A Fact-Finding Mission in Kurdistan, Iraq: Gaps in the Human Rights Infrastructure is based on a series of visits to the region in the course of 2007 and early 2008, during which mission members detected an enormous desire amongst civil society representatives and government officials for proper implementation of human rights norms, accountability and the rule of law. The reality, however, is a region where there remains a lack of awareness amongst members of the public about their human rights and a dearth of effective systems in place to ensure that these rights are protected. While the mission noted that all countries in transition need time to develop their infrastructure, such weaknesses are also partly due to a lack of strategic planning for long-term strengthening of mechanisms for human rights protection, and in particular to a disappointing absence of investment by the international community in support of this end.
The report explains the historical and political context of the current human rights situation in Kurdistan, Iraq, and goes on to explore this situation with special reference to women’s rights, minority rights, freedom of expression, and the rights of prisoners and other detainees. Further sections are dedicated to the human rights situation in Kirkuk and other ‘disputed areas’, and the impact of the military incursions into Kurdistan, Iraq, by neighbouring countries. It concludes with a set of recommendations for the Government of Iraq, the Kurdistan Regional Government, local civil society organisations, the international community and international NGOs working in the region.
This briefing paper explores Turkish anti-terror legislation in the wake of amendments in 2006 that brought into effect a series of draconian provisions which fail to meet the country’s human rights obligations under international law and which have in practice been used to violate the human rights of it citizens. In particular, the new law fails to respect international human rights obligations by containing a definition of terrorism which is too wide and vague, by increasing the range of crimes that can count as terrorist offences, and by posing a serious threat to the freedoms of expression and association, the right to a fair trial, and the prohibition of torture. Such legislation only serves to further the deterioration seen in the human rights situation in Turkey since 2005 and should therefore be amended.
Since late October 2007, Turkey has been carrying out cross-border military operations, bombardments and air-raids in Kurdistan, Iraq. Turkey has attempted to justify these operations under the pretext of its ongoing fight against the PKK.
This latest KHRP Briefing Paper discusses these developments, demonstrating how the attacks should be understood in the broader context of Turkey’s long-standing strategic goals in countering regional Kurdish autonomy, goals it shares with Iran and Syria. The paper refers to recent KHRP research in the region showing that Turkey’s operations have been in gross violation of the Geneva conventions, causing extensive harm to civilian life and property in parts of northern Iraq with little actual impact on the capabilities of the PKK. The paper also discusses the international reaction to the attacks, and calls upon the US, EU and all other parties with an interest in maintaining stability in the region to condemn the attacks and urge Turkey to pursue constructive and non-military measures to secure peace in the region.
Speech delivered by Anna Irvin, Development and Outreach Officer, Kurdish Human Rights Project, at El Faro civil society pavilion at the “Water and Sustainability”-themed Zaragoza Expo, 3 July 2008, and at the Foro Mundial de las Luchas del Agua side event, 4 July 2008
Submissions made by KHRP to the OSCE Human Dimension Implementation Meeting held in Warsaw from 29 September to 10 October 2008.
In June 2008 a KHRP mission travelled to Diyarbakır in south-eastern Turkey to observe trial proceedings against members of a local children’s choir who had been charged under anti-terror laws for singing a Kurdish song at a world music festival in the United States the previous October. Prosecutors argued that the song was associated with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and that singing it amounted to disseminating propaganda on behalf of a terrorist organisation. Of nine children who went to trial, three faced proceedings in an adult court. Although all were eventually acquitted, the episode illustrated the threats posed to human rights by Turkey’s recently-amended anti-terror legislation, as well as the failure of the country’s criminal justice system to afford adequate protection to children. Contrasting the treatment of the children with standards set out in international human rights agreements, this trial observation report also places the case in the context of broader patterns of restrictions on freedom of expression and cultural and language rights in Turkey.
This Trial Observation Report details the processes KHRP observed during the final stages of the trial of Ahmet Önal, the Kurdish publisher, on 13 February 2008 in Istanbul. Mr. Önal’s trial concerned a paragraph in a book he published, Diaspora Kürtleri (Diaspora Kurds), which discussed the role and influence of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) amongst Kurds in the former Soviet Union. This led to charges of his showing demonstrable support of an ‘armed terror organisation’.
The Report also places KHRP’s procedural observations in the context of Turkey’s obligations to ensure a fair trial for all its citizens, as well as the ongoing challenges to freedom of expression in Turkey and its bid to accede to the European Union. Although Mr. Önal was acquitted of his charges, the report reflects concerns that spurious charges and trials are being used in Turkey to obstruct the operation of publishing and journalism, and more broadly to inhibit public discussion of fundamental political, social or historical issues. As the Report details, several similar prosecutions of individuals who have exercised their right to freedom of speech are ongoing in Turkey, indicating the extent of the problem.
This report is based on the findings of a KHRP mission to south-east Turkey in March 2008 to gather information on the situation there following recent military operations – including cross-border incursions and aerial bombardments – against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Amid the increased unrest, the provinces of Şırnak, Hakkari and Siirt had been declared high-security zones and checkpoints had been set up in neighbouring regions. There were reports of the use of chemical weapons and the mutilation of the bodies of PKK members by state security forces, as well as killings of civilians during PKK attacks. Civil society groups were also said to be facing difficulties carrying out their work.
Mission members met with representatives of political parties, state officials and civil society groups, as well as people living in the high security zones and local administrators. They noted a general consensus that the situation in these regions had deteriorated over the last two years, although it had not reached the same levels of oppression and human rights violations seen in the 1990s. The mission found that the human rights most affected by the conflict were freedom of expression, thought and association, though torture, ill-treatment and extra-judicial killings were also occurring.
The report includes an overview of the political background in Turkey, as well as domestic, regional and international legislative provisions relevant to the conflict. It also deals with the economic, social and political consequences of the fighting in the south-east and places all of this in the context of Turkey’s accession to the European Union.
Response of the Kurdish Human Rights Project to the 2008 Turkey Progress Report, Published by the European Commission on 5 November 2008.
Speech Delivered by KHRP Deputy Director Rachel Bernu at an Event at the Houses of Parliament on 21 October 2008 entitled ‘Human Rights and the Kurds in Syria: Discrimination and Repression’
The formation of a Democratic Society Party (DTP) group in parliament following the July 2007 general elections in Turkey gave a pro-Kurdish party representation in the country’s parliament for the first time in 14 years. Since then, prosecutors have filed a number of requests to have the parliamentary immunity of DTP MPs lifted in order to pave the way for legal proceedings against them, and have instigated proceedings to have the party shut down. In March this year, a closure case was also opened against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). KHRP’s latest briefing paper explores the mechanisms available in Turkey for the lifting of parliamentary immunity and the shutting down of political parties, and the ways in which these mechanisms have been employed in the relentless pursuit of parties and politicians by unelected agents.
This briefing paper assesses the extent to which the situation of trade unions in Turkey has changed in recent years, in the context of the country’s bid to accede to the European Union. The evidence suggests that the Turkish state is yet to recognise the valuable role that trade unions have to play as necessary social partners within the democratic system. Several pieces of Turkish legislation remain at odds with its commitments to respect trade union rights under various international agreements. In practice, too, the Turkish authorities continue to violate the rights of employees – particularly those working in the public sector – to associate freely, to bargain collectively and to go on strike. The situation is particularly bad in the Kurdish regions of south-east Turkey, where violations of trade union rights are exacerbated by a de facto state of emergency, restrictions on expressions of Kurdish culture, and factors such as poverty, discrimination and displacement.
This manual is intended to inform practitioners and interested individuals on the practical usage of the Strasbourg mechanisms. Written by KHRP Executive Director Kerim Yildiz and former Legal Officer Lucy Claridge, it provides commentaries on the practice and procedure of the European Court, in addition to key texts such as the European Convention, the Court's application form and details of the legal aid available from the Court. The second edition includes updated sections on admissibility rules, just satisfaction claims and enforcing judgments, together with information regarding the changes introduced by Protocol 14.
Paper prepared by KHRP Deputy Director Rachel Bernu
KHRP public statement in response to the resolution passed by the Council of Europe (CoE) Committee of Ministers on 18 September 2008, relating to its examination of human rights issues stemming from the actions of Turkey’s security forces.
Speech delivered by KHRP Deputy Director Rachel Bernu at a seminar entitled 'the role of Kurdish women in dialogue, conflict resolution and reconstruction' at Garden Court Chambers, 24/05/2008
Speech delivered by KHRP Deputy Director Rachel Bernu at the OSCE Civil Society Forum, 2-3 December 2008, Helsinki.
Turkish version of advert for 2008 Junior/Senior fellowship post.
Presentation used in the course of a training session on ‘Human Rights and Investment’, delivered to civil society representatives in Kurdistan, Iraq, on 17 December 2008.
Sorani version of advert for 2008 Junior/Senior fellowship post.