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Kurdish Human Rights Project: This is the legacy website of the Kurdish Human Rights Project, containing reports and news pertaining to human rights issues in the Kurdish Regions for 20 years.

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The Bar Human Rights Committee and the Kurdish Human Rights Project call on Turkey to respect the rights to freedom of expression, freedom of association and the right to receive a fair trial enshrined in the European Convention on Human Rights, to which Turkey is a signatory.

Trial under Article 169 of the Penal Code

On 23rd June 1999, representatives from the Bar Human Rights Committee and the Kurdish Human Rights Project attended the trial of 55 members of HADEP at the State Security Court in Ankara. The trial stems from events in November 1998, following hunger strikes at HADEP offices in response to the detention of PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) leader Abdullah Ocalan in Italy. 3,200 individuals were detained at HADEP offices all over Turkey, following which 55 HADEP members were charged under Article 169 of the Turkish Penal Code for ‘knowingly [giving] shelter, assistance, provisions, arms or ammunition to [an armed] society or band or facilitating their actions’. 18 of the accused, including the President of HADEP, Murat Bozlak, have been refused bail and are still held in custody.

Trial under Article 168 of the Penal Code

The BHRC and KHRP representatives also attended a trial of 40 HADEP members charged under Article 168 of the Turkish Penal Code in 1997 for producing a calendar allegedly containing PKK propaganda. The calendar contains the names of HADEP members and human rights activists who have disappeared, or who have allegedly been killed by Turkish security forces, over the years. Article 168 deals with the establishment, management and membership of armed societies and gangs. The punishment for executive members is at least twenty-two and a half years, while members face a minimum of fifteen years in jail.

Both trials were adjourned until July 1999. The Court said that it could not proceed because the identities and personal details of the defendants were not before the Court: an extraordinary state of affairs given that many of the defendants have been in custody since November 1998.

History of persecution

The history of state persecution of HADEP is long. The party is a successor of DEP (the Democracy Party) and HEP (the People’s Labour Party), both banned by the Turkish Constitutional Court. In June 1996 42 people were detained and 50 charged following the HADEP General Congress, when a masked individual pulled down the Turkish flag. The trial is still continuing. In January 1999, Turkey’s Chief Public Prosecutor, Vural Savas, issued an indictment demanding a ban on HADEP, claiming that ‘there exists an organic link between HADEP and the PKK’. The Turkish Constitutional Court has banned 14 parties since the present constitution was passed in 1983.

Despite this, HADEP secured 4% of the national vote in the April 1999 elections, and won 38 provincial mayoral seats, including 7 provincial capitals.

The proceedings against HADEP are based on a constitution which prioritises the indivisible integrity of the State. In the indictment relating to the 1996 General Congress the prosecutor writes:

"....there is only one nationality in Turkey and that is Turkish. Any demands for recognition of the Kurdish cultural identity would be a secret and serious step towards dividing the country. There is only one State, one country and one nation in Turkey. These principles can never be compromised. Anyone who attempts to compromise these principles will be treated as traitors...."

The Council of Europe has called for the release of four DEP MPs imprisoned in 1995 on the grounds that their ‘continued imprisonment .... remains a serious violation of human rights and negates the very essence of parliamentary democracy’. The Turkish government has committed itself to protect and promote human rights in Turkey in an understanding that conforms with contemporary and universal standards, and to prevent practices which are incompatible with human rights.

There are grave concerns that the continuing proceedings against HADEP and its members may contravene Turkey’s international human rights commitments. The Bar Human Rights Committee and the Kurdish Human Rights Project call upon the international community to observe the trials closely, and encourage the Turkish state to ensure that all international obligations are observed.