|FAQ - Frequently Asked Questions|
Frequently Asked Questions
A future based on justice, equality and the rule of law
KHRP was established in 1992 in response to the genocide, war crimes and human rights violations occurring across the Kurdish regions of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria, the Caucasus and elsewhere.
Kurds were being subjected to ethnic cleansing programmes throughout the regions, accompanied by mass killings, displacement and prohibitions on their culture and language. They faced suspicion of harbouring separatist sympathies everywhere, simply by virtue of their ethnic origin. Millions had become refugees, unable to return to their devastated homes or land.
Prominent members of the Kurdish community and diaspora sought the assistance of human rights defenders, legal experts and academics in Britain. Nobody in the international community was making a strategic and cohesive response to the crisis, although tens of thousands of people were dying and an entire culture was at risk.
The group saw an opportunity to use international human rights mechanisms to bring perpetrators of human rights abuse to justice and to save lives. The European Court of Human Rights was and remains one of the most effective mechanisms for human rights protection in the world, and Turkey had ratified a protocol in 1989 giving citizens the right to challenge authorities for human rights abuse. The people who most needed it – minorities, internally displaced persons, women and children – simply lacked the resources to use it.
“When we started, our aim was to prevent the destruction of an entire people, and not duplicate the work of any other organisation out there”
Kerim Yildiz, KHRP Chief Executive
Spearheaded by Kerim Yildiz, a Kurdish refugee and human rights postgraduate, and Michael Feeney, Cardinal Hume's advisor on refugees and Director of the Westminster Diocese Refugee Service, a network of leading lawyers willing to undertake pro bono cases to the European Court of Human Rights was established. Mark Muller, a British human rights barrister, encouraged dozens more leading figures in the human rights community to join. They began submitting urgent action appeals and submissions to the European Commission on Human Rights, OSCE and several UN mechanisms.
In 1994 the Charity Commission accepted that ‘the procurement of the abolition of torture by all lawful means' was a charitable objective for the first time, and the organisation became a registered charity.
In 1996 the Strasbourg mechanisms gave their first binding consideration to these Kurdish cases. They established, for the first time, the Turkish authorities' responsibility for rape, torture and ill-treatment, and for deliberately destroying and evacuating Kurdish villages. This was the first time anywhere in Europe that an individual's legal team had successfully proved allegations of torture or ill-treatment by state authorities, or that rape by state officials was a form of torture contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights and, as such, was absolutely prohibited.
Since then, the organisation has provided legal advice or representation to over 500 victims or survivors of human rights abuse before international human rights courts and mechanisms. Its cases have established legal precedents on issues ranging from the death penalty, disappearances and extra-judicial killings to censorship, unfair trials and the rights of citizens to fair and free elections. Its scope has expanded to encompass submitting complaints to UN and other international human rights mechanisms, and to delivering training to victims and survivors of human rights abuse and their defenders on the ground. It also sends delegations to the regions to monitor trends in human rights abuse and discrimination on the ground, and disseminates its recommendations through a coherent programme of research, manuals, conferences, seminars and other public awareness activities.
The term Kurdistan, literally meaning ‘land of the Kurds’, can be traced back to the 12th century, before the existence of the modern-day concept of nation-states. Its borders are not fixed and cross the modern-day states of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey. In addition, today, 'Kurdistan' or 'Kordestan' are the official names for regions inhabited by Kurds both in Iraq and Iran. Therefore, the term can have different meanings for different people.
Kurds have been subjected to ethnic cleansing programmes throughout the regions, accompanied by mass killings, displacement and prohibitions on their culture and language. They have faced suspicion of harbouring separatist sympathies everywhere, simply by virtue of their ethnic origin. Millions have become refugees, unable to return to their devastated homes or land.
In the Kurdish regions we are currently gravely concerned about violations of the prohibition of torture or ill-treatment, the right to life, to a fair trial, to liberty and security, to freedom of expression, assembly and association, and violations of the right to privacy or peaceful enjoyment of possessions. To read our most recent news about human rights violations in the Kurdish regions please see our ‘stay informed’ section.
At first the organisation adopted the name ‘Kurdistan Human Rights Project' to reflect its ambition to focus on improving human rights for all people within this afflicted geographical region. However, the name proved problematic. The Turkish government in particular felt threatened by the establishment of a human rights organisation dedicated to challenging human rights abuse. In 1994, in an effort to counter propaganda that the organisation's underlying aim was the establishment of a Kurdish state, the name was changed to the ‘Kurdish Human Rights Project'.
By pioneering the use of individual petition – the mechanism by which individuals can challenge public authorities or bodies acting in a public capacity in an international court – our cases have established legal precedents on issues ranging from the death penalty, disappearances and extra-judicial killings to censorship, unfair trials and the rights of citizens to fair and free elections. These cases assist governments and authorities to identify lapses in their law and policy, and to bring about effective and lasting change.
Alongside our very public role in bringing cases to the European Court of Human Rights and international mechanisms, we regularly hold formal and informal meetings with authorities about enshrining human rights standards into law and practice. We adhere firmly to principles of open dialogue with individuals and groups across the political spectrum, irrespective of conflicting ideologies. As the only organisation working consistently on human rights in the Kurdish regions that is completely independent of political affiliation, we maintain a strong reputation for objectivity and neutrality that is vital to bringing about meaningful change.
We mean the basic rights and freedoms to which all humans are entitled, often held to include the right to life and liberty, freedom of thought and expression, and equality before the law, among others. We also mean economic, social and cultural rights which concern essential values for a life of dignity and freedom – including work, health, education, food, housing and social security. We seek to strengthen the field of all human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights, and further develop the tools for achieving their promotion, protection and fulfilment.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights established the vision and principles which recognise the interdependence and indivisibility of all human rights. This vision means that people are guaranteed civil and political freedom as well as economic and social well-being.
Kurds and other disadvantaged groups face abject poverty due to lack of access to education, healthcare and other basic needs. They often also suffer a lack of awareness about their rights and possibilities for redress available. KHRP's principal focus is to empower and advocate on behalf of these marginalised groups, so they can challenge the legacy of discrimination underlying and perpetuating their poverty and underdevelopment.
KHRP is the only organisation working consistently in the Kurdish regions that is completely independent of political affiliation. Its position in the international human rights arena is unique because:
- Its strong links into local communities in the Kurdish regions make it well placed to monitor, evaluate and comment upon policies
- The high levels of public trust and confidence it commands mean that it is well placed to offer alternative ways of engaging with public policy debates and the processes of democracy in the Kurdish regions
- The diversity of causes it represents in the Kurdish regions enables it to give voice to a far wider range of perspectives and experiences, including those of marginalised or minority groups or interests that might otherwise be ignored
KHRP will combine its extensive expertise of international human rights law with local knowledge to:
- Raise awareness of the situation of the Kurds in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Turkey, the Caucasus and elsewhere.
- Bring an end to the violation of the rights of Kurds and others in these countries.
- Promote the protection of the rights of Kurdish people wherever they may live.
- Eradicate torture both in the Kurdish regions and across the globe.
Committed to the principle of universal human rights (as set out in the UN Declaration on Human Rights), KHRP's overall objective since 1992 has been to promote and protect the human rights of all people in the Kurdish regions, irrespective of race, religion, sex, political persuasion, sexual orientation or other beliefs or opinions.
In pursuit of this objective we:
Prevent, stop and seek redress for human rights abuses via national and international human rights mechanisms (HRMs) and public awareness tactics to improve access to and obtain justice; and monitoring, auditing and advocating for compliance with international human rights standards
Improve access to and engagement of civil and political rights through providing tools to create a democratic platform for discussion and a space for constructive engagement with governments; and transferring legal capacity and other civil society-building skills
Place and keep the discrimination faced by Kurds on the public agenda, nationally and internationally by engaging with international intergovernmental bodies, such as the UN, OSCE and EU, liaising with media, and other public awareness initiatives
No. The largest component of the Kurdish regions lies within Turkey, but KHRP is also committed to promoting and protecting human rights throughout the Kurdish regions of Iraq, Iran, Syria, the Caucasus and elsewhere.
KHRP was established in London in order to act with flexibility to situations of immediate concern, while avoiding the intimidation and censorship experienced by human rights defenders within the Kurdish regions. By maintaining ongoing contact and conducting regular field trips to the regions, KHRP works in response to, and in partnership with, human rights organisations and defenders on the ground. Its base in London also allows the organisation ready access to decision and policy makers and to a network of senior legal practitioners willing to undertake litigation and advocacy work on behalf of survivors of human rights violations.
After an application to open a regional office in Turkey was rejected in 2007, KHRP began to explore the possibility of opening an office in the Kurdistan Regional Governorate, Iraq, where it registered as an NGO in 2009.
Our work is based on responses to locally and regionally voiced concerns. We work in partnership with survivors of human rights violations and their defenders, and aim to link our local and regional programmes with international advocacy initiatives.
Where possible, we encourage strategic networking and issue-based alliances. Joint activities frequently include the sharing of information and advice in litigation, the provision of training, human rights monitoring through trial observations and fact-finding missions, and preparation of joint reports which are circulated among national and international decision and policy makers. KHRP remains responsible for the implementation of its projects and all activities, including those conducted jointly with partner groups, are overseen by our organisation.
To maintain our independence, we do not accept money from any organisation or institution, governmental or non-governmental, in the Kurdish regions – or anyone with ties to them. Although we may pay for work to be carried out by our partner organisations, we never receive money from them.
In addition, we are forging new relationships with Civil Development Organisation, Hawlati, Khatuzeen Center for Social Action, Kurdish Human Rights Watch, Women Media and Education Centre and NAWA in Iraq ; the Xorhelat Institute in Iran ; the Centre for Civic Initiatives and Human Rights Centre in Azerbaijan , this included specifically working with the following regional partners in 2005:
Çagdas Gazeteciler Dernegi (Contemporary Journalists' Association )
Çagdas Hukukçular Dernegi Diyarbakir Subesi (Contemporary Lawyers' Association – ÇHD Diyarbakir Branch)
Göç Edenler Soyal Yardimlasma ve Kültür Dernegi (Göç-Der)
Insan Haklari ve Mazlumlar Için Dayanisma Dernegi (Mazlum-Der – The Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for the Oppressed People in Turkey )
Toplum ve Hukuk Arastirmalari Vakfi ( TOHAV – The Foundation for Legal and Social Studies)
İnsan Haklari Derneği (The Human Rights Association of Turkey – İHD)
Forum Law Centre (formerly Union of Armenian Lawyers)
Young Lawyers Bar Association
Azerbaijan National Committee of Helsinki Citizen's Assembly (HCA)
Our work benefits all people in the Kurdish regions, particularly the most marginalised groups – those subject to discrimination on ethnic, gender, race or religious grounds. Although many beneficiaries are of Kurdish origin, others are of Turkish, Arab, Persian and other origins.
Yes. Everyone in Europe has stronger protection of their human rights as a direct result of our litigation programme which has established legal precedents on issues ranging from the death penalty, disappearances and extra-judicial killings to censorship, unfair trials and the rights of citizens to fair and free elections. These legal precedents apply to everyone throughout the 47 member states of the Council of Europe.
Human Rights Advocacy and Training - Our strategic use of international human rights mechanisms as a means to tackle human rights abuse forms a central part of our work. Of particular importance is our caseload of applications to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR). We have brought cases on behalf of over 500 victims and survivors of extra-judicial killings, ‘disappearances', torture, unfair trials, censorship and other human rights abuses. Our use of international and regional human rights mechanisms allows us not only to find redress for victims and their families, but also to create a culture of compliance among authorities and awareness among communities. Part of our commitment to protecting human right in the Kurdish regions involves developing an independent capacity for human rights enforcement in the region. To this end we work to motivate the rule of law and democracy by transferring skills and building capacity among human rights defenders and advocates in the regions through a coherent programme of regional training seminars.
Fact-Finding and Trial Observation Missions - Fact-finding and trial observation missions play an essential part in monitoring human rights abuse by providing independent investigations of allegations. The missions also help maintain vital grassroots links with victims and survivors of human rights abuse and their defenders, frequently also the subject of human rights abuse.
Research and Publications - Our publications – ranging from briefing papers to large-scale research – command high levels of public trust and confidence, and offer alternative ways of engaging with public policy debates and the process of democracy in the Kurdish regions. All our recent publications are available both in hard copy and online.
Public Awareness, Education and Communication Strategies - We firmly believe that if people knew the extent of the human rights abuses in the Kurdish regions, they could be stopped. Our independence and reputation for high quality analysis leads many policy and decision makers, journalists, academics and civil society organisations to consult us for updates about human rights and conflict in the Kurdish regions.
Applicants must be victims of a violation of one or more articles of the Convention and be living in the Kurdish regions of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria or the Caucasus. Generally, this means they have been directly affected by a breach of the Convention. In some cases it is sufficient to show they are likely to be affected by a breach or that they belong to a group of people, some of whom are likely to be affected.
Before applicants go to the ECtHR they must pursue any proceedings that they could take in domestic courts that are capable of providing them with an adequate remedy for the breach of the Convention rights. This may not be necessary, however, when it is clear that domestic remedies would be ineffective.
Applicants must make their applications to the ECtHR within six months of the conclusion of any court proceedings that have been taken domestically that could have provided them with a remedy or, if there were no proceedings that it was reasonable to expect them to take, within six months of the event which gave rise to the application.
KHRP will offer advice to anyone who has been the victim of a human rights violation in the Kurdish regions. We also work on test cases which establish precedents on issues ranging from the death penalty, to rape, to torture without trial.
The hallmark and pride of KHRP is its impartiality and the accuracy of its reporting. It reports on the locally and regionally-voiced concerns of victims and survivors of human rights abuse and their defenders. Information is corroborated through its extensive network of partner organisations, lawyers, academics and other experts with experience of the Kurdish regions.
KHRP's work is aimed at promoting and protecting human rights abuse within the Kurdish regions of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, Syria and elsewhere. However, a very high proportion of the world's refugees and asylum seekers derive from these countries due to the widespread human rights abuses there. As a consequence, KHRP is also recognised as a leading authority on refugees and asylum seekers across the world, but particularly in the UK and Europe.
KHRP does not duplicate the work of existing refugee and asylum organisations providing immigration advice in individual cases. However it is frequently requested to assist asylum seekers and refugees, and consulted about refugee and migration policy in general.
On an ad hoc basis, it provides independent expert reports which evaluate the case and, where applicable, the government's reasons for refusal. Its unique position also enables the organisation to participate in consultations with governments about immigration issues pertaining to the Kurdish regions and in general.
Women's rights are human rights. KHRP endeavours to highlight the specific impacts any human rights violation may have on women. For example, through its training programme, it both conducts specific training on women's rights and in its general human rights trainings addresses how women face certain barriers or obstacles. Training programmes have also demonstrated how to integrate the principles and language of important conventions on women's rights into case submissions. These kinds of activity are carried across our litigation, advocacy, training, monitoring, research and outreach activities. KHRP is also proud to have been a founding member of the ‘Charter for the Rights and Freedoms of Women in the Kurdish Regions and Diaspora '.
KHRP were one of the few organisations to promote the relationship between human rights and environmental justice, and the importance of forming an alliance between these sectors of civil society. It examines environmental themes across its litigation, advocacy, training, monitoring, research and outreach activities. For example, in 1999, together with its partner organisations, KHRP launched a sustained opposition to the controversial Ilisu Dam project in south-east Turkey, which threatened to displace tens of thousands of people in Kurdish communities. The project was brought to a standstill three years later, when its primary financial backers withdrew. Months later, the construction firm AMEC withdrew from another controversial dam project, Yusufeli, 24-hours before the launch of an Ilisu dam-inspired campaign by KHRP and partner groups. Today, with the re-emergence of proposals for the Ilisu Dam project, KHRP is an active member of the European Ilisu Campaign
KHRP is also a founding member of the Baku-Ceyhan Campaign, a coalition which works to raise awareness and challenge the social and environmental damage caused by a BP-led oil pipeline through Turkey, Azerbaijan and Georgia. Other members of the coalition include Friends of the Earth EWNI, Corner House and Platform.
For information about the Ilisu Dam Campaign see www.ilisu.org.uk
For information about the European Ilisu Campaign (2005 to date) see http://www.weed-online.org/111188.html
For information about the Baku-Ceyhan Campaign see www.baku.org.uk
To maintain our independence, we do not accept money from any organisations or institutions, governmental or non-governmental, in the Kurdish regions – or anyone with ties to them. Our funding derives from charitable grantmaking trusts and foundations and non-statutory sources. In addition we receive money from a number of private institutions and individuals. For more information on our funders, click here
The management is responsible to the board of directors, who retain responsibility for the organisation's compliance with its aims, objectives and charitable mandate. KHRP is also subject to the legal and regulatory framework surrounding registered charities in England and Wales. KHRP also makes itself accountable to stakeholders by publishing information about its methodologies and procedures and inviting feedback.
To find out more about how to support KHRP’s work financially, click here
The hallmark and pride of KHRP's litigation and advocacy work is in the consistently high quality standard of legal advice and support it provides. This quality is ensured through the involvement of members of the legal team: a panel of distinguished lawyers or legal experts who have agreed to provide advice, assistance or representation to victims of human rights violations or their defenders and whose work is facilitated by KHRP.
The legal team comprises some of the leading lawyers and legal experts in Europe. For a list of current legal team members click here .
KHRP sends delegations of human rights observers to the Kurdish regions to observe trials and to participate in fact-finding missions. Depending on the nature of the mission, observers are required to conduct interviews with victims of human rights violations, human rights defenders, civil society organisations, journalists, political parties, intermediary human rights bodies and governments. A report of the mission's findings is compiled and disseminated to the groups to facilitate dialogue between them, and submitted to relevant national and international human rights mechanisms. The mission also provides recommendations, based on its findings, about improving the protection of human rights in the region.
Human rights observers are required to attend meetings in London before and after their departure, and to produce a report on their findings. They are also required to conduct the interviews sensitively and to maintain professional objectivity at all times. KHRP facilitates organisation of the interviews. Missions are frequently arranged at short notice to respond quickly to situations of concern.
Responding to locally and regionally voiced concerns, KHRP sends professionals to the Kurdish regions as part of its work to enhance the capacity of victims or survivors of human rights violations or their defenders, who are frequently also the subject of harassment or ill-treatment. To date, training seminars have taken place in Turkey , Armenia and Azerbaijan . Where local or regional partners have expressed an interest in a subject matter not covered by KHRP's own professionals, it has commissioned human rights trainers from outside the organisation. Every training course is, however, delivered at least in part by someone working directly with KHRP's projects.
The subject matter covered by training seminars varies according to the needs expressed by partner organisations or beneficiaries. In the past they have included substantive and practical training on the European Court of Human Rights mechanisms and on taking human rights complaints to UN mechanisms, in addition to training on gender issues. Its expertise in human rights training has been acknowledged by the Council of Europe, who has invited the organisation to deliver ‘best practice' training to new accession states in the past.
No. KHRP is fully committed to diversity and equal opportunities in the workplace. At present its staff is comprised of two Turkish nationals of Kurdish origin, one American, two Irish citizens and three Britons.
No. Although we strive to have Kurdish speakers on hand, and many members of staff are conversant in other languages, the majority of KHRP's work is conducted in English. We also publish resources in several languages.