Category: Human Rights Defenders

children
Articles & StatementsBlogHuman Rights Defenders

4 June 2024: Remembering innocent children victims of international aggression

 

War zones expose children to daily dangers, denying them safety, education, food, and basic rights, necessitating urgent global humanitarian action. This year on International Day of Innocent Children Victims of Aggression we remember the children of Gaza, Sudan, Myanmar, Turkiye, Syria, Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo, Haiti and Nigeria.

Children residing in war zones around the world witness unimaginable horrors on a daily basis. It is unsafe for them to play outside, sleep at home, attend school, or go to hospitals for medical attention.

Children around the globe endure unspeakable horrors even adults find unbearable and they are innocently caught in the midst of warring parties. They are being subjected to sexual violence, and abduction and are being forced to join armed groups, all while being deprived of essential humanitarian aid.

UN Reports, in Gaza the number of children killed is higher than from four years of world conflict. UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said “This war is a war on children. It is a war on their childhood and their future” [1]. More than 14,000 children have been reportedly killed and thousands have been injured. If not injured or killed children are deprived of essential needs, displaced and don’t have access to water, food and medicine. UNICEF had initially reported that “Rafah is now a city of children, who have nowhere safe to go in Gaza”. On the 26th of May 2024, the tents and shelters in Rafah have now been bombed which leaves no safe place for the children of Gaza. UNICEF reports that even wars have rules and no child should be cut off from essential services in accordance with international humanitarian law [2] reflecting that this is not a war but a genocide[3].

There is a silent war and famine going on in Sudan affecting innocent children. Human Rights Watch reports a gruesome incident where RSF Forces first shot the parents in front of their children and then piled up the children and shot them. They later threw their bodies into the river and their belongings after them[4].

To mark a year of brutality against Sudanese children, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) issued a media statement highlighting the violations resulting in 24 million children in Sudan being at risk of generational catastrophe. Among these children, 14 million are in dire need of humanitarian support, 19 million are out of school, and 4 million are displaced, according to UNICEF, making Sudan now the largest child displacement crisis in the world[5].

Since the military coup in 2021, the armed conflict, and the suffering and cruelty continue in Myanmar. Innocent children who are too young to comprehend the chaos around them, are caught in the midst of the conflict, malnourished and deprived of essential needs. UNICEF reports that 6,000,000 children are in need of humanitarian assistance [6].

A year after the deadliest earthquakes in Turkiye and Syria, children are still feeling the effects of the tragedy. Almost 7.5 million children in Syria still require humanitarian aid. 3.2 million children in Turkiye still need essential services as families are homeless and without access to essential services, including safe water, education, and medical care [7].

The human rights violations continue in Turkiye not only affecting innocent adults but affecting innocent children. Thousands of children are growing up in prison with their parents who are only detained due to Erdogan’s dictator regime in Turkiye. The government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is dismantling human rights protections and democratic norms in Turkiye on a scale unprecedented in the 18 years he has been in office, said Human Rights Watch [8]. Recently, several girls under 18 were detained and subjected to psychological torture due to non-implementation of the Constitutional Court and ECHR rulings.

Ethiopia is facing multiple crises due to climate crises (flood and drought), armed conflicts, diseases and economic shocks. Floods have affected the education sector in the Somali region with the disruption of the schooling of over 66,000 children (32.3 percent girls) and damage/destruction to school infrastructure (56 out of 146 flood-affected schools). The scale of damage to the schools and the reported sheltering of IDPs on school grounds will prevent thousands of children from returning to school [9].

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, the decades-long armed conflict continued to cause grave violations against civilians and children. The M23 committed more unlawful killings, rapes, other apparent war crimes and crimes against humanity in areas under their control [10]. Save the Children has reported that 78,000 children have been forced to flee their homes due to the escalating violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)[11]. As armed conflict is a daily reality for the children in the Democratic Republic of Congo, these children are facing poverty, sexual violence, being abducted, deprived of food and water and even being trained as child soldiers [12]. UNICEF’s Director of Child Protection said “I met children who survived the horrors of recruitment and use by armed groups and the unspeakable trauma of sexual violence – atrocities that no one should experience, let alone children” [13].

On 8 May 2024, Save the Children reported that children in Haiti are being forced into armed gangs due to extreme hunger. According to the UN, between 30% to 50% of armed groups in Haiti currently have children within their ranks. Save the Children’s Food and Livelihood Advisor in Haiti said “The hunger situation is so desperate our staff are hearing stories of children joining deadly gangs just so they can get food to eat” [14].

OCHA reports that in Nigeria children are at risk of forced recruitment into armed groups when unaccompanied and separated from families, especially children of those considered to be formerly associated or affiliated with armed groups. Protection concerns continue more so for women and girls, who run a higher risk of being subject to violence, abduction, rape, gender-based violence, forced and child marriage, and other violations of their rights. Children in Nigeria face malnutrition on an incomprehensible scale, 1.53 million children under five years old are expected to face acute malnutrition and about 511,800 children are expected to face severe acute malnutrition, a life-threatening condition. [15]

On this international day of innocent children victims of aggression we remember all the innocent children who, instead of crying over lost toys, are crying due to fear, destruction, and violence. These children, born into a cruel world, deserve a childhood filled with love and safety, not suffering.

BY CEYDA KEMANCI

 

Sources:

[1] Gaza: Number of children killed higher than from four years of world conflict | UN News

 

[2] Children in Gaza need life-saving support | UNICEF

 

[3] Rights expert finds ‘reasonable grounds’ genocide is being committed in Gaza | UN News

 

[4] Children ‘piled up and shot’: new details emerge of ethnic cleansing in Darfur | Global development | The Guardian

 

[5] Sudan conflict: 24 million children exposed to a year of brutality and rights violations, UN committee says | OHCHR

 

[6] Myanmar-Humanitarian-SitRep-April-2024.pdf (unicef.org)

 

[7] One year after devastating earthquakes hit Türkiye and Syria, consequences continue to reverberate for affected children and families (unicef.org)

 

[8] Turkey: Erdoğan’s Onslaught on Rights and Democracy | Human Rights Watch (hrw.org)

 

[9] Ethiopia – Situation Report, 10 Jan 2024 | OCHA (unocha.org)

 

[10] World Report 2024: Democratic Republic of Congo | Human Rights Watch (hrw.org)

 

[11] DRC: AT LEAST 78,000 CHILDREN DISPLACED AND FAMILIES RIPPED APART AS FIGHTING ESCALATES | Save the Children International

 

[12] Children of the Democratic Republic of the Congo – Humanium

 

[13] DR Congo: Children killed, injured, abducted, and face sexual violence in conflict at record levels for third consecutive year – UNICEF

 

[14] Extreme hunger in Haiti forcing children into armed gangs – Save the Children – Haiti | ReliefWeb

 

[15] “Nigeria Humanitarian Needs Overview 2024 | OCHA (unocha.org)

fight-racism-fullbleed
Articles & StatementsBlogHuman Rights Defenders

Reflecting on the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

 

The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination was established by the United Nations in 1966 to combat racial.. discrimination worldwide. It commemorates the tragic events of March 21, 1960, in Sharpeville, South Africa, where police killed 69 peaceful protesters during a demonstration against the apartheid pass laws, which enforced severe racial segregation and discrimination. This day serves as a reminder of the continuous struggle against racism. It promotes activities and actions to raise awareness and find solutions for those most affected by racial discrimination. Despite the abolition of apartheid in 1991 and similar racist legislation in other countries, the fight against racial prejudice is far from over.

Racial discrimination remains a prevalent issue, as evidenced by statistics from the UK, where racially motivated hate crimes are the most reported, with racially aggravated offenses increasing by 19% to 109,843 incidents in 2021/22. This stark reality underscores the vital importance of this day in advocating for and raising awareness about the ongoing efforts needed to educate future generations and eradicate racism. The belief that some people are inherently superior or inferior due to skin color is a harmful notion that we must actively work against to ensure everyone has the freedom and dignity they deserve.

After establishing the definitional framework of hate crimes and the specific strands monitored in England and Wales, it becomes imperative to delve deeper into these incidents’ nuanced statistical tapestry and real-world ramifications. The following section provides a comprehensive dissection of hate crime data, casting light on the demographic profiles of victims, the typologies of hate crimes most frequently documented, and the profound emotional and psychological repercussions these transgressions inflict upon individuals.

This transition from a generalized overview to a granular analysis offers a more lucid comprehension of the prevailing terrain of hate crimes in the United Kingdom. It illuminates the diversity of victims and occurrences and the formidable obstacles encountered in confronting and mitigating these profoundly impactful crimes.

Within this crucible of analysis, we witness the complexities of addressing hate crimes. These complexities extend beyond legislative frameworks and encompass the arduous task of catalysing attitudinal shifts and fostering community empathy.

The definition of hate crime in England & Wales was agreed in 2007 by the Police Service, Crown Prosecution Service, Prison Service, and other agencies.

Hate crime in England and Wales is defined as ‘any criminal offense which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice towards someone based on a personal characteristic:

There are five centrally monitored strands of hate crime:

  • race or ethnicity.
  • religion or beliefs.
  • sexual orientation.
  • disability
  • transgender identity.

The recent ‘Hate Crime Summary’ report sheds light on the concerning prevalence of hate crimes in the UK, with racial bias being the primary motivating factor, accounting for 45% of reported incidents. Disability-related hate crimes followed closely, comprising 15% of the total cases, underscoring the multifaceted nature of this issue. Notably, the report documents a staggering 1,426% increase in gender identity-motivated incidents, soaring from 18 to 276 cases. Furthermore, there has been a significant 462% increase in reports related to sexual orientation, highlighting the evolving landscape of hate crimes in the country.

The interaction with authorities reflects the urgency and the spectrum of needs among the victims; 60% of the contacts were to report incidents or update ongoing cases. In parallel, 23% sought listening support, advice, or referrals, indicating the critical role of supportive services in the aftermath of hate crimes.

According to the report, racial motivations persist as the predominant driver of hate crimes, with incidents related to disability following as a significant concern. The pronounced rise in gender-motivated incidents by 322% signals an urgent call for attention to this growing issue.

Analysing the types of hate crimes reported reveals verbal abuse at the forefront with 287 incidents, closely followed by threatening behavior in 238 incidents. Harassment, offensive language, and anti-social behavior were also significantly reported, with 209, 132, and 98 cases, respectively. These statistics not only depict the severity of hate crimes in the UK but also emphasize the need for robust response mechanisms to support the victims and address the root causes.

In efforts to gather comprehensive data on instances of hate incidents, the report strives to include a wide range of demographic details such as age, gender, and ethnicity of those affected. This information aids in the nuanced understanding and addressing of hate incidents. However, sometimes, individuals may be hesitant to disclose such personal information, or when a report is made on someone else’s behalf, the informant may lack access to these details. Additionally, there are circumstances where it becomes impractical or insensitive to pursue these questions further, such as when a person is too distressed to communicate effectively or the conversation ends prematurely.

Among individuals who reported experiencing a hate incident and were willing to share personal information, 2% identified as transgender, with the majority identifying as female (61%) and male (36%). Our team endeavors to gather as much demographic information (e.g., age, gender, ethnicity) about those affected by hate incidents. However, there are instances where individuals may choose not to disclose such information, or the information might be unavailable if the report is made on someone else’s behalf. In situations where it is either impossible or appropriate to inquire for more details (e.g., the person is too upset or the conversation ends abruptly), no data can be recorded.

Regarding disability, 54% of individuals who disclosed information reported being neurodiverse, with autism accounting for 17% of this group. There was a significant increase in individuals reporting physical/mobility disabilities, rising by 176% (from 13 to 40 individuals).

Concerning ethnicity, 28% of the individuals who disclosed their background described themselves as coming from a white background, with 17% specifying White British. Additionally, 27% identified as having a Black background, 32% as Asian, and 5% as Mixed. Notably, there was a significant rise in reports from individuals identifying with an “Other Black Background,” increasing from 7% to 18%.

Age-wise, the bulk of individuals reporting hate incidents and willing to share their age fell within the 25 to 64 age range (74%), with those between 35 to 54 years old being the most likely to report such incidents (39%).

From a religious perspective, 38% of those disclosing information identified as Christian, and 17% as Muslim. Specifically, for faith or religious hate incidents, a majority identified with Islam (71%) or Christianity (9%).

Concerning living situations, over 75% of those experiencing a hate incident and willing to disclose this information were in some form of rented accommodation, with 36% in local authority housing, 20% in housing association properties, and 17% renting from a private landlord.

In the 2022/23 period, law enforcement agencies documented 145,214 incidents where hate crimes, as identified by central monitoring criteria, were considered a motivating factor. This marks a 5% reduction compared to the statistics from 2021/22. The historical rise in the documentation of hate crimes has been partially linked to improvements in recording practices and an enhanced awareness regarding the importance of reporting such offenses.

Since April 2015, notable increases in hate crimes, particularly those of a racial or religious nature, have been observed during significant events such as the EU referendum, the terrorist attacks in 2017, and the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020. Although similar upsurges were seen in the summers before and after these events, the patterns of increase were consistent across both categories of offenses. When looking at data by Police Force Area for 2022/23, the highest incidence rate of hate crimes, considering all types of offenses recorded by the police, was in the West Yorkshire Police Force area, with 441 incidents per 100,000 people. Conversely, Dorset reported the lowest rate, with 103 incidents per 100,000 population.

Individuals who fall victim to hate crimes are significantly more likely to endure emotional and psychological distress than those affected by crimes in general. Specifically, 42% of hate crime victims reported feelings of vulnerability or a loss of confidence, a stark contrast to the 19% among general crime victims. Additionally, nearly 29% of those targeted by hate crimes struggled with sleep disturbances, compared to 13% for all crime victims. Anxiety or panic attacks were reported by 34% of hate crime victims, a figure that more than doubles the 14% reported by victims of other crimes. Moreover, 18% of those subjected to hate crimes faced depression afterward, doubling the rate of 9% seen in victims of all types of crime.

On the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, we reflect on the progress and challenges in our fight against racism. While societies have become more aware and legal frameworks have been established, individuals, communities, and groups continue to suffer from injustices and stigma perpetuated by racist ideologies and practices.

The data on hate crimes in England and Wales serve as a reminder that racism is still deeply entrenched, manifesting in violence, harassment, and marginalization. This day is a call to redouble our efforts, challenge and dismantle prejudices that fuel hate, and amplify the voices of the oppressed and marginalized.

Everyone’s encounter with racism is unique, shaped by their circumstances and intersecting identities.

On this day, we must reaffirm our commitment to creating a welcoming and diverse society where individuals of all ages, races, religions, and backgrounds can live together harmoniously, free from fear of abuse or harm.

By BURAK BATUHAN KARAKUS

we-marched- all-victimised- women-day
CommitteeHuman Rights Defenders

We marched for all victimised women

At the Women’s Day march in London, thousands of people, including HRS volunteers in purple raincoats and masks, demanded justice. The London march for International Women’s Day took place on Saturday 9 March this year. Thousands of women took part in the march, which started on Oxford Street and ended in Trafalgar Square. Organised by Million Women Rise, the event is supported by all associations or foundations working in the field of women’s rights in the UK.

As in the previous 3 years, Human Rights Solidarity (HRS) Women’s Rights Committee members were also present at the march, which is known as the ‘world’s biggest women’s rights’ event. HRS Women’s Committee participated in the march with an interesting concept this year. About 40 HRS volunteer women wore purple raincoats and white masks on their faces. On the masks were written the names of women who were arrested in Turkey despite being sick, pregnant or having babies.

HRS volunteers also carried placards expressing the problems of all women who have been subjected to injustice or persecution. For example, there were banners written in Kurdish to draw attention to the injustice suffered by Kurdish women in Turkey, including one with the name of former MP Huda Kaya, who is currently in detention. There were also banners drawing attention to the current ‘genocide’ in Gaza, the war in Ukraine and the persecution of Uyghur people.

Throughout the march, women drew attention to the fact that more than 9,000 women have been killed in Gaza and frequently chanted slogans calling for an immediate ceasefire. The women also emphasised the need for governments to take more measures to end male violence.

HRS Women’s Committee Chair Ceyda Betul Kemanci made the following statement about the event: “As HRS, we participate in this important march with a different concept every year. Last year, we marched with a platform with a woman and child mannequin that we placed in a boat to explain the problems experienced by those who had to flee from Meric River due to unlawful behaviour in Turkey. This year we wore purple raincoats to represent women’s rights. There are also many women who are unjustly and unlawfully imprisoned in Turkey. In order to make their voices heard, we wore masks with the names of women, especially those who are sick, pregnant or with babies. We demanded an immediate end to these atrocities. We demanded that the ECtHR’s Yalcinkaya judgement be implemented without further delay. We demanded an end to the systematic torture and that those responsible be punished.

At the rally organised in Trafalgar Square where the march ended, speeches were made in line with the general concept of the march. Those who took the floor raised the voices of all girls and women who had been subjected to violence and expressed that they could put an end to male violence together. The demand for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza was also voiced here.

demand-freedom-justice-for-Iranian-lawyers
CommitteeHuman Rights Defenders

We demand freedom and justice for Iranian lawyers

Lawyers in Danger Day was dedicated to Iran this year. HRS organised a protest and sent a letter Iranian Ambassador. 24 January Lawyers in Danger Day was dedicated to Iranian lawyers this year. As HRS, we organised a demonstration outside the Iranian Embassy in London in support of lawyers facing rights violations in Iran. Together with lawyers in Iran, we demanded justice, freedom and democracy for all their colleagues around the world. We also sent a letter to Ambassador Mehdi Hosseini Matin with our concrete proposals.

International Day of Endangered Lawyers has been celebrated all over the world on 24 January since 2010. This date was chosen because on 24 January 1977, four lawyers and a colleague were killed in Madrid and this event is known as the Atocha Massacre.

Iran is among the most dangerous countries for lawyers. Since the 1979 revolution, lawyers have been subjected to harassment and persecution. Following the protests that followed the tortured murder of Jina Mahsa Amini on 16 September 2022, the crackdown intensified, particularly on lawyers defending imprisoned protesters.

Since 2021, around 60 lawyers have been detained and hundreds have lost their licences. Most recently, Saleh Nikbakht, the lawyer for Mahsa Amini’s family, was sentenced to one year in prison on charges of “propaganda activities against the Islamic Republic of Iran” and “collaboration with hostile states”.

The independence of lawyers is heavily restricted by law. There is an almost complete lack of access to legal representation of one’s choice for anyone arrested and charged in connection with protests.

Women lawyers in Iran face additional difficulties. They are forced to wear the hijab in court, and some have been prosecuted for refusing to do so. Female lawyers also face particular harassment in the courtroom.

Please find below the letter we sent to the Iranian Ambassador to the UK, Mehdi Hosseini Matin:

lawyers-danger-day-dedicated-amini
BlogCommitteeHuman Rights Defenders

Why is Lawyers in Danger Day dedicated to Iran this year?

Following the protests triggered by the death of Mahsa Amini, lawyers in Iran have faced unjust arrests and harsh sentences. On January 24th, we observe the International Day of the Endangered Lawyer, a day dedicated to bringing attention to the risks lawyers face worldwide—persecution, intimidation, and violence—simply for doing their jobs. This date remembers the tragic events of January 24, 1977, when four Spanish lawyers and their colleagues were brutally murdered in what is known as the Massacre of Atocha, a moment that deeply moved Symone Gaasbeek-Wielinga and Hans Gaasbeek. Shocked by such violence, these two Dutch lawyers embarked on a monumental journey in the Philippines in 1990, uncovering the grave dangers faced by lawyers involved in politically charged cases.

Driven by a commitment to protect their peers, Symone and Hans played pivotal roles in establishing the International Day of the Endangered Lawyer in 2009. They also founded the Day of the Endangered Lawyer Foundation, aiming to cast a spotlight on this urgent issue and urging governments worldwide to cease the persecution of legal practitioners.

This year, our focus turns to Iran, a country where lawyers, following the protests triggered by Mahsa Amini’s death, face unjust arrest and severe punishment. Figures like Nasrin Sotoudeh and Mohammad Hossein Aghasi symbolise the courage of those detained for defending the right to protest.

On this day, we stand in solidarity with endangered lawyers in Iran and around the world who are being persecuted simply for carrying out their professional duties and upholding human rights and the rule of law. We call on the international community to demand the release of lawyers imprisoned for doing their jobs. Our colleagues deserve to be able to practice without fear or intimidation.

International law clearly recognises lawyers’ essential role in upholding justice and human rights in any society. The United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers specify certain protections and rights that lawyers globally should be afforded to allow them to perform their roles without being subject to interference or intimidation. These principles assert that lawyers should not be identified with their clients’ causes or held responsible for them. It is incumbent upon governments to ensure that lawyers can execute their professional responsibilities freely, devoid of harassment or undue interference. In instances where lawyers face threats to their safety, the authorities are obliged to provide necessary protections.

Furthermore, these principles forbid any discrimination in the licensing of lawyers based on gender, ethnicity, religion, or political beliefs. Ensuring access to legal representation for all individuals is a mandate. Independent bar associations, which shield lawyers from persecution and excessive limitations, must be allowed to operate without external interference.

Determining the exact count of lawyers incarcerated in Iran is difficult due to the lack of transparency. Nonetheless, it is understood that a significant number have been targeted, especially in the aftermath of the 2022 protests sparked by Mahsa Amini’s death. According to information from the United Nations dated June 2023, between September 16, 2022, and January 10, 2023, at least 44 lawyers were arrested for participating in the protests. While 27 of these legal professionals were freed, the remainder remain in detention.

The Iranian government should take the following steps to ensure lawyers can perform their professional duties without interference or intimidation:

Release lawyers imprisoned for convictions related to their work. Stop prosecutions and other sanctions against lawyers for actions taken ethically in their professional capacity.

Ensure lawyers are not identified with their clients’ causes. Do not charge lawyers for representing clients, regardless of the charges against those clients.

Allow lawyers to form independent professional associations without government interference.

Ensure disciplinary proceedings against lawyers are overseen independently by the legal profession, not the government.

Do not discriminate against people entering or practising law based on race, gender, religion, etc.

Protect the safety of lawyers who face threats due to their work.

Allow lawyers freedom of expression, belief, assembly, and association like all citizens.

Ensure everyone has access to legal services and lawyers of their choice, regardless of social or economic status. Fund legal aid sufficiently.

Inform accused persons immediately of charges against them and allow prompt access to a lawyer of their choice. Recognise lawyer-client confidentiality.

Allow lawyers access to information necessary to defend their clients.

Accept an independent international inquiry into the death of Mahsa Amini and other protest victims, given the questionable motivations behind prosecutions of lawyers and the need for justice.

In closing, We have included a detailed report compiled by the International Coalition for Endangered Lawyers and Iranian Attorneys, which sheds further light on the grave dangers faced by lawyers in Iran who are persecuted for fulfilling their professional responsibilities. I implore legal professionals, bar councils, human rights groups, and other associations globally to access and review this illuminating report. Please aid in spreading awareness regarding the struggles of endangered Iranian lawyers by circulating this report through social media and your networks.

BY BATUHAN KARAKUS

india-human-rights- project-violations
Human Rights DefendersReportsUK Authorities

India Human Rights Project: Violations

Over the past few months, HRS undertake a project to investigate six key areas of human rights abuses in India. The current BJP Indian government has been responsible for some of the significant human right violations. The government and its associated have been involved in extrajudicial killings; torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment by police and prison officials; political prisoners or detainees; and unjustified arrests or prosecutions of journalists. HRS has undergone a project over the past few months to investigate six key areas of human rights violations in India:

 

  1. Freedom of Expression
  2. Freedom of Assembly
  3. Religious Freedom
  4. Discrimination based on Caste
  5. Human rights violations against Kashmiris
  6. Rights of Children

 

Each of the six reports details past and present studies and details of the current situation in India respective to the topic covered, while also providing points of reflection and recommendation for ways forward. The hope is to both spread awareness and inspire action.

amendment-proposals-hate-crrimes-european-parliament
European ParliamentHuman Rights DefendersReports

Our amendment proposals to the European Parliament

We proposed amendments to the draft report on extending the list of EU crimes to hate speech and hate crimes. We have been closely following the discussions surrounding the Draft Report on ‘Extending the List of EU Crimes to Hate Speech and Hate Crime’ and would like to share our proposed amendments.

Firstly, we would like to express our strong support for the initiative to address hate speech and hate crime within the EU framework. These offenses pose a significant threat to the principles of equality, diversity, and inclusion that the European Union upholds. Extending the list of EU crimes to encompass hate speech and hate crime would send a powerful message that the EU is committed to protecting its citizens from all forms of discrimination and violence.

We sincerely believe that the incorporation of our amendment proposals will strengthen the overall effectiveness of the EU’s efforts to combat hate speech and hate crime. Our organization will continue to be committed to contributing to a safer and more inclusive European Union, and we are always eager to collaborate with the European Parliament.

letter-un-turkish- government-repression-citizens-
Articles & StatementsHuman Rights DefendersUnited Nations

Letter to the UN on the Turkish government’s transnational repressions

 

In the letter, we expressed our deep concern to UN officials about escalation of extraterritorial repression by the Turkish government.

 

In recent years, there has been a worrying increase in cases where the Turkish government has targeted its own citizens beyond its borders. This phenomenon, characterised by harassment, intimidation, abduction and even violence against Turkish citizens residing abroad, is a direct violation of fundamental human rights and poses a significant threat to global peace and security.

The consequences of this transnational repression are far-reaching, going beyond the victims to affect the integrity of the international human rights framework. By eroding the principles of asylum, safe haven and protection from persecution, the actions of the Turkish government set a dangerous precedent that threatens the safety of individuals seeking to flee repression around the world.

We are gravely concerned by the atmosphere of fear that the Erdogan regime, further strengthened by the election results, has created against Turkish dissidents living abroad. We have written the following letter to the “Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances” and “UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism” in order to make them aware of the issue and to take the necessary steps.

IMG_20230626_121506
EventsHuman Rights DefendersUK Authorities

Torture in Turkey: Parliamentary event on multilateral sanctions with Baroness Kennedy

 

In the panel held in the British Parliament, crimes of torture and countermeasures involving state officials in Turkey were discussed. On Monday 26th of June 2023, Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws hosted an event in UK Parliament in collaboration with The Arrested Lawyers Initiative and Human Rights Solidarity.

The event covered ‘The Deterrence Potential of Multilateral Sanctions for Human Rights Abuses in Turkey’ to discuss Impunity, torture, and ill-treatment in Turkey in relation to Magnitsky Sanctions from the United Kingdom. Speakers, Kevin Dent KC, Sarah Teich, Natalia Kubesch, and Michael Polak, presented at the event on their work against this issue and encouraged the public to raise awareness on the current political situation in Turkey and the UK’s benefit to help.

Baroness Helena Kennedy

The state of emergency in Turkey marked the beginning of gross human rights violations, including widespread torture facilitated by the adoption of impunity provisions, enforced disappearances and mass detention on an industrial scale. According to official figures, more than 600,000 people have been detained by the police on overly broad terrorism charges, while more than 100,000 have been remanded in custody. Between 2016 and 2021, more than 310,000 people were convicted of membership of an armed terrorist organisation. Since 2016, more than 1,600 lawyers have been detained, and so far, 551 lawyers have been sentenced to 3,356 years in prison on terrorism-related charges, mostly for
membership in terrorist organisations.

In September 2020, The Arrested Lawyers launched the Turkey Human Rights Accountability Project in response to the ongoing rule of law violations and imprisonment of lawyers, activists, journalists and academics on trumped-up charges. Prominent British barristers Kevin Dent KC and Michael Polak, who both attended the event. An extra step was made towards the Canadian Government, authored by Mr Dent and Mr Polak, as well as Ms Sarah Teich.

Significant Quotes:

Baroness Kennedy: “Turkey has been brought in front of the European Court of Human Rights and the court found defiance of rule of law time and again. At this point in time, the Council of Europe is weighing the possibility of taking action against Turkey.”

Michael Polak: “Sanctions work better when multiple countries are involved.”
“We provided the Foreign Ministry a well studied 500 pages long evidence file. Two years passed over our submission and every other month I am sending them an email and asking, did you read it. No response.”

Sarah Teich: “There are things we can learn from the UK and there are things they can learn from Canada. Multilateral learning is as good as multilateral sanctions.”

Kevin Dent KC: “This sense that you cannot sanction a friendly country has to be overcome. When I speak to people who are critical of Turkey’s human rights records, they say it is too complex to have sanctions on nationals of Turkey.”

Natalia Kubesch: “The fact that nationals of friendly countries avoid sanction gives a message of hypocrisy and that some lives matter more than others.”

Sarah Teich, Michael Polak, Kevin Dent QC, Beatrice Travis (London Advocacy, Moderator) Natalia Kubesch

Key Points made in the event:

• The event covered case submissions made to the governments of the UK, US, and Canada, detailing first-hand accounts of torture present in Turkey.

• The UK has a close security and diplomatic relationship with its Turkish counterparts. Turkey is a NATO member, a formal ally of Britain and has been a member of the Council of Europe since 1950. Turkey is also a close trade partner to Britain, with the UK being the second biggest importer of goods from Turkey.

• This context creates significant diplomatic sensitivities, impacting the UK government’s willingness to impose targeted human rights sanctions Turkish officials, in the fear that it could jeopardise future relations. Instead, the UK’s
government’s preference to date has been to raise any concerns pertaining to the human rights situations in Turkey bilaterally, at the ministerial level on an ad hoc basis.

• The case of Turkey demonstrates that even established democracies face the risk of sliding into authoritarianism and instability if they fail to confront emerging abuses and allies to do not hold them to account.

• There is a demand for action from governments who are yet to respond despite it being nearly two years since submissions to the UK and Canada:

• These sanctions are about visa arrangements and asset freezing.

• Sanctions can also provide an important symbolic form of accountability by expressly recognising the harm suffered by victims and calling out perpetrators for their involvement in the abuses: sanctions can convey strong signs of disapproval by condoning, and explicitly demanding changes, to the
targeted individuals’ or entities’ behaviour. Specifically, sanctions enable states to send a statement “that this will not stand”, deterring others from engaging in similar conduct.

systematic-torture-turkey
Human Rights DefendersReportsYoutube

An animated film of the ‘Systematic torture in Turkey’ report was shot

 

The report on the systematic torture of dissidents by state agents in Turkey has been turned into an animated film. Human Rights Solidarity (HRS) and London Advocacy (LA) have produced short animated films based on the report on the systematic torture of opposition groups in Turkey. One of the videos, posted on HRS’s YouTube channel, tells women being tortured, while the other shows men being tortured.

The report, entitled “Systematic torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in places of detention in Turkey”, was published last February and submitted to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in March. The report reveals the widespread use of torture by Turkish law enforcement since 15 July 2016, when the fundamental rights and freedoms of Turkish citizens were put on the back burner.

You can access the videos by clicking on the links below: 

A Female Victim Statement                       A Male Victim Statement