Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly – Human Rights Association – Organization of Human Rights and Solidarity with Oppressed People
“no one shall be subjected to punishment or adverse action of any kind for refusing” violations of human rights and freedoms
“UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders”
Article 10, 8 December 1998
Today, we are in Izmir Assize Court to monitor the court case against Lawyer Nalan Erkem, a member of the Izmir Bar Association, and a very long-term defender of human rights and freedoms.
Nalan Erkem has been an active member of the “Torture Prevention Group” which has been established within Izmir Bar Association, but then closed down because of the changes in the administration of the Bar. She is now being tried for “misconduct in Office,” because she publicly disclosed the existence of torture and mistreatment of children held at the local Buca prison.
Prevention of torture is a core responsibility of the government. This responsibility brings negative and positive obligations to the governments. While negative obligation indicates a total ban on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; the positive obligation includes permanent and regular monitoring of possible places for these kinds of acts, sharing the information with the public, and prevention. Moreover, positive obligation also includes effective investigation of claims, prosecution of the responsible persons, and effective punishment of perpetrators if they are found guilty. On the other hand, the practice in Turkey and particularly this case we monitor today reveals an absolute contrast with what should happen. A human rights defender, fighting against torture, is before the court, because she said ”torture exists here” based on a report prepared by independent lawyers who interviewed with victimized children. On the other hand, there is no court case against the officials in Buca Prison despite the claims of the children in Buca Prison, claims which are referred in proceedings and report of the Torture Prevention Group of Izmir Bar Association. Also, no report concerning this case has been publicized by the Ministry of Justice.
As a morally binding document, Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, adopted by the UN General Assembly on 8 December 1998, states the following in its Article 6:
Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others:
(a) To know, seek, obtain, receive and hold information about all human rights and fundamental freedoms, including having access to information as to how those rights and freedoms are given effect in domestic legislative, judicial or administrative systems;
(b) As provided for in human rights and other applicable international instruments, freely to publish, impart or disseminate to others views, information and knowledge on all human rights and fundamental freedoms;
(c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters.
The Article 10 of the same Declaration, it is stated that “no one shall be subjected to punishment or adverse action of any kind for refusing” violations.
In this case, the core responsibility of the Ministry of Justice, which has allowed the local court to prosecute Lawyer Nalan Erkem, and the government is not to allege persons trying to eliminate torture in Turkey with “misconduct in Office,” but rather to develop mechanisms to totally eliminate torture in collaboration with individuals and institutions perceiving the fight against torture as a social responsibility.
According to us, this court case is a barrier against the protection and promotion of Human rights and freedoms and it also is an expression of insincerity of government in its the slogan of “Zero Tolerance for Torture.” As Human rights organizations, we invite all the judiciary, executive, and legislative bodies to implement the Human rights law and also to fulfill the responsibility regarding the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders as an international Human rights document.
HELSINKI CITIZENS’ ASSEMBLY
HUMAN RIGHTS ASSOCIATION
ORGANIZATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS AND SOLIDARITY FOR OPPRESSED PEOPLE