Our report ‘Preventing and Combating Violence against Women with Disabilities in the UK, EU and Turkey’ is submitted to PACE. We are proud to submit our report on “Preventing and Combating Violence against Women with Disabilities in the UK, EU and Turkey” to the Committee on Equality and Anti-Discrimination in the PACE and UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls. This comprehensive report aims to shed light on the pressing issue of violence against women with disabilities in different countries.
The report, which has been meticulously compiled through rigorous research and consultation, underscores the urgent need for measures to address and eliminate the violence faced by women with disabilities. It highlights the unique challenges they encounter and provides recommendations to the PACE on policy frameworks, awareness campaigns, and support systems.
We firmly believe that this report will contribute significantly to advancing the dialogue and actions surrounding this critical issue within PACE and beyond.
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.
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).
We submitted our letter to the European authorities expressing our concerns about the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey.
The letter expresses our concerns about the elections to be held on May 14, 2023. It has been sent to the following authorities: Secretary General of the Council of Europe, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Council for Democratic Elections of the Venice Commission.
An election with unprecedented importance is forthcoming in Turkey. The next Turkish presidential and parliamentary election will take place on 14 May 2023. Besides the debate about whether Erdogan can be a candidate under the Turkish constitution, numerous worrying allegations about the credibility of the elections are frequently being raised in these last days, with less than 50 days before the elections.
As a matter of fact, the German government believes that it is difficult to speak of a fair and free electoral environment in Turkey because of the anti-democratic steps taken in the run-up to the elections. In recent years, Erdoğan has gained unprecedented control over Turkey’s institutions, from the courts to the central bank, and has repeatedly used those powers to manipulate the electoral system in his favour. In March 2022, Erdogan changed the country’s electoral laws in a way that could politicize the oversight of vote counts. Furthermore, all current members of the Supreme Electoral Board were appointed by Erdogan himself. Remembering the fact that the Supreme Electoral Board cancelled the 2019 mayoral election for Istanbul at the request of the ruling AKP, makes Erdogan’s influence over the board more worrying.
Frank Schwabe, head of the PACE Election Observation Mission to Turkey, does not believe that Turkey can ensure democratic environment during the election period. He emphasized the recent reports of the different authorities in the Council of Europe revealing that Turkey is sliding away from the values of a democratic society.
Fraud allegations in Turkish elections are not new at all. In the last elections, the referendum in 2017 and the general election in 2018, allegations of voting fraud in polling stations were brought to the fore by many national and international organizations that were actively monitoring the elections. Opposition parties and Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) criticized the results of the referendum because of the validation of 1.5–2.5 million unstamped ballots by the Supreme Election Board. In addition to legalizing unstamped ballots, the relocation of ballot boxes could also enable the AKP to manipulate results to its benefit—together with other means such as reconfiguring the ethnic makeup of some predominately Kurdish southeastern regions and the use of intimidation. As highlighted in the report of the International Crisis Group, these ballot box relocations can potentially discourage voters who may be reluctant to travel to a neighbouring village associated with a rival Kurdish clan. A. Hunko, German parliamentarian, who was in the election observation mission of the Council of Europe, affirmed that he had been detained by the police in southeastern Turkey and he had never experienced this situation in his previous 15 such missions across the world. He clearly said that the referendum in 2017 was not a free or a fair election. The forensic analysis demonstrates the veracity of allegations on the systematic and highly significant statistical support for the presence of both ballot stuffing and voter rigging.
Cevheri Guven, an exiled journalist in Germany, likewise claims that 2,5 million ballots without stamps had been added and admitted in the last presidential election. Above all, he continues to say that there is a strong probability that Erdogan can do the same thing in this election. In his YouTube video, which reached 1 million views in 2 days, He explains in detail how the ballots would be stolen during the elections.
Overall, Human Rights Solidarity calls on the relevant authorities of the Council of Europe to take the necessary measures to ensure that the next presidential and parliamentary elections take place in accordance with democratic standards.
 Article 101 of the Turkish Constitution clearly affirms that “…The term of office of the President is five years. A person may be elected President of the Republic at most twice.”. Erdogan have been already elected twice. Hence, whether he can be candidate is very questionable. Academics in constitutional law insist that he cannot be candidate under the constitution. (Anayasa hukukçuları: Erdoğan yeniden aday olamaz – DW – 19.01.2023)
As we approach International Women’s Day (8 March) this year, the theme of women’s equality is more urgent than ever. We have witnessed in the last year a backlash against women’s and girls’ rights and gender equality almost all over the world. We must come together as a global community to address the many challenges and injustices faced by women around the world if we want to attain our global goals of sustainable development and universal peace.
The COVID-19 crisis had already exacerbated pre-existing gender-based discrimination and violence. The world is yet to recover from the economic recession and change in employment practices that had a negative impact on women’s rights.
The recent Taliban takeover in Afghanistan has had a devastating impact on the rights and freedoms of women in the country. Women are being forced to stay at home and their access to education and healthcare is severely limited. Initial reports suggest that some 16 per cent of the women have lost their jobs after the takeover. The situation of women lawyers is particularly concerning as they are being hunted down by former prisoners released by the Taliban regime. It is our duty to stand in solidarity with these women and call for their rights to be protected and upheld.
In Iran, the ‘lift the veil’ movement has highlighted the systematic oppression of women in the country. The Iranian regime has been responsible for the deaths of many girls who have spoken out against the oppressive laws that restrict their freedom. Almost 1000 girls have been poisoned by toxic gas in Iran since the beginning of the protest, in what many believe is a deliberate attempt to force their schools to shut down and prevent the girls from reaching out to the public with their demands. We must demand that the Iranian government respect the rights of women and girls and take immediate action to stop these atrocities.
The Turkish government’s human rights record was already at the lowest of its history and much lower than any acceptable standard in a democratic society. Official statistics suggest that between 2015 and 2021, 97,721 women were tried under the anti-terrorism laws of Turkey, 24,945 of whom received prison sentences. Turkey’s antiterrorism laws are reportedly used to silence opposition in the country. Turkey’s prisons are overcrowded and women inmates are subjected to various forms of inhuman treatment, including sexual harassment, naked body search and psychological torture. Turkey’s resile from the Istanbul Convention encouraged impunity for crimes against women. Only in 2022, 334 women were killed by men and only a minimal number of these cases were solved.
The recent earthquake in Turkey and Syria has once again shown that women and children are often the real victims of natural or manmade disasters. There are already signs that the regime is discouraging civilian initiatives to participate and independently control the rehabilitation efforts. Access to social media has already been restricted in various locations. When an already authoritarian regime restricts participation and communication, there is enough reason to be concerned. The international community must put pressure on the Turkish government to ensure that women and girls of vulnerable populations are provided due support and resources they need to rebuild their lives.
In Ukraine, the ongoing conflict has had a particularly devastating impact on women. UN’s Refugee Agency’s figures suggest that 80 per cent of the displaces 8.3 million Ukrainians are women and girls. These women are often the targets of violence and sexual abuse and are left to bear the brunt of the war’s consequences. We must do everything in our power to support the women of Ukraine and ensure their voices are heard.
We must not forget the impact that western restrictions on immigration are having on women. Many women are being forced to leave their homes and families behind in search of a better life, only to face discrimination and hardship in their new countries. Even when the immigration stories that hit the newspaper headlines are about men, there are silent women and girls that will suffer the repercussions of those stories, unheard and unaided. We must call on governments to do more to support these women and provide them with the resources they need to thrive.
Women and girls lag behind by means of enjoying the developments in new technologies. The digital gap is wider for women and they are the victims of new forms of online violence and harassment. It is essential to ensure that new technologies incorporate a human rights-first approach and prioritise the protection of women and girls in their platforms.
In conclusion, as we celebrate International Women’s Day this year, let us remember that women’s equity is not a privilege, but a fundamental human right. Let us realize we cannot achieve gender equality without eradicating gender-based violence. Let us understand that with half of its population left behind, no society can reach its full potential.
We must stand together and demand that governments and other institutions take immediate action to address the many challenges and injustices faced by women around the world. Only then can we build a more just and equitable world for all.
Cross Party Joint Letter calling the UK government to make human rights as a condition of improved relations with Turkey
DATE: 11 May 2021
PLACE: Online Campaign
COMMITTEE: Write for Rights
Human Rights Solidarity organized a Write Your MP campaign to support the Cross Party Joint Letter launched by Crispin Blunt MP and Hilary Benn MP, calling on the UK government to make human rights as a precondition for improving economic and political relations with Turkey. We invited our volunteers all around the UK to write letters to their members of parliament, encouraging them to undersign the joint letter. When the letter was finally sent to the then Secretary of State for Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Affairs Dominic Raab by the two co-organizers, the joint letter was signed by 53 members of the parliament.
HRS hopes that this important campaing will bring about further steps towards adoption of an ethical foreign policy by the UK government.
Human Rights Solidarity and LA has published “Politically Motivated Systematic Torture in Turkey and Its Survivors: Interviews with UK-Based Torture Survivors.”
Human Rights Solidarity (HRS) is a London-based agile and independent human rights organisation empowered by youth. We define ourselves, not with the injustices and human rights abuses we fight against but with the future, we want to build. Our hard work is determined by the desire to protect the rights of the generations to come. https://www.hrsolidarity.org/about-us/
Human rights Human rights , specifically torture and inhuman or degrading treatment (TIDT), have always been rife in Turkish society; however, since the July 2016 coup d’état attempt against the government of President Erdogan, these instances of TIDT have increased significantly. As a result, a striking number of Turkish citizens have been documented fleeing their homelands due to fear of prosecution and TIDT, many of whom have settled in the UK and the EU.
The report on Politically Motivated Systemic Torture in Turkey and Its Survivors by HRS analyses the international and national legal frameworks of TIDT with support from recent documentation of torture and inhuman treatment in Turkey in order to put forward London Advocacy’s Torture or Inhumane or Degrading Treatment Victims Support Project.
The victim support project gathered information through a questionnaire to 30 victims of torture and additional interviews with 10 of the 30 original participants. By demonstrating the United Nations General Assembly prohibition against torture, the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the 1984 Convention against Torture, the 1989 Convention of the Rights of the Child, and many more’s declarations and commitment to battling the existence of torture, this report frames the lack of aid and expulsion of torture in Turkey in a legal environment.
Examples of recent torture and inhuman treatment reports in Turkey further exemplify the existence of this human rights issue and back up our move to create a victim support project to raise awareness of the injustices and violations occurring in Turkey. The outcome and findings of the victim support project align with multiple previous documentation of TIDT in Turkey, directly overlapping with the CPT’s Turkey 2017 and 2019 reports.
The Torture Victims project functions as a research project to document and analyse the torture and inhumane or degrading treatment cases evidenced by newly arrived Turkish refugees in the UK after the 2016 coup.
Since 2016, those perceived as Gulenist and Kurdish are at high risk of accusations of terrorism-related charges, and hence torture and inhumane treatment.
All interviewees detailed overcrowding, lack of sufficient beds in police detention cells and prisons, ineffective legal aid, and insufficient access to food and water.
The majority of interviewees reported being detained and tortured by police multiple times.
Turkey is a party to ICCPR, the 1984 UN Convention against Torture, the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child, the 1950 European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, and the 1987 European Convention for the Prevention of Torture and Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, yet torture in Turkey continuously goes unpunished.
Torture incidents are not being accurately investigated.
The accounts of the interviewees overlap with previously reported cases of TIDT in international documents and national entities (see Ankara Bar and Medical Association and CPT 2017 and 2019 Turkey reports)
Between June 2016 and June 2022, over 5100 individuals have applied for asylum in the UK from Turkey, with an additional approximation of 110,000 individuals applying for asylum in the EU between 2016 and 2021.
Several victims who were encouraged to fill out the short survey during seminars did not and did not respond to our calls for face-to-face interviews due to anxiety over repercussions from the Turkish government.
TABLE OF CONTENT
CHAPTER I: INTRODUCTION
CHAPTER II: INTERNATIONAL & NATIONAL LEGAL FRAMEWORK ON TORTURE, or INHUMANE or DEGRADING TREATMENT (TIDT
CHAPTER III: RECENT REPORTS DOCUMENTING WIDESPREAD TORTURE AND INHUMANE TREATMENT IN TURKEY
CHAPTER IV: UK-BASED TURKISH TORTURE OR INHUMANE OR DEGRADING TREATMENT VICTIMS SUPPORT PROJECT
CHAPTER V: DATA ANALYSIS OF THE SURVEY (QUESTIONNAIRE)
CHAPTER VI: ANALYSIS OF INTERVIEWS
CHAPTER VII: CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS
A Sample Table from Report: Physical Effects of Torture, Inhumane and Degrading Treatment
Human Rights Solidarity will continue to value communication with our stakeholders, including readers of the report. If you have any inquiries regarding the contents of the report, please contact us at
Strasbourg protest was a joint protest among 24 organisations in Europe. The main goal of this protest was to let the European Court of Human Rights know that we are not holding back and not accepting them to blind their eyes to human rights abuses in Turkey.
Since 2016 European Court of Human Rights has barely decided cases on Turkey’s significant human rights violations. All the organisations there prepared a joint letter to the ECHR, and when the protest crowd reached the front ECHR, we wanted to give the joint letter to them and continue protesting till we went to the European council and council of Europe. A significant number of people, more than ten thousand, were there. They were all shouting and asking for justice.
The protest continued with a rally, where people who managed to escape from Turkey, family members of enforcedly disappeared people in Turkey, family members who died on the way from running from Turkey, and people who experienced prison and whose loved ones are in prison unjustly and more. They have asked to end this .
The mission of ECHR is to ‘raise the standards of protection of human rights and extending human rights jurisprudence throughout the community of the Convention States’. However, it has been evident since 2016 that Turkey has breached significant obligations under international law, including human rights. ECHR has stopped considering the cases, which was the point everyone raised at the protest.
The protest raised an issue and showed the ECHR, Council of Europe, and European Council that people are in tremendous suffering and justice needs to be addressed immediately.