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:
Freedom of Expression
Freedom of Assembly
Discrimination based on Caste
Human rights violations against Kashmiris
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
We came together for the second time in Strasbourg to reiterate our call for justice against rights violations in Turkey. Nearly 3 thousand people who have been subjected to rights violations in Turkey met in Strasburg, France, where the European Court of Human Rights and the Council of Europe are located, and demanded urgent justice.
The second ‘Strasbourg Justice Meeting’ and ‘justice march’, the first of which was organised last year, was held today. The march protested against the silence of European political structures and legal institutions in the face of rights violation applications from Turkey.
Organised by a number of European human rights organisations including Human Rights Solidarity, the demonstration included a concert and various theatrical performances. Jeremy Corbyn, the former leader of the Labour Party in the UK, also made a speech on the stage, supporting the protesters and criticising the ECHR for delaying its decisions. Famous NBA player and activist Enes Kanter and Norwegian theologian Dag Aakre took the stage and expressed their demands for justice.
Approximately 3 thousand people who left Turkey due to severe human rights violations they suffered in Turkey for about 10 years gathered on All de la Robertsau Street, where the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the Council of Europe are located. Wearing yellow t-shirts and carrying yellow balloons and banners, the crowd expressed their demands for justice in front of the Council of Europe and the ECHR buildings after 12.00 pm. “Justice delayed is not justice! Victims are here, where is the court?” they chanted. Since no one from the Council of Europe greeted them, the victims left a letter with their demands at the door. The group then continued their march and stopped in front of the ECHR to present their letters to the officials of the institution.
LETTER TO THREE IMPORTANT EUROPEAN NAMES
Yasemin Aydın and Rumi Unal, representatives of the Peacefull Actions Platform, which represents hundreds of thousands of people whose rights have been violated, presented a letter addressed to three names holding important positions in European institutions. During the presentation of the letter, a theatrical performance was staged criticising the ECHR for issuing its judgements too late. A prison cell on wheels representing people who have been imprisoned for years also took place during the march.
The letter read as follows:
“Inhumane practices against all opposition groups in the country continue unabated. These widespread and systematic violations have been characterised as ‘crimes against humanity’ by the relevant UN bodies. Once again, no progress has been made on the more than three thousand educational institutions, thousands of legal associations and at least $32 billion in private assets confiscated after 15 July. Tens of thousands of women, the elderly, the sick and hundreds of babies under the age of six are still being held in prisons for political reasons. Dozens of people continue to be arrested on hollow charges on an almost daily basis. The hope of thousands of people systematically subjected to gross human rights violations is that the Council of Europe and the ECtHR, which have the authority to take binding decisions on Turkey, will enforce the law. It is essential that these institutions take their legal position on these acts of crimes against humanity without further delay and fulfil their obligations immediately. We are grateful for some of the judgements of the ECtHR during this time, which have been a breath of fresh air for the victims of political repression. However, we expect the Court, as soon as possible, to stop ignoring the fact that more than half a million people are being persecuted simply for exercising their fundamental rights, such as subscribing to a newspaper, having a bank account or sending their children to legally operating schools, joining a religious chat group or using a mobile communication app.”
As in the previous year, this year, as well as foreign guests, people who have been subjected to rights violations in Turkey and their families made speeches at the Justice Gathering. Melek Cetinkaya, mother of Taha Furkan Cetinkaya, a military student who was released after 6 years in prison, lawyer Elif Buyukozturk, teacher Halit Tonbul, teacher Gonca Kara who lost her two children Gulsum and Mustafa in the Aegean Sea, academic Salih Hosoglu, Nesrin Kisi, wife of torture victim Zabit Kisi, were among the speakers.
This report reveals the extent to which the rights of minority and opposition groups have been violated after the disaster. South-eastern provinces of Turkey were hit by one of the deadliest natural disasters of human history on the 6th of February 2023. The affected region is dominantly inhabited by Kurds, Alevites and Syrian refugees — all traditionally discriminated against, or at least considered to be neglected populations in Turkey.
As a result, the earthquake exacerbated the existing social cleavages and made the existing injustices increasingly more visible.
Our report reveals particularly the extent to which the fundamental rights and freedoms of minority groups are violated in the post-disaster period.
You can read our information note on rights violations after the earthquake in Turkey in the section below:
We submitted our amendment proposals on the Implementation of the judgments of the ECHR: 11th draft report of the PACE. We are proud to announce our proposed amendments to the draft report on the Implementation of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights: 11th Report. We hope to make a contribution to the work of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe which is dedicated to upholding human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
Many people have been wrongfully accused, imprisoned, or oppressed in many parts of the world. Let’s say hi to them.
Dear human rights volunteer,
As you know, there are people in many countries who are persecuted and whose rights have been violated. Many of them live in prison or are subjected to isolation. Some of these people are Muslims. We want to show them that they are not forgotten and make them feel that they are not alone during the holy month of Ramadan and the Eid that will be celebrated at the end. We also want to thank the Muslim rights defenders who see the violations of rights in various parts of the world, who do not want to remain silent about these violations, who stand up against these injustices with all their might, and we want to support them with our messages so that they can continue and know that we value their work.
We believe that it will be more meaningful and valuable to do this with the contributions of valuable people like you who are devoted to human rights. We ask you to shoot a short video message for one of the victims we have listed and send it to us.
We will share your messages on our charity website and social media accounts and deliver them to the victims and their relatives. Feeling that they are right and knowing that there is someone in some corner of the world who cares about them will be the best ‘Eid gift’ for them.
Thank you very much in advance for your support and contribution.
Points to be considered when shooting:
Shooting vertically. It is important to shoot with the phone or recorder vertically.
If possible, place the phone or recorder in a fixed place.
Adjusting the frame to take the shot from the waist up.
The light should be in the front rather than the back, i.e. there should be no glass or windows in the back.
It is better to shoot in a quiet environment, and it is better to speak a little loudly.
The length of the video you will shoot can be between 20 seconds and 1 minute.
PEOPLE TO WHOM YOU CAN VIDEO MESSAGE
Hawagul Tewekkul: Uyghur. 50 years old, imprisoned at internment camps, reason not known.
Tajigul Tahir: Uyghur. 60 years old, imprisoned at internment camps, sent to the camp because her son was suspected of having ‘strong religious leanings’ because he declined to drink or smoke.
Rahile Omer: Uyghur. 15 years old girl, the youngest person detained – she was 15 at the time, imprisoned at internment camps, reason not known.
Anihan Hamit: Uyghur. 73 years old, imprisoned at internment camps, reason not known.
Tursun Kadir: Uyghur. 58 years old, imprisoned at internment camps, was jailed for 16 years and 11 months for ‘growing a beard under the influence of religious extremism’.
Tursun Memetimin and Ashigul Tutghun: Uygur. Imprisoned at internment camps, reason: having listened to a banned lecture on someone else’s mobile phone six years earlier.
Ahmadreza Djalali: An Iranian-Swedish researcher and lecturer who was arrested in Iran in 2016 and sentenced to death on charges of espionage.
Narges Mohammadi: An Iranian human rights activist and journalist who was arrested in 2015 and sentenced to 16 years in prison for her work with the Centre for Human Rights Defenders.
Raif Badawi: A jailed Saudi Arabian blogger and Ensaf Haidar who has been campaigning for her husband’s release and advocating for human rights in Saudi Arabia.
Waleed Abu al-Khair: A Saudi Arabian human rights lawyer who was arrested in 2014 and sentenced to 15 years in prison for his work on human rights issues in Saudi Arabia.
Amal Fathy: An Egyptian human rights defender and feminist who was arrested in 2018 and sentenced to two years in prison on charges of spreading false news and insulting the state.
Nuriye Gülmen: A Turkish teacher and human rights defender who was arrested in 2017 and charged with membership in a terrorist organization.
Semih Özakça: A Turkish teacher and human rights defender who was arrested in 2017 and charged with membership in a terrorist organization.
Veli Acu: A Turkish human rights defender who was arrested in 2016 and charged with membership in a terrorist organization
Hidayet Karaca: A Turkish media executive and businessman who was arrested in 2014 and charged with being a member of the Gülen movement.
Ali Ünal: Turkey. Zaman news columnist.
Ali Ahmet Böken: Turkey. Former TRT News Coordinator
Mehmet Baransu: Kurdish journalist and author from
Sharjeel Imam: Indian activist languishes in jail for a speech.
Umar Khalid: An Indian activist, arrested for exercising his right to free speech.
Humaira Yusuf: Afghan human rights defender, arrested in Afghanistan.
Khurram Parvez: Kashmiri rights activist, jailed by India.
Haleema Saroor: For thirteen years I worked on various projects aimed at uplifting the situation of women in Helmand, Afghanistan.
Sara Seerat: Afghan, lives in the UK. I am in charge of the Social and Cultural Institute of Women with a Mission, head the Association of Women Journalists, a Member of the Youth Parliament, and an Honorary Lecturer at the University of Al-Biruni.
Marzia Rustami: As the Manager of the Afghan Women’s Network in Kunduz, my work on women’s rights is multi-faceted but I focus a lot on the capacity building projects I conduct to empower women. Along with other human rights defenders in the area, I promote women’s rights and social justice, encourage women on political participation and engage in local government, and to work on key, decision making positions in the government and private organisations.
Aqila Nawrozi: As a human rights defender, I have worked in various roles to support women in Daikundi. As a focal point of Afghan Women Network, I tried to lobby for improving the status of women in Daikundi coordinating with governmental and non-governmental organizations. I also worked as a deputy of Social Council, deputy of the Development Council Secretary of the Advisory Board of Neli, an Organisation that works with the Municipality.
Zarqa Yaftali: Afghan, lives in the UK. I’m the Director of the Women and Children Legal Research Foundation. I have more than 12 years of experience working as a Women and Children’s Rights Defender and am also a member of various national civil society organisations and advocacy committees, including the Board of Women Defenders Regional Network, and Secretariat of the Civil Society Joint Task Force.
Gul Makai Sultanzada: As a lawyer by profession, I have faced many challenges, including receiving written warnings from the Taliban and senior government officials because of my work on human rights. I fight battles with the Taliban almost every day and am known for resolving issues with them. I believe that 40% of human rights violations occur in Kandahar due to illiteracy and patriarchy.
Zahra Karamat: I am one of the few activists in Herat who has travelled to the farthest corners of the province, trying to engage with women and men who are not enjoying even their basic human rights. It’s a struggle to fight injustices and discrimination, but do I hope that we do not encounter challenges significant enough to push us back, and to continue with the work, to uplift the situation of women in Afghanistan.
Arzoo Nizam: I myself was a victim of several restrictions women in Afghanistan face when my family didn’t allow me to get a job. But today, in addition to being the Deputy Director of the Organization of Afghan Women Capacity and Knowledge, which works on women’s capacity building and elimination of violence against women, I’m also working as a defense attorney for the last ten years. I take special interest in individual cases, visit homes of women who are victims, speak to the men in their families and, at times with the help of the Directorate of Women’s Affairs, try to raise awareness on women’s rights and resolve disputes.
Maria Raheen: Afghan. I am the director of the Journalism and Mass Communication Unit at Balkh University. I also head a non-governmental organization that works on human rights. For 20 years, as a women’s rights activist, I have pushed to address issues that prevent women from accessing their rights, not only in Balkh but also in other neighbouring provinces such as Samangan, Jowzjan and Faryab.
Khawar Amiri: I am the Head of the Literacy Department of the Directorate of Education in Khost Province and have worked for many years as a mediator for women’s issues. As most women of Khost Province are illiterate, and some districts are yet to establish schools for girls, through the Literacy Department, I have conducted courses for women and girls above the age of 14 to enable their basic reading and writing skills. As a well-known human rights defender, I have worked in solving many of women’s issues through the Committee on Elimination of Violence against Women and tribal Jirgas (councils), with help of the police.
Kainat Ahmad: Afghan, lives in the UK. On the day Malala was shot by the Taliban in 2012, Kainat was sitting next to her on the bus and was also wounded by the blow. The two are still good friends to this day after surviving the attack. Refusing to let fear stop her, Kainat now studies in the UK and hopes to become a doctor. She is a firm believer in the power of education and urges young girls to continue their mission to get one.
Malala: Afghan, lives in the UK. She is currently one of the most powerful advocates for education in the world and has become the voice of the more than 60 million girls deprived of education worldwide.
Manal al-Sharif: Saudi Arabia. She has campaigned for women’s rights in Saudi Arabia for many years. In opposition to the country’s restrictions on women drivers, she filmed herself driving a car and uploaded it to YouTube and Facebook. The video marked the beginning of what is now known as the “Women2Drive” campaign.
Gulfisha Fatima: In prison, India. She is a student woman human rights Defender in India. She was actively involved in the women-led protest in Seelampur in North East Delhi against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). She works to raise awareness among local women about the CAA and is a strong voice for secular constitutional principles.
Sharjeel Imam: In prison, India. He is a human rights defender and student at the Jawarhalal Nehru University in India. The defender has been a vocal critic of the Citizenship Amendment Act and has been in the forefront of the protests against the sectarian and divisive Act.
Meeran Haider: He is a human rights defender and student at the Jamia Millia Islamia University. He is a a member of the Jamia Coordination Committee, which organized anti-Citizenship Amendment Act protests in Delhi in December 2019. On June 26, 2020, several UN experts called for the release of ur-Rehman and other protestors, saying that their arrests seem “clearly designed to send a chilling message…that criticism of government policies will not be tolerated.”
Shifa ur Rehman: He is a human rights defender and the President of the alumni association of Jamia Milia Islamia University. The defender has been a vocal critic of the Citizenship Amendment Act and has been in the forefront of the protests against the sectarian and divisive Act. On June 26, 2020, several UN experts called for the release of ur-Rehman and other protestors, saying that their arrests seem “clearly designed to send a chilling message… that criticism of government policies will not be tolerated.”
Ghassan Halaika: He is a Palestinian field researcher and human rights defender. His phone was hacked with NSO group’s Pegasus software and later he was arrested by the occupation forces, declared a terrorist for defending the rights of Palestinian children.
Ubai Al-Aboudi: Executive Director of Bisan Center for Research and Development and is a researcher in the field of socio-economic rights. He is also the editor-in-chief of Al-Taqadomi (the progressive) a pier reviewed journal on development in Arabic. Ubai has been arrested by both Israel and the Palestinian Authority on fabricated charges. He was subject to Pegasus spyware.
Tawakkol Karman: A Yemeni journalist, was the first woman to win the Nobel Peace Prize from the Arab world. Tawakkol is another amazing young woman who has persevered in the face of violence. She is known for her nonviolent work to secure the safety of women and her struggle for women’s rights in Yemen. During the beginnings of the Arab Spring, Tawakkol’s voice became a common sound over the loudspeaker in Yemen’s Change Square, where she urged Yemeni youth to stand up against human rights abuses. To many she is known as the “Mother of the Revolution.”
Shirin Ebadi: Iran. She was one of the first female judges in Iran and is known for her efforts to promote the rights of women, children, and political prisoners in the country. Although she was dismissed from her Chief Justice status during the Islamic Revolution, she clawed her way back to a position that could defend the rights of others. She became a lawyer, opened her own private practice, and established a campaign demanding an end to legal discrimination against women in Iranian LAW.
Hawa Abdi: This remarkable woman is known for running a hospital and refugee camp throughout Somalia’s long civil war, sheltering hundreds of thousands and saving many lives. When Islamic militants kidnapped her and ransacked her hospital, she managed to convince them to let her go and issue a written apology.
Safia El-Aaddam: She has campaigned against institutional racism and has written a novel.
Ayisha Siddhiqa: She is a Pakistani human rights and environmental advocate. She is the co-creator of the Fossil Free University and Polluters Out, which aims to educate climate acti̇vi̇sts.
Hajer Sharief: She is a peace and human rights activist from Libya. She has promoted the participation of women and youth in peacebuilding efforts in her country.
Chaimaa Boukharsa: She is a decolonial and feminist activist, with studies in Arabic and Islamic philology and cultural diversity. Boukharsa is also coordinator of the Afrocolectiva media outlet. It organizes various debates, podcasts, workshops and training on racism, migration, discrimination and feminist.
Masih Alinejad: She is an Iranian activist and journalist. Currently, she lives in exile in the United
Fatima Aatar: Morocco, lives in the USA. She is a Muslim feminist, political activist and anthropologist, the daughter of Moroccan
We present to the PACE the report we prepared on the widespread and systematic torture of opposition groups in Turkey. We are delighted to announce the submission of our report “Systemic torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in places of detention in Turkey”, to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe. The report demonstrates the extent to which torture has been put into practice by Turkish law enforcement since 15 July 2016, when the fundamental rights and freedoms of Turkish citizens were put on the back burner. We hope that our report will be helpful for the drafting process of the report entitled “Allegations of systemic torture and inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in places of detention in Council of Europe member States” which will be voted on by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).