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Turks: A Letter to Clinton



ABUSES: A Letter to Clinton 


HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH /Helsinki 
485 Fifth Avenue 
New York, NY 10017-6104 
Tel: (212) 972-8400 
Fax: (212) 972-0905 
E-mail: hrwatchnyc@igc.apc.org

1522 K Street, N.W., #910 
Washington, D.C.  20005-1202 
Tel: (202) 371-6592 
Fax: (202) 371-0124 
E-mail: hrwatchdc@igc.apc.org

TITLE:  12/2/94 Letter to President Clinton regarding CSCE

(New York) December 2, 1994--In a letter released today to President Bill Clinton and several other CSCE prime ministers, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki called on them to raise the issue of human rights abuses in Turkey during the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) Summit in Budapest from December 6-8, 1994. The 53-member CSCE among other things monitors human rights conditions in its signatory states under the "Third Basket" provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accord. President Clinton will be at the Budapest CSCE summit from December 5-6, 1994.

HRW/Helsinki, a division of Human Rights Watch, the largest U.S.-based human rights organization in the United States, urged President Clinton and several European prime ministers to note the worsening human rights situation in Turkey, especially concerning political freedom, attacks on and repression of human rights monitors, and free expression. The human rights group asked Mr. Clinton and other European leaders to condemn the charges against eight Kurdish parliamentarians in Turkey. The eight were charged with treason, a capital offense, largely for statements they made; a verdict will be announced on December 8, 1994.  While many in Turkey considered statements some of the deputies made inflammatory, they were clearly within their right of free expression.

HRW/Helsinki also urged President Clinton and European prime ministers to condemn repression and attacks against Turkish human rights groups, including the Turkish Human Rights Foundation and the Turkish Human Rights Association. It deplored the fact that officials of the Turkish Human Rights Foundation and the Turkish Human Rights Association have been charged under Turkey's "Anti-Terror" Law and that two officials of the foundation will be brought to trial on December 19.  The rights group also condemned violations by the rebel PKK (Workers' Party of Kurdistan) guerrilla group. HRW/Helsinki Executive Director Jeri Laber stated that, "The human rights situation in Turkey worsens with each day; the CSCE and the United States in particular must take the lead in reversing this situation."

The letters follow.

December 2, 1994

President Suleyman Demirel Republic of Turkey Ankara [BY FAX]

Dear Mr. President:

I write to you today to ask you to pardon the eight Kurdish parliamentarians, one independent and seven from the now-banned Democracy Party, should they be found guilty on December 8, 1994, when the verdict is expected to be announced. The eight are presently on trial for treason, a capital offense, at the Ankara State Security Court.

In our opinion, the deputies' right to free expression--which
Turkey is bound to uphold according to international agreements it has signed--is being punished. None of the deputies was charged with acts of violence; rather, they were largely arrested for speeches they made. Only one of the deputies was charged for an action he allegedly took: giving shelter to five PKK members and helping one of them obtain medical attention. There  have also been gross procedural violations at the trial, including refusing completely the evidentiary requests of the defense at a hearing on November 24, 1994.

We urge you to correct the injustice done both to the deputies and to free speech in Turkey by pardoning the eight Kurdish parliamentarians should they be found guilty of treason on December 8, 1994.

Respectfully,

Jeri Laber Executive Director Human Rights Watch/Helsinki

CC: H.E. Nuzhet Kandemir U.S. Embassy, Turkey Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck U.S. State Department, Turkey Desk 
Mr. Hans Van der Broek, Wise President, DGIA

HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH / Helsinki 
485 Fifth Avenue New York, NY
10017-6104 
Tel: (212) 972-8400 
Fax: (212) 972-0905 
E-mail: hrwatchnyc@igc.apc.org

1522 K Street, N.W., #910 
Washington, D.C.  20005-1202 
Tel: (202) 371-6592 
Fax: (202) 371-0124 
E-mail: hrwatchdc@igc.apc.org

Updated December 2, 1994

December 2, 1994

President Bill Clinton The White House Washington, D.C.  [BY FAX]

Dear Mr. President:

We call on you to raise the issue of human rights abuses in Turkey during the CSCE Summit in Budapest, Hungary, from December 6-8, 1994. We understand you will be at the summit from December 5-6. In particular, we ask you to raise the following two issues at the summit: the case of eight Kurdish parliamentarians presently on trial in Ankara for treason; and, charges brought against two members of the Turkish Human Rights Foundation, Messrs. Fevzi Argun and Yavuz Onen.

On December 8, 1994, the Ankara State Security court will issue a verdict for eight Kurdish parliamentarians, one independent and seven from the now-banned Kurdish-based Democracy Party (DEP). Your raising the case at Budapest directly before the verdict is due would be very significant.  The deputies are charged with treason, a capital offense. None of the deputies was charged with acts of violence; rather, they were punished for speeches they made. Only one of the deputies was charged for an action he allegedly took: giving shelter to five PKK members and helping one of them obtain medical attention. There were also gross procedural violations at the trial, including refusing completely the evidentiary requests of the defense at a hearing on November 24, 1994.

Human rights monitoring in Turkey has increasingly come under government attack.  The Chairman and Research Director of the well-respected and non-political Human Rights Foundation, Messrs. Yavuz Onen and Fevzi Argun, were charged on November 29, 1994, under Turkey's Anti-Terror Law with "separatism" for statements they made in a Foundation publication, File on Torture (Iskence Dosyasi). The proceedings against both men are to commence on December 19. The publication was funded by the European Union and the John Merck Foundation. File of Torture was confiscated by the state in October.

The other main human rights group in Turkey, the Turkish Human Rights Association, also suffered serious repression, including the death squad-style murder this year of three of its members. In the past three years, ten members of the association have been murdered. Branches of the association are often raided by security forces, with documents seized and members detained and reportedly tortured.  According to Akin Birdal, Chairman of the Turkish Human Rights Association, many of the association's branches in southeast Turkey, especially those in Hakkari, Siirt, Agri, Mardin, Sirnak, Tunceli, and Batman, are no longer able to operate normally because of severe harassment and repression. In October, a trial was launched against the executive leadership of the human rights association for a book it had published, A Section from the Burnt Down Villages, (Yakilan Koylerden Bir Kesit). The case was brought under Article 8 of the Anti-Terror Law.

In general, the human rights situation in Turkey deteriorated drastically in 1994, in large part due to the government's heavy-handed response to an escalation of the conflict in southeastern Turkey with the PKK, a violent Kurdish guerrilla group.  The PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) has been engaged in a bloody campaign, murdering civil servants, teachers, and anyone who cooperates with the state.  The Turkish military, in turn, has conducted a harsh counterinsurgency campaign that has led to widespread, forced civilian displacement. This campaign continues to the present, especially in Tunceli province. Security forces burn civilian villages in their fight with the PKK, usually making little distinction between PKK fighters and civilians. Often torture and arbitrary detention accompany such actions. Approximately 1400 villages and hamlets have been forcibly evacuated. The ten-year conflict has claimed more than 13,000 lives.

Death squad-style assassinations and suspicious disappearances continue to plague Turkey.  Either victims are killed by unidentified assailants with a single shot to the head or detained by security forces, who then allege that the individual detained earlier was released and is no longer in custody.  Victims include suspected PKK sympathizers, HADEP (People's Democracy Party, the successor to the banned DEP) and DEP organizers, journalists especially of pro-Kurdish publications, and trade union activists. The assassins are suspected of having unofficial links with security forces. Often the police simply do not investigate such crimes seriously. To date 101 HEP-DEP-HADEP officials and members have been killed, and death squad murders over the past ten years
number more than 1,000.

The PKK also commits serious human rights abuses. At its March 1994 Third National Conference, PKK leadership declared that, "all economic, political, military, social and cultural organizations, institutions, formations--and those who serve them--have become targets." The PKK interfered with local elections in March 1994 and vowed to kill candidates in the now canceled December 4 by- elections. Attacks are often launched against villages that had entered the village guard system. During such raids, PKK members often kill both guards and their families.The PKK routinely commits such abuses as summary execution, hostage-taking, indiscriminate shooting, bombings, and the destruction of civilian property in an effort to force the population to sever contact with state authorities or officials. Teachers are a prime target: in a one-month period from September to October this year the group murdered fourteen educators. Bombs are often placed in urban--especially tourist--areas, and travelers to the southeast are sometimes kidnapped by the PKK.

We call on you to use the great authority of your office at the Budapest CSCE Summit to focus attention on human rights abuses in Turkey. We ask you to condemn human rights abuse by all parties to the conflict in southeastern Turkey. We especially urge you to condemn the imprisonment of the DEP deputies and the charges against officials of the Turkish Human Rights Foundation and Turkish Human Rights Association. The human rights situation in Turkey worsens with each day; the CSCE and the United States in particular must take the lead in reversing this situation.

Sincerely,

Jeri Laber Executive Director HRW/Helsinki

CC: Prime Minister Tansu Ciller H.E. Nuzhet Kandemir U.S. State Department, Turkey Desk U.S. Embassy, Ankara Assistant Secretary of State John Shattuck H.E. Sam Brown, U.S. Ambassador to CSCE
John Merck Foundation.

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