Session (16 February - 6 March 2009) the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination considered several reports on certain countries including Turkey. Turkey submitted one instead of three reports that had been scheduled for 15 October 2003, 2005 and 2007. Some basic statements of the report can be cited as:
- Turkey ratified the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination on 13 May 2002. In accordance with article 19, the Convention entered into force for Turkey on 16 October 2002. In its instrument of ratification, Turkey conditioned its ratification upon two declarations and one reservation.
- Turkey is fully committed to the fight against racism, and racial discrimination as defined in the Convention.
- The Turkish nation is not a juxtaposition of communities or groups. It is composed of citizens who are equal before the law irrespective of their origins in terms of language, race, colour, ethnicity, religion or any other such particularity, and whose fundamental rights and freedoms are enjoyed and exercised individually in accordance with the relevant law.
- Acts of discrimination are prohibited and penalized by law. The Turkish Criminal Code contains several provisions penalizing acts of discrimination. (These are set forth in detail in paragraphs 83-86 below, under article 2.)
- No violation of article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which regulates non-discrimination, has been found by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) on the complaints lodged against Turkey on the grounds of racial discrimination.
- Currently, Turkish citizens belonging to non-Muslim minorities have 196 places of worship, 42 primary and secondary schools, 138 foundations, 5 hospitals and 9 newspapers
- Turkey is one of the pioneering countries in providing rights to women in political life. There were 48 women parliamentarians in the Turkish Parliament that was formed after the general elections of 22 July 2007.
- Turkey signed the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) in 1985 and it entered into force in 1986, followed by the Optional Protocol to the Convention in 2002.
- A parliamentary commission, the Commission for the Investigation of the Causes of Honour Killings and Violence against Women and Children was set up in 2005. The report prepared by the Commission was approved and published in the Official Gazette on 4 July 2006 as a circular of the Prime Ministry.
- Turkish citizens of Roma origin generally live in big cities and have a settled life. Although increasingly integrated within the communities they live in, in certain localities they face difficulties stemming from general problems such as poverty and unemployment.
Turkey's report to the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination listed legal provisions in paragraphs 83 and 84 as follows:
The new Turkish Criminal Code, No. 5237, which entered into force on 1 June 2005, defines "discrimination" as an offence and penalizes acts of discrimination based, inter alia, on race. Relevant provisions of the Criminal Code are as follows:
- (2) In application of the Criminal Code, no discrimination shall be made between persons in respect of race, language, religion, sect, nationality, colour, gender, political or other opinion, philosophical belief, national or social background, birth, economic and other social status and no one shall be granted any privileges.
- A person practising discrimination on grounds of language, race, colour, gender, disability, political opinion, philosophical belief, religion, sect or similar reasons and who
- (a) Prevents sale or transfer of a movable or immovable property or execution of a service or prevents others from benefiting a service, or employs/does not employ a person on grounds of the above-mentioned reasons;
- (b) Does not provide food or refuses to provide a service meant to be provided for the public;
- (c) Prevents a person from undertaking a regular economic activity shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of six months to one year or a judicial fine.
- (1) A person who openly incites groups of the population to breed enmity or hatred towards one another based on social class, race, religion, sect or regional difference in a manner which might constitute a clear and imminent danger to the public order shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of one to three years.
- (2) A person who openly denigrates part of the population on grounds of social class, race, religion, sect, gender or regional differences shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of six months to one year.
- (3) A person who openly denigrates the religious values of a part of the population shall be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of six months to one year in case the act is likely to distort public peace.
The definition and criminalization of genocide and the crimes against humanity, which include acts against members of a racial group, is an important new element introduced by the new Criminal Code into the Turkish criminal justice system.
- (1) The commission of any of the following acts against members of any national, ethnic, racial or religious group with intent to destroy it in whole or in part through the execution of a plan shall constitute genocide:
- (a) Deliberate killing;
- (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
- (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
- (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
- (2) The perpetrator of the offence of genocide shall be sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment. However, for the deliberate homicide and deliberate wounding committed under genocide, the rule of real concurrence of crimes shall be applied in accordance with the number of victims identified.
- (1) The commission of the following acts systematically against a group of the population in line with a plan with political, philosophical, racial or religious motives shall constitute crimes against humanity:
- (a) Deliberate homicide;
- (b) Deliberate wounding;
- (c) Torture or inhuman treatment or slavery;
- (d) Depriving one of his/her liberty;
- (e) Subjecting persons to scientific experiments;
- (f) Sexual assault and sexual abuse of children;
- (g) Impregnation by force;
- (h) Compelling persons to engage in prostitution.
- (2) If the act in subparagraph (a) of the first paragraph is committed; the offender will be sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment: if the acts mentioned in other paragraphs are committed a penalty of not less than eight years of imprisonment shall be imposed. However, for the acts of deliberate homicide and deliberate wounding defined in subparagraphs (a) and (b), the rule of real concurrence of crimes shall be applied in accordance with the number of victims identified.
Possible cases of hate crimes
The Democratic Turkey Forum (DTFDemocratic Turkey Forum ) has compiled lists of possible hate crimes in Turkey since the beginning of 2007. Earlier the DTF had issued special reports, one relating to an increased number of lynch attempts in 2005 and 2006.. On 27 October 2007 the DTF made a summarized translation of a report entitled Hate Killings of homosexuals, transsexuals and transvestites. It listed 11 killings for the first 10 months of 2007.
The lists on
were mainly compiled using the daily reports of the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFTHuman Rights Foundation of Turkey ). On this website the daily reports since January 2008 can be found under Reports in English. In case that other sources were used they will be mentioned specifically. The examples are by no means exhaustive. It would require intense research of a monitoring body (that does not exist) to gather full data from national and local sources.
Special report of HRW
The New York based organization Human Rights Watch published two reports on Gender, Sexuality, and Human Rights in a Changing Turkey in 2008. The 123-page report of 21 May 2008 was entitled "We Need a Law for Liberation". The introduction to the report stated
- The report documents a long and continuing history of violence and abuse based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Human Rights Watch conducted more than 70 interviews over a three-year period, documenting how gay men and transgender people face beatings, robberies, police harassment, and the threat of murder. The interviews also exposed the physical and psychological violence lesbian and bisexual women and girls confront within their families. Human Rights Watch found that, in most cases, the response by the authorities is inadequate if not nonexistent.
A subsequent December 2008 report specifically documents police violence in the country and features cases of harassment and abuses against transgender people in Istanbul.
- ↑ Quoted from the English Wikipedia
- ↑ Cited according to the Monograph: A Policymaker’s Guide to Hate Crimes
- ↑ Quoted from the English Wikipedia
- ↑ Original text in Turkish: Ceza Kanununun uygulamasında kişiler arasında ırk, dil, din, mezhep, milliyet, renk, cinsiyet, siyasal veya diğer fikir yahut düşünceleri, felsefi inanç, millî veya sosyal köken, doğum, ekonomik ve diğer toplumsal konumları yönünden ayrım yapılamaz ve hiçbir kimseye ayrıcalık tanınamaz.
- ↑ Read the report in German
- ↑ You can find these reports on the website of the HRFT
- ↑ Read the report entitled "Closing ranks against accountability"