Intimidation of human rights organisations in Turkey

April 8, 2015

In support of our longtime collaborator Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (HRFT), IFHHRO recently sent a letter to the President, the Prime Minister and several Ministers of the Republic of Turkey calling for an immediate end to oppression against HRFT. HRFT was sentenced to pay a high administrative fine for supposedly violating employment regulations, however we believe that the aim of this unfair fine is to punish and intimidate HRFT for its activities.

Full-text letter

19 March 2015

Re: Call for an immediate end to oppression against Human Rights Foundation of Turkey

We strongly condemn the oppression the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (“HRFT”) was subjected to because of its activities of providing treatment and rehabilitation services to torture survivors. The HRFT, an internationally recognized civil society organization that has contributed to treatment and rehabilitation of torture survivors and the prevention of torture for 25 years in Turkey, is now subjected to financial threat in the form of fine applied by a public body, named Social Security Institution (SSI).

The SSI conducted an audit at HRFT headquarter between 18 and 21 June 2013 with the aim of finding out whether one of HRFT staffs, who are officially recorded as part-time, works as part-time or not at HRFT. It was during the Gezi Park Protest and thus HRFT was providing support to many people who were tortured during the peaceful protests. Despite the proofs the HRFT submitted including insurance records and work agreement and other strong evidence (i.e. the record of the staff as part-time employee at other workplace in the SSI’s system), the auditor considered HRFT’s claim as invalid and reported that HRFT made irregularity. Based on the report, HRFT was subjected to an administrative fine and was also forced to pay a premium debt. The HRFT filed annulment cases against to SSI for the administrative fine and debt, but they were all rejected. All efforts HRFT made to revoke this unfair fine remained inconclusive until now. There are still on-going cases of HRFT against SSI, but the HRFT might be forced to pay this unfair fine and debt at any time.

Needless to say, every penny that HRFT will be forced to pay, regardless its amount, will damage the HRFT’s resource allocated for the treatment and rehabilitation of torture survivors. Considering the time of audit and public authorities’ approaches to human rights defenders/organizations in Turkey, we believe that the aim of this unfair fine is to punish and intimidate HRFT for its activities. With this unfair fine, Turkey has also violated several international human rights.

With this unfair fine, Turkey once again violated the rights of torture survivors to obtain redress. The UN General Assembly in its resolution with no A/RES/68/156 dated on 14 February 2014 urges “state to ensure that appropriate rehabilitation services are promptly available to all victims without discrimination of any kind” in order to enable torture survivors obtains redress as mentioned in the Article 14 of UN Convention against Torture. Yet, in Turkey, the state has never fulfilled its responsibility until now and had not any plan to fulfil this responsibility in the near future. The General Assembly also urges to “the state to establish, maintain, facilitate or support rehabilitation centres where victims can receive such treatment and where effective measure for ensuring the safety of their staffs and patients are taken.” In contrary to this international obligation, rather than supporting the HRFT which has provided more than 15.000 torture survivors with treatment and rehabilitation service for 25 years, the state of Turkey has now been directing reprisals or intimidation to it at the risk of preventing torture survivors to have proper rehabilitation and treatment service.

With this unfair fine, Turkey has deepened the culture of impunity for torture and other forms of ill-treatment. Despite the torture is prohibited in a restrictive manner in Turkey, it has still frequently been used as instrument of punishment and intimidation against populations without risk of punishment. Thus, the culture of impunity in Turkey has been deepened day by day. There is still lack of prompt and effective investigation into allegations of torture, public officials has encouraged torture, protected the perpetrators and considered the torture as the fault of torture survivors rather than a crime. The impunity is now deepened by repressing a human rights organization working for the prevention of torture and supporting torture survivors to reach the justice for 25 years.

With this unfair fine, Turkey put oppression against human right defenders in Turkey. Although Turkey is obliged to provide necessary guarantees for the human rights defenders to carry out their activities without being subjected to any administrative, penal or financial threats or abuses, enriched in the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders and the EU Declaration on Reinforcing the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, human rights defenders and organizations have been subjected to different form of state oppressions and threats in Turkey. This fine is one of the examples of financial threats the state put a human rights organization because of its activities.

Based on above-mentioned information, we calls on the authorities to: 

  • Immediately and unconditionally withdraw the unfair fine which SSI imposed on the HRFT since it means preventing the torture survivors to reach treatment and rehabilitation service and apology the HRFT officially because of the unfair fine,
  • Put an end to any kind of the oppression against the HRFT and human right defenders in Turkey and respect the responsibility of providing necessary guarantees for the human rights defenders to carry out their activities without being subjected to any administrative, penal or financial threats or abuses,
  • Guarantee that those who are providing rehabilitation services to torture survivors are not subjected to any reprisals or intimidation,
  • Ensure torture survivors obtain redress and have an enforceable right to fair and adequate compensation, including the means for as full rehabilitation as possible,
  • Immediately and unconditionally start the prompt and effective investigation for each allegation of torture and other forms of ill-treatment,
  • Prevent torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and ensure accountability for torture and other forms of ill-treatment.

Respectfully,

Dr Adriaan van Es, secr. IFHHRO