Deputy PM and gov’t spokesperson Numan Kurtulmuş has shared with the press the cabinet decree on the establishment of the “Human Rights and Equality Institution of Turkey”, an issue on the agenda of the cabinet during its 11 January 2016 meeting. Noting that the institution was taken up in the scope of a “package”, gov’t spokesperson pointed out that having been designed as a “condition for visa exemption” the said institution would be created for the purpose of “preventing torture” alongside with “countering potential rights violations based on discrimination in access to economic and social rights one may run into in the public or private sector” and added that it will never “interfere with the legislative, executive and the judiciary”. We are not aware of the content of the text since such an effort/study has never been imparted with the public opinion, in any format, until today. It is noted that the text has been “fine-tuned as a result of detailed work” and “will be referred to the TGNA in the following days”. Therefore, concerning this statement of the gov’t spokesperson, which ended up solely with his words “May it be auspicious for Turkey”, we are now sharing our views with the public opinion as to why his wish for “auspiciousness” will not be so:
- Pursuant to the Principles relating to the Status of National Institutions Established for the Development and Protection of Human Rights (Paris Principles), civil society participation is compulsory in the preparatory work thereof. As such, it is foreseen for the State to transfer the responsibility of the inspection of its own actions to an institution, whose “structural, functional, and financial independence has been guaranteed” as explicitly set out, again, in the Paris Principles. Therefore the civil society, as the guarantor of such independence, has been positioned as an imperative element of the preparatory process. Hence the exclusion of the civil society in the preparations, per se, means declaration of the invalidity of this new institution at the onset.
- In the philosophy of a Human Rights Institution lies the qualification to interfere for the sake of preventing those actions of the legislative, executive and the judiciary which are in breach of human rights; such institutions also are in a protective position as regards the remedying of violations. The statements of the spokesperson with regard to the announced Institution means the acceptance of the fact that the said Institution will not be assuming any functions different from already existing institutions that bear no weight in the protection of human rights. Moreover, it delivers the concern that the said Institution would create a structure which will be more harmful with regard to the protection and development of human rights.
- Torture is inflicted [by] public authorities or private persons or professionals accompanying them with the aim of degrading, punishing or deterring the “detainee” or making him to confess or getting information out of him. On the other hand, it defines the instances comprising also of the use or misuse of techniques of “public authority and trust” as well. In this sense, the international community, which has developed the aim of preventing torture by way of granting the authority to conduct un-notified visits to detention centers, has also created the OPCAT-UN Optional Protocol to the convention against Torture. Turkey, too, has ratified the said convention and the optional protocol thereof and put them into force. The National Prevention Mechanism which has been foreseen according to OPCAT, has been vested as a duty on the Human Rights Institution of Turkey, which is even unable to undertake its own function. Since 2004 as the human rights organisation we have defended that a national prevention mechanism, as a totally separate structure and maintaining its independence and efficiency in line with the Convention, should be established. The Council of Ministers with its new activity combines an already non-existent function with other functions which cannot be fulfilled, thus raises concerns that it adds to its initiatives which have turned into structures that have been totally drained under “human rights institutions” for years and consequently became detrimental for the environment of human rights.
- Abolishment of the “Bill on Anti-discrimination and Equality Law” which has remained in the website of the Ministry of Interior for six years, without operating any processes of consultation, refraining from drafting a comprehensive, integrated and sincere bill on anti-discrimination, further strengthens our criticism and concerns that there is no agenda supporting the protection of human rights and equality principles. As a matter of fact, this is a step taken for the sake of securing the negotiation for lifting the visa requirements, which constitutes discrimination and restriction of the right to travel, and extending the visa exemption, which apparently raises serious concerns about the “reputability” of the institution.
- It is a position, prepared behind closed doors, taken up within a package and which the government intended to present as a reform yet which does not attach any importance to the reputation of this kind of an institution, which emerged in exchange of the visa exemption. It is an expression of mentality for the prevention of human rights violations and it has lost its reputability even before it emerged and has been doomed to become an insignificant and ordinary institution.
What is really “for the good of” Turkey is to cease the violation of human rights. The Bill which has been apparently prepared without providing any information to the entire public opinion, should be withdrawn. We deem it beneficial to remind that other Institutions which have been equipped with the functions of human rights institutions should also break their silence.
We would like to note that we will share the above-mentioned views with all international organisations and Committees.
SIGNATORY HUMAN RIGHTS ORGANISATIONS
Human Rights Foundation of Turkey (TİHV), Human Rights Association (İHD), Association of Human Rights and Solidarity with the Oppress (Mazlum Der), Helsinki Citizens Assembly (HYD), Human Rights Agenda Association (İHGD), Human Rights Studies Association (İHAD), Amnesty International Turkey Branch (UAÖ Türkiye)