“The Draft Law on Establishment of Human Rights Council of Turkey” that has been prepared secretly from everyone and us in other words in a manner that is contrary to the UN Paris Principles Must be Withdrawn Immediately!

We have learned that the Government has prepared “the Draft Law on Establishment of Human Rights Council of Turkey” when the spokesperson of the Government, Mr. Cemil Cicek, had a press conference on 18 May 2009.

In fact it is the third attempt of the Government to establish a “National Human Rights Council” that has highly important role regarding protection and promotion of human rights in Turkey since 2004.

The last two attempts were criticized by our organizations as the Government has not asked opinions and thoughts of our organizations and the public opinion but prepared it in a manner of fait accompli.

We face a similar situation today. Our organizations, which work hard to protect and promote human rights despite difficulties for many years in our country, have not been informed about the draft law that has been approved by the Council of Ministers.

Mr. Cicek in the press conference explained the ground of the draft law with the following sentence in summary “The EU progress reports wish establishment of an autonomous council. Not having such a council is considered as failure.” This statement has made us to think that establishment of the Council is carried out in an unwilling but as a homework for the EU within the framework of the negotiated reforms.

We are not wrong for thinking in this way. Many activities, regulations of the Government in the field of human rights were done without asking opinions and recommendations of the human rights organizations and experts, discussing alternative options and respecting for international standards and principles but to convince EU that there is progress in the field human rights and in a manner that does not cause unnecessary problems.

In this period, as a result of this mentality, many human rights unit have been established in Turkey. Some of them can be listed as “Province and District Human Rights Boards” and “Human Rights Advisory Board” whose activities were stopped in a contrary manner to the law.

However all human rights units, including the abovementioned boards, established in Turkey are too problematic in terms of both their composition and activity fields and are contrary to the Paris Principles that is the most important measurement in this issue. In other words none of these organizations has been designed to overcome the contradiction regarding persons, who violate human rights in our country, must be the protector of the human rights.

For example; although there are many people from administration hierarchy ve gendarmerie and police forces, which are main responsible for human rights violations, the participation of people from non-governmental organizations, which work in the field of human rights, is not in the desired level in the “Province and District Human Rights Boards”. This reality has been proved by the following statements from the Human Rights Reports 2007 by the Human Rights Presidency “Although in accordance with the provisions of the Regulation there must be at least 3 non-governmental organizations in the board, there is only 1 non-governmental organization in some provinces. (…) In addition to that most of the non-governmental organizations in the Boards are not directly related with human rights. It is not so clear that how some of the NGOs in the Boards can make contributions to the human rights field….”.

On the other hand “Human Rights Advisory Board”, which has been established to give advice as it is understood from its name, has been asked only once to express its opinion about evaluation of the EU Accession Report within the context of human rights and political criteria on 08.12.2003. Due to their opinion in the report “Minority and Cultural Rights Report” the president of the Advisory Board, Prof. ?brahim Kaboglu, and the president of the sub-commission, prof. Bask?n Oran, were tried in accordance with “inciting hatred and enmity” and “humiliation of the courts authority” and the prosecutor asked 5 years imprisonment against them.

“Human Rights Advisory Board” has not held a meeting for about five years. In fact this shows, without considering the abovementioned problems, the Government’s attitude towards the issue.

As it is known “Principles Relating to the Status and Functioning of National Institutions for
Protection and Promotion of Human Rights”, which is called as “Paris Principles” and endorsed by the Commission on Human Rights in March 1992 (resolution 1992/54) and by the General Assembly in its resolution A/RES/48/134 of 20 December 1993, are the principles that aim to guarantee autonomous position of national human rights organizations, which are established to work in the field of human rights and fight against discrimination, from the State’s other agencies and the political power.

We do not know that how much these principles are recognized by the Government in the last draft law, which was prepared secretly. However, on the basis of our experience in the past, we do not think that it is a competent draft in accordance with the principles. Moreover we have concerns as the draft law was prepared without consulting to anyone.

The “Human Rights Council of Turkey” must;

* be independent in terms of finance and staff;
* guarantee job security to its staff;
* clearly identify its criteria of appointment, membership and membership compositions;
* have authority of arbitrary and limitless visit;
* be accountable to the public opinion via its reports;
* have authority to make recommendations;
* provide high level participation of non-governmental organizations that are active in the field of human rights;
* prevent the administration from right to vote even if it will be represented in the council.

Otherwise, “Human Rights Council of Turkey” will not be different from the current human rights board and agencies that are problematic and functionless. Moreover an important human rights agency, which will be addressee for international community will be wasted for limited political interests.

In short the Government makes all decisions about the establishment and authorities of such an agency, which has has highly important role for protection and promotion of human rights in Turkey, by itself in a contrary manner to the Paris Principles. The Government is trying to make the issue more vague by opening this issue to discussion in an international meeting titled as “Alliances of Civilizations: International Human Rights” that will be held on 22 May 2009 by the Human Rights Presidency. It is an unacceptable situation for our organizations that work to establish respect for human rights and democracy in our country. This draft law, which was hidden from everyone and us, must be withdrawn immediately. Finally, we will take part in process so as not to be a means of this anti-democratic implementation, which can be considered also as a human rights violation in broad context, of the Government.

Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly
Human Rights Association
The Association of Human Rights and Solidarity for Oppressed People
Human Rights Foundation of Turkey
Amnesty International-Turkey

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