By ABDULHAMIT BILICI
As the law and democracy are suspended in Turkey, everyone, who is not subservient to Erdogan, is now faced with various ways of oppression and victimisation. Senior journalist Ahmet Altan is in prison, while Selahattin Demirtaş (the leader of opposition party HDP) is, too, behind the bars. The İMÇ TV is closed down, Samanyolu TV, too, is shut down. Cumhuriyet newspaper’s writers are under detention, while Zaman editors, writers and reporters are, too, under detention. One thing is clear, though; nowadays the number one target of the Erdogan regime, who has now wiped off the judiciary, is the people who are members of a social group, called Hizmet Movement, or Jamaat. The editor–in–chief of Cumhuriyet newspaper is detained, but at least his newspaper continues to be published for now. Housewives and teachers are not arrested or possessions of businessmen are not pillaged, just because they are subscribed to Cumhuriyet newspaper –as it has been the case for the subscribers of some other newspapers.
This demonization process, which Erdogan had ignited well before the July 15 coup attempt by calling out, “If they want to call it a witch–hunt, let it be a witch–hunt!” has targeted –whether they are women or children, young or old, ordinary citizens or civil servants– all of the members of the Hizmet movement. Having denounced the Hizmet movement by calling it as a terrorist organisation with a decision of the National Security Council, the Erdogan regime has bashed down all the media affiliated with the Hizmet movement and imprisoned many journalists. This policy of annihilating the Hizmet movement in a way similar to a genocide has been incessantly continued for four years with steps one worse than the other –pillaging the assets and properties of businessmen, closing down schools and universities, detaining more than 50 thousand people, dismissing more than 100 thousand civil servants from their positions, torturing, and/or unlawfully expelling people from Turkish citizenship.
The strange thing is that all these atrocities and unlawful exploitation of power are being based on court orders –this, of course, does not make all those acts legitimate and pursuant to the principles of law and justice. We must remember that Badiuzzaman had also been taken from one prison to the other with court orders, his books were banned with court decrees, Sayyid Riza was executed with a court order, and Menderes was hung with a court order. These were all the so-called court orders, but both those who signed those orders and those courts are now recorded in history’s pages of shame.
Two Applications to the UN and their Consequences
There is no doubt that today’s judiciary is in full control of Erdogan. Those who issue court orders, not approved by the ruling power, are dismissed from their duties, or even imprisoned; huge corruption cases are closed down; pre-determined court decrees are issued, –hence nearly all verdicts issued by this judiciary for the last 3-4 years are dubious, politically driven and outlaw. Of course it would not be impartial, if I would say this. However, two historic decisions recently given by the UN OHCHR, state exactly this. The evaluation and the verdicts issued by the UN about the applications of businessman Rebii Metin Görgeç and police chief Kürşat Çevik, who have been detained with the claim that they are connected to the Hizmet Movement, testify that the justice in Turkey is set to zero and the judiciary, instead of providing justice, is turned into a device of oppression.
The Working Group on Arbitrary Detention linked to UN Human Rights Council has examined the complaints of these two individuals and the defence of the Erdogan Government, and convicted Turkey to pay indemnification for unjust arbitrary detention, torture and mistreatment.
Also published on the website of the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, these two decisions are the first international verdicts that put sanction on Ankara for the human rights and law violations in the cases related to so-called Fetö. The verdict states that Turkey has violated Articles 9, 10 and 11 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Articles 9, 10 and 14 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
These verdicts given by the UN jurists confirm that the accusations and arguments used in the witch-hunt against the Hizmet Movement have no validity whatsoever in legal terms and the acts committed during this witch-hunt constitute crime. Thus, the UN jurists has binned the so-called judicial decisions that have targeted and victimised hundreds and thousands of people.
What they went through are very familiar
What the two individuals have suffered through are all too familiar: Businessman Rebii Metin Görgeç was arrested together with his wife, after the police raided his house at 5:00 in the morning. Him and his wife were handcuffed and taken to Kartal Police Headquarters, then his house was searched for 5 hours. But the police had neither an arrest warrant, nor a search warrant; nor did they explain why they arrested the couple. When the couple asked questions, they were told that there is a secret investigation against them, which is linked to the so-called Fetö case. The couple were separated and put in different rooms and questioned without the presence of their lawyers. They were pressurised to sign a pre–prepared statement. They were denied to see their family members. To be able to get some news about their parents, the children of the couple had to sleep in their car parked at a place near the police station for 9 days. Finally, their lawyer managed to see the businessman and his wife for only five minutes. After a theatrical court hearing, Metin Görgeç was sent to Silivri prison. His wife was released. The businessman is accused to be a member of the so-called Fetö and the only evidence they brought forward is that a company he worked with provided financial support to the Movement and that he worked with Bank Asya. While the businessman was in prison, two different people came to his house and tried to convince his family that they can make Mr. Görgeç released but this would cost them 100 thousand Turkish liras, and they told if they will not pay that bribe, he will have to stay in prison for many years and will also lose all his personal assets. The family rejected paying this bribe. Even before the trial started, all personal assets of Mr. Görgeç have been confiscated. This is the short summary of the process that made the life of Metin Görgeç and his family upside down.
There are thousands of cases that are also similar to that of the Mardin Police Chief, Kürşat Çevik. Mr. Çevik was a successful police chief who had been specialised in intelligence services. After the December 17–25 corruption investigation, his place of duty has been changed many times and he himself has been investigated. After the July 15 event, his exceptional success, the PhD degree he achieved from a British university and the service he had performed in the UN Police Force have been used as evidence against him, and he was arrested 6 days after the coup attempt. He is accused of being a member of the so-called Fetö and is still kept under detention for the following reasons: Downloading ByLock app to his phone, owning books about his PhD studies and a USB containing sermons given by F. Gulen, which the police found in his house, being an exceptionally hard-working person, having filed cases against the administrative decisions that unlawfully changed his places of duty.
The UN Verdict in 12 Items
The UN jurists underlines very important points in the verdict that they have issued after examining the complaints of the two victims and the defence of the Turkish Government:
1. Turkey defended itself claiming that some of the rights may be suspended during the state of emergency. The UN jurists, however, emphasise that declaring state of emergency may not lift the obligations of obeying fundamental human rights, and they further called Turkey to end the state of emergency and revert to ordinary judicial order as soon as possible.
2. The UN Working Group not only judged that fundamental rights of the businessman and the former police chief have been violated, they also referred the businessman’s case to the Special Rapporteur on torture, and the police chief’s case to the Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers for further investigation.
3. The Erdogan Government asserted that the domestic judicial remedies are open and the complainants may appeal to the Constitutional Court. The UN Working Group, however, stated that this does not resolve the unlawful situation and the unjust treatments. The Working Group also expressed that the Constitutional Court has not ruled on the filed cases for very long time, which is a violation of fair trial secured under international covenants to which Turkey is a party.
4. Turkey claimed that complainants may not apply to international judicial bodies before they exhaust domestic remedies. The UN Working Group noted that exhaustion of domestic remedies is not required to send a communication to the Working Group. Thus, it is stated that complainants do not have to wait for the decisions of the Constitutional Court or the State of Emergency Commissions to be able to send their communications about unlawful treatments such as torture, arbitrary detention or dismissal to the UN platform.
5. The UN Working Group noted that neither ordinary citizens, nor state officials may be punished just because they have sent their children to a school run by the Hizmet Movement, served as a teacher at those schools, read the newspapers affiliated with this movement, or opened an account in Bank Asya. It stated that people who worked or purchased services from the Gulen Movement and did not commit any crime may not be criminalised; only those who are openly engaged in illegal activities may be tried. The accusations of Turkey claiming that the police chief has used ByLock app is not taken seriously by the UN Working Group. Because the evidence in relation to a crime allegedly committed by a person must be presented not that person’s affiliation to a social group.
6. The UN verdict also underlines that it is unacceptable to show having a PhD in the United Kingdom, serving in the UN Police Force and being defended by a lawyer who also has undertaken the cases of the members of the Gulen Movement as if these are crimes.
7. The UN Working Group states that arresting and keeping people under detention without informing them about the official charges against them even six months after they have been detained is violation of the international human rights law and it constitutes arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
8. The UN verdict underlines that preventing the accused from seeing their lawyers at adequately frequent intervals and in confidential circumstances is unacceptable and not showing the relevant files to the accused or their lawyers by using the national security as an excuse is violation of the international human rights law.
9. It is underlined that accusing of lawyers just because they defend individuals affiliated with the Hizmet movement and to present using services of such a lawyer as if it is evidence of a crime are against the UN norms of the right to a fair trial. It is emphasised that the members of judiciary and lawyers must perform their judicial duties independently and in a free manner.
10. It is ruled that keeping arrestees under inconvenient conditions, forcing them to sign pre-dictated statements, not observing medical treatments of the ill ones and denying them medication, restricting contact with lawyers and family members are against the international human rights law, and subjecting them to sleep deprivation is a form of torture.
11. The UN Working Group reminds the principle of individual criminal responsibility and notes that many legal violations, such as arresting or detaining family members in place of the accused and confiscating people’s passports have been committed, and these acts cannot be accepted under any kind of condition. Similarly, the Working Group emphasises that accusing and depriving people of liberty on the ground of affiliation to a social group is a violation of international law.
12. The UN Working Group decrees that Turkey has severely violated the right to fair trial principle under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Working Group did not find the accusations directed against the businessman and the police chief convincing and called Turkey to release them without delay and pay them compensation for their rights that have been violated, and requested Turkey to provide conditions in which judges and lawyers can perform their judicial duties freely. Meanwhile, the Working Group reiterated its request for a visit to Turkey to see the situation on the ground.
Everyone Can Report Their Cases to International Bodies
As it can be seen at first sight, the things the two different individuals –one a businessman, and the other a police officer– went through, which caused Turkey to be convicted for violating international human rights, are no different than the things that tens of thousands of people have been going through for the last 3-4 years. The verdicts issued by a judiciary that is politicised, lost its independence and became a tool of retaliation and oppression do not have any value in terms of law. As it is the natural consequence of this situation, for Turkey, individuals are not required to exhaust domestic judicial remedies to file their cases in international bodies. Therefore, everyone who is subjected to atrocities of the witch-hunt and outlaw treatments in Turkey can transmit their cases to the United Nations.
The court orders and governmental decrees that victimise people in Turkey today will be annihilated when they are brought to the judgement of proper, independent and impartial members of the judiciary of the European Court of Human Rights or the UN, and Turkey will be convicted for the victimisations caused by these orders and decrees and will severely lose credibility in the international arena. Tomorrow, Turkey will have to pay huge amounts of compensations because of the wrongful and outlaw acts of today’s administrators of the country. In future, the country may face even heavier sanctions. Those who are declaring innocent people guilty and committing atrocities in the name of annihilating a social group as a whole will be convicted for committing crime against humanity.