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Turkey
23.03.01
Urgent Interventions

Turkey: legal proceedings and defamatory campaigns against the HRA

URGENT APPEAL – THE OBSERVATORY

TUR 003/0301/OBS 025
Legal proceedings and defamatory campaigns
TURKEY
March 23, 2001

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a program of FIDH and OMCT, requests your URGENT intervention in the following situation in Turkey.

Brief description of the situation:

The Observatory was informed by the Human Rights Association and the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT) of a series of events that have taken place in Turkey since January 2001. On January 25th 2001, the police searched the Human Rights Association (HRA) headquarters. All of the association’s computers were confiscated, as well as all documents and floppy disks.

According to the Observatory’s information, this search follows a decision of the 9th Penal Tribunal of Ankara which on January 22nd was seized of the matter at the request of the Ankara Prosecutor under the pretext that HRA had receive financial support from the Greek Foreign Affairs Ministry without prior authorization from the authorities. The Court ordered a search for information with which to support its charges.

On January 19th, the Anatolia press agency had published an article, subsequently quoted by the Turkish Daily Hurriyet and two Turkish television channels, whereby the HRA had allegedly received financing from the Greek Foreign Affairs Ministry. NTV and Turkish CNN subsequently corrected this information at the request of HRA, which formally denies these accusations.

Additionally, the Turkish Foreign Affairs Ministry has published information on its website aimed at discrediting HRA, and questioning its impartial and objective character. It accuses HRA of separatism and involvement in political activities.

On March 19th, a court case was started against the Human Rights Association at Ankara Judicial Court No. 24, with the demand, by the Prosecutor of closure of the headquarters of the Association. Diplomats from Sweden, Denmark, France, Germany, USA and Belgium attended the hearing. The indictment claimed that the HRA had been active beyond the aims described in its statutes. The court has decided to adjourn the hearing to May 5, 2001, until individual investigations are conducted against individual members of the Board.

This procedure is engaged in a general context of increasing harassment against the Human Rights Association. The Observatory considers that the procedures against the Association are only based on the fact that it has raised sensitive issues in the debate on the new F type prisons. This legal harassment is a breach of freedom of association and expression and it violates the International Declaration on Human Rights Defenders. The Observatory condemns this attitude, particularly as Turkey has just presented its National Programme expressing its will to comply with the Copenhagen Criteria, which will enable it to enter the European Union.

Action requested:

Please write to the authorities urging them to:

i. put an end to any kind of harassment against human rights NGOs and all defenders of democracy in the country, and ensure that they be allowed to carry out their work without obstacles;

ii. abide by the provisions of the Declaration on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders adopted on the 9th of December 1998, by the U.N. General Assembly (“Declaration on the right and responsibility of individuals, groups and organs of society to promote and protect universally recognized human rights and fundamental freedoms”), particularly, Article 1 (see above) and Article 6.c which mandates that “everyone has the right, individually and in association with others, to study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters”.

iii. more generally abide by the Universal declaration on Human Rights and Covenants and international Conventions ratified by Turkey.

Addresses:

Minister of Interior, Mr Saadettin Tantan, Içisleri Bakanligi, 06644 Ankara, Turkey.
Fax: + 90 312 418 17 95.

Minister of Justice, Prof Hikmet Sami Türk, Ministry of Justice, Adalet Bakanligi, 06659 Ankara, Turkey.
Fax: + 90 312 417 3954 / 418 5667

State Minister with responsibility for Human Rights, Mr Rüstü Kazim Yücelen, Office of the Prime Minister, Basbakanlik, 06573 Ankara, Turkey. Fax: + 90 312 417 0476

Geneva – Paris, March 20, 2001

Kindly inform the Observatory of any action undertaken, quoting the code number of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, a joint FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the Emergency Line: Fax: 33 (01) 1 55 80 83 92
Tel.: FIDH 33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 OMCT : + 41 22 809 49 39
E-mail: observatoire@iprolink.ch
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