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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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2010 News
KHRP Welcomes Convictions in Case of Death in Custody
Thursday, 03 June 2010 17:06

On 1 June 2010 — in a rare verdict to be delivered by the Turkish judiciary — the Istanbul 14th High Court convicted 19 members of the police and prison services for their complicity in the torture and beating to death of a young political activist, Engin Çeber, in October 2008.  KHRP dispatched a mission to observe proceedings in the trial and wrote a subsequent report which detailed the failings across the judicial and legal apparatus that led to Mr Çeber’s death.

Engin Çeber was arrested along with three other individuals and died weeks later in police custody, after suffering from a brain haemorrhage, with his autopsy revealing that his injuries were consistent with severe torture. The trial of 60 prison guards, police officers and gendarmes accused of responsibility widely came to be seen as a test of Turkey’s willingness to adhere to the human rights standards laid down as part of its EU accession bid and to hold members of the security forces to account in cases of alleged abuse. Interestingly, at the conclusion of the day’s hearing, the judges overseeing the case announced that they would be withdrawing from the trial following accusations from lawyers representing the complainants that they had displayed a bias in favour of the defence.

Of the 19 now convicted for the killing, the life sentences meted out to the Deputy Director of Metris Prison and two guards are particularly noteworthy, given the longstanding impunity of state officials accused of committing acts of torture and ill-treatment.  Other sentences for those implicated included seven-year terms for two police officers for the torture of Çeber and two other activists whilst in police custody, and three years for the prison doctor, who was found to have falsified the medical records of inmates on their arrival at the facility.

‘Despite the Government’s self-declared ‘zero tolerance’ policy on torture, KHRP has long-fought to highlight the ongoing impunity and lack of accountability of staff working in the prison system and the role of medical personnel in covering up abuses’, said KHRP Chief Executive Kerim Yildiz.  ‘KHRP hopes that the convictions establish a precedent to which future allegations and proceedings against state officials are held.  We also believe this outcome should initiate a wider review of the conditions and treatment of those held in custody and call on all concerned parties to continue to both scrutinise allegations of torture and ill-treatment within Turkey and to press for a campaign to ensure substantive change.’

Copies of KHRP’s trial observation report, The Death of Engin Çeber: Prosecuting Torture and Ill-Treatment within the Turkish Detention System, are available in print on the KHRP website shop, or for free as a download.

KHRP calls for Iran to end their cross-border attacks
Thursday, 03 June 2010 11:24

KHRP calls on Iran to halt their cross-border bombardments in the wake of increased shelling and aerial bombings of northern Iraq.

According to media reports, at least 180 Kurdish families from the provinces of Pishdar, Qaladizah and Choman have been forced to flee from their homes due to the constant shelling of the region from the Iranian army, which reportedly continued over several days.

These assaults are the latest in a recent series of aerial and artillery bombardments carried out by the Iranian and Turkish militaries. Turkey began increasing troop deployments to the border regions in early March, and in May carried out its largest aerial bombing operation for 18 months, prompting speculation that it might once again be preparing for wide-scale ground-incursions into northern Iraq. Iran has also recently intensified its routine cross-border shelling of the region in the wake of fighting on its border.

The Turkish and Iranian governments claim that these cross-border operations are aimed at combating armed opposition groups which have bases in northern Iraq. However, it has also been widely acknowledged that such a myopic military approach will never achieve its aims.  KHRP’s fact-finding missions and reports have documented the devastating toll that these operations have wrought on innocent Iraqi civilians, as well as the destruction of their property and the degradation of the environment.

‘The losses of lives, property and livelihoods resulting from these military operations in northern Iraq cannot continue’, said KHRP Managing Director, Rachel Bernu.  ‘It is imperative that the Turkish and Iranian governments recognise their international obligations and the devastating effects that these bombardments have on innocent civilians, in contravention of the Geneva Conventions.’

KHRP Urges Consideration of Key Economic, Social and Cultural Right’s Issues Ahead of UN Review of Turkey
Friday, 21 May 2010 00:00

Between 25-28 May, the Pre-Sessional Working Group to the 44th Session of the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR), is due to prepare questions to put to Turkey regarding its implementation of the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).

Last month KHRP submitted its report to the Pre-Sessional Working Group which outlined a list of issues it believes warrants consideration. Ahead of Turkey’s review, KHRP wishes to draw attention to several significant areas where the Turkish government has failed to carry out its obligations under the ICESCR in upholding the rights of its Kurdish citizens. They include Turkey’s continued exclusion of Kurds from their official definition of ‘minority’ groups; institutionalised restrictions faced by Kurds in fields such as education and the use of the Kurdish language; and how restrictions on the media, trade unions and gender inequality have a disproportionately negative effect on Turkey’s Kurdish population.

‘Despite the recent introduction and proposal of reforms aimed at improving Kurdish cultural rights, provisions to date remain woefully inadequate,’ said KHRP Managing Director, Rachel Bernu. ‘KHRP urges the Committee to press Turkey over measures it is taking to implement the Economic, Social and Cultural Rights to which its Kurdish population is entitled, and which can combat the systematic discrimination they continue to face.’

KHRP’s submission to the CESCR on Turkey is available to download here.

KHRP Submits Shadow Report for UN Review of Discrimination against Women in Turkey
Thursday, 20 May 2010 15:40

KHRP has submitted a shadow report to the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The report is for consideration by the Committee in their upcoming review of the Turkish government’s observance of their obligations under the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.

In recent years Turkey claims to have instituted a variety of legislative reforms aimed at the empowerment of women. However, the lack of meaningful resources dedicated to ensuring their effective implementation, impedes such improvements from being realised by women in their daily lives. As outlined in KHRP’s report, women throughout Turkey, and Kurds in particular, continue to face a variety of barriers that effectively exclude them from full participation in social, political and economic life. Kurdish women experience substantial disadvantages, such as in their access to equal employment opportunities and in properly accessing state health and judicial provisions. Moreover, the government continues to fall short of the mark in tackling the gender-based violence that remains so pervasive throughout Turkey.

In 2004, KHRP, in collaboration with the Kurdish Women’s Project (KWP), issued practical guidelines for the substantive incorporation of principles of CEDAW in Turkey. Entitled The Charter for the Rights and Freedoms of Women in the Kurdish Regions and Diaspora, the report extrapolates the demands of Kurdish women for meaningful equality from the foundations of CEDAW. Accordingly, KHRP once again urges the Turkish government to consider compliance with the Charter as well as their obligations under CEDAW.

Without proper recognition of the Kurds as an ethnic minority, and of the significant social, economic and political barriers faced by women in general, the Turkish government will never be in a position to comply with its obligations under CEDAW,’ said KHRP Chief Executive Kerim Yildiz. ‘KHRP urges the Turkish government to adopt a more earnest, considered approach to the realisation of the principles outlined in CEDAW. For example, the collation of gender-disaggregated statistics and information would, at the very least, represent a significant step in the right direction.’

A copy of the submission can be downloaded from the KHRP website.

KHRP Condemns Continued Bombardments in Kurdistan, Iraq
Wednesday, 12 May 2010 17:26

KHRP condemns the recent escalation of Turkish cross-border bombardments in northern Iraq. Sources in the region informed KHRP that at around 9:30pm on Monday 10 May, Howitzer munitions struck the village of Benistan in the Şeladize district of Kurdistan, Iraq, killing Hussein Rekani (27). It is also reported that his wife and two children are among those being treated for their injuries at Amediye State Hospital.

The assault represents the latest of many recent aerial and artillery bombardments since the Turkish military began increasing troop deployments to the border regions in early March. These cross-borders assaults have been launched in tandem with domestic operations, primarily in the Turkish border provinces of Hakkari and Şırnak, part of a recent intensification of Turkish military efforts. Such moves have prompted speculation from some quarters that Turkey is once again planning wide scale ground-incursions into northern Iraq in the coming months.

Since 2007 Turkey as well as Iran, have indiscriminately bombarded parts of northern Iraq. Although the operations are purportedly aimed at defeating armed opposition groups based in the area, neither government appears to be any closer to achieving its stated aims. On the contrary, KHRP’s fact-finding missions and published reports have documented the devastating toll wrought on innocent Iraqi civilians. We have also continued to mount potentially groundbreaking legal challenges against Turkey on behalf of more than 70 affected villagers from Kurdistan Iraq. These cases lodged before the European Court of Human Rights will test the principle of extra-territorial jurisdiction, by arguing that Turkey‘s actions have breached the villagers rights to life and are tantamount to inhuman and degrading treatment.

‘Irrespective of any perceived threats to national security, KHRP strongly condemns such callous assaults by the Turkish military against innocent civilians,’ said KHRP Chief Executive, Kerim Yildiz. ‘As a signatories to various international treaties including the European Convention on Human Rights, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Geneva Conventions, we would remind Turkey of its obligations to protect human rights, particularly those pertaining to the right to life. Furthermore, we strongly urge Turkey to show reasonable restraint when undertaking operations in close proximity to civilian population centres.’

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