Special Report on Right to Life in Turkey
Emancipation of human beings is one of the most basic ideals of our era. This is one of the fundamental features of our civilisation. Emancipation of human beings is only possible with the creation of the conditions in which all the rights -economic, politic and cultural etc.- are available. The states are therefore obliged to secure, protect and improve the conditions that the citizens are able to use their rights. But it should be kept in mind that human rights constitute an undividable entity. The citizen could use their rights and their lives and securities should be guaranteed for their emancipation.
Whereas in Turkey the right to life and right to security are not under the protection of the state. As a matter of fact 29 years old Engin Çeber died in the Şişli Etfal Training and Survey Hospital on 10 October 2008. Engin Çeber was detained with four other people in a public statement which demands the fair trial of the police officers who shot Ferhat Gerçek from his back and caused his paralysed on 7 October 2007 and then arrested and sent to Metris T2 Prison. He had been tortured in İstinye Police Centre and in Metris T2 Prison and he became the 29th people who died in detention places in 2008.
“Supreme Board of Fighting with Terrorism” -first gathered on 9 October 2008- would decide to constrain the basic rights and freedoms and bring back the regime of state of emergency with the demands and proposals of the security forces. In the framework of the “security” measures which were proposed/predicted:
- Army and police can search everyone’s home, work place and body without the authorisation of the judges;
- Security forces can use jammers anytime and anywhere they wish;
- Law-enforcement authority of the gendarmerie and the police will be enlarge to cover all the security forces;
- The right to have a lawyer in detention will be abolished and the length of the period of detention will be extended;
- Gendarmerie can make searches in the areas of the police.
The “security” measures mentioned above could be extended and it is possible that basic rights and freedoms can be ignored.
Security forces who complain about the insufficiency of their authorities every occasion caused the death of Engin Çeber and 31 other people as a result of extrajudicial killings/stop warning/random firing with the authorities in their hand.
Human Rights Foundation of Turkey prepared this report to underline the right to life violations in last eight years. The data gathered from the first 9.5 months of 2008 (1 January-13 October 2008) on “death under detention or in prison”, “extrajudicial killings/stop warning/random firing” and “murder by unknown assailants” illustrates that rules and regulations are unable to hedge the security forces.
31 people were killed in extrajudicial killing, stop warning and random firing incidents just in the first 9.5 months of 2008. The number of people who were killed in such incidents was 24.
There is a sharp increase in the number of people killed by unknown assailants in the same period: 35 is the highest number in last eight years. This number reminds us the numbers under the state of emergency in 1990s and brings in mind the question of “are we returning back to the conditions of 90s?”
The number of people died under detention or in prison is 29 in the same period.
Although the right to life parameters slightly decreased between 2000 and 2005 the shift in the last two years to the recent levels is worrisome and puzzling.
Authorising independent committees with monitoring the detention places which consists representatives of human rights, occupational and non-governmental organisations as it is foreseen in the United Nations’ Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) is critically important for the prevention of torture and death in detention and prisons. Unfortunately OPCAT was signed in on 14 September 2005 but not ratified by the Turkish Grand National Assembly yet. OPCAT should be ratified and regulations on the committees which would monitor the detention places should be made immediately to minimize and in fact to remove the violations of right to life and torture. Besides these, impunity of torture should be struggled and death in detention incidents, the conditions that allow these incidents and evidences about the reasons and practices should be gathered immediately in the framework of independent investigation principles. For this İstanbul Protocol should be effectively implemented.
How many people should die to take these minimum measures to speak about the respect to human and right to life?
One can witness with the evaluation of the general circumstance of basic human rights and freedoms including ban of torture, freedom of thought and expression as whole that the positive atmosphere formed with the relative improvements between years 2000 and 2005 reversed with the new regulations and the problems in implementations. We undertake it as a duty and responsibility to share the information about the incidents of right to life and the evaluations of these incidents with the measures that should be taken to prevent these incidents with public opinion.
President of the Executive Board of HRFTHuman Rights Foundation of Turkey