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Turkey’s Min­istry of Jus­tice is work­ing on a num­ber of judi­cia­ry reforms in order to free approx­i­mate­ly 100 000 detainees, in order to avoid the prop­a­ga­tion of the Covid-19 virus inside prisons.

How­ev­er, these reforms will not include polit­i­cal pris­on­ers — not even those cur­rent­ly in pre­ven­tive cus­tody for so-called “ter­ror­ism” or “pro­pa­gan­da”, nor aged and/or ill pris­on­ers, nor moth­ers incar­cer­at­ed with their chil­dren. In oth­er words, thou­sands of vic­tims of the “purges” will not ben­e­fit from these measures.

Possibilities for Regrettable Jurisprudence

More­over, the pos­si­bil­i­ty that authors of crimes of vio­lence against women and chil­dren might be released has caused ten­sion in pub­lic opin­ion. “Even if sex crimes were not includ­ed in nor exempt from the sen­tence reduc­tions, the law should explic­it­ly say so”, Hacette­pe Uni­ver­si­ty Law School lec­tur­er Prof. Kadriye Bakır­cı said to Gazete Duvar. As with pre­vi­ous reforms, some pro­ce­dures could ben­e­fit authors of this type of crime. “Even a law with excep­tions can be over­looked by the Supreme Court on the grounds that it vio­lates the equal­i­ty clause of the Turk­ish Constitution”.

Having recourse to the “criterium of violence”

The Pres­i­dent of the Cen­ter for Human Rights of the Ankara Bar Asso­ci­a­tion, Kerem Altı­par­mak, also crit­i­cized to Birgün the  exclu­sion ofso-called crimes of “ter­ror­ism” from the many reforms to be sub­mit­ted to the Nation­al Assembly.

For the umpteenth time, he draws atten­tion to the fact that, in Turkey, the notion of “ter­ror­ism” is arbi­trary, impre­cise, and the rou­tine recourse to it results in seri­ous consequences:

A per­son who has nev­er in his or her life held a gun, who has done noth­ing oth­er than write books can be declared a “ter­ror­ist” and sen­tenced much more severe­ly than the indi­vid­u­als who have com­mit­ted vio­lences. We must refuse any mea­sure fur­ther exac­er­bat­ing this discrimination. 

In accor­dance with the deci­sions of the Court of Human Rights and oth­er inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions defend­ing human rights, my propo­si­tion is to stop the use of the arbi­trary and impre­cise notion of ‘ter­ror­ism” and an end to the sen­tences of those con­demned on these grounds under cur­rent con­di­tions. But, of course, this is a long term expec­ta­tion. In the short term, I wish to say the fol­low­ing: there are in fact two types of crimes sub­sumed under the notion of “crimes of ter­ror­ism”. One con­sists of the crime of “belong­ing to a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion” and the oth­er cov­ers crimes com­mit­ted by mem­bers of orga­ni­za­tions. When the crimes were com­mit­ted in the name of an orga­ni­za­tion, the sen­tences should be dif­fer­ent. For exam­ple, killing some­one in the name of the orga­ni­za­tion. For this rea­son, it is pos­si­ble to dis­tin­guish crimes labelled as “ter­ror­ism” into two sep­a­rate groups. Those hav­ing used vio­lence, or not. The great­est num­ber in the sec­ond group are detainees who were sen­tenced sole­ly for belong­ing, sup­port­ing a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion, with­out hav­ing com­mit­ted the slight­est act of vio­lence. Under the Turk­ish Penal Code, authors of non-vio­lent crimes, whether com­mit­ted in the name of a ter­ror­ist orga­ni­za­tion or not, are equal.” 

In oth­er words, accord­ing to these same prin­ci­ples, only those authors of crimes com­mit­ted with the use of vio­lence, whether com­mit­ted in the name of an orga­ni­za­tion or not, should be exclud­ed from ben­e­fit­ing from the reform.

A  petition for political prisoners

Ömer Faruk Gerg­er­lioğlu, a deputy from the Peo­ples’ Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty (HDP) and a mem­ber of the com­mis­sion of inquiry on human rights has launched a peti­tion. It is addressed to the Pres­i­dent, to the Min­is­ters of the Inte­ri­or and of Jus­tice, as well as to the Nation­al Assembly.

You will find  ver­sions in Turk­ish, Eng­lish and Ger­man on


No Discrimination in the Judicial Reform Package
Equal Remission for Turkey’s Political Prisoners


Our coun­try and the world are going through extra­or­di­nary times. As a rapid­ly spread­ing virus has con­clud­ed mass killings, gov­ern­ments have been tak­ing severe mea­sures aimed at ensur­ing pub­lic health and min­i­miz­ing the loss of lives. For this rea­son, it is imper­a­tive to urgent­ly take steps for Turkey’s pris­ons, where more than 300,000 pris­on­ers are locked up, and some 150,000 prison offi­cials are working.

Turkey’s incar­cer­at­ed pop­u­la­tion has sur­passed the country’s prison capac­i­ty by 100,000 peo­ple. The prison facil­i­ties lack ade­quate iso­la­tion, hygiene, nutri­tion, and treat­ment capa­bil­i­ties. This sit­u­a­tion pos­es a grave threat to the right to life of all the pris­on­ers, which the state is under a con­sti­tu­tion­al oblig­a­tion to protect.

Pri­mar­i­ly, all sick, elder­ly, women and infant pris­on­ers should be urgent­ly released. And the judi­cial reform pack­age, as well as the penal exe­cu­tion bill, which are expect­ed to be put on the Parliament’s agen­da in the com­ing days, should be designed in line with the con­sti­tu­tion­al prin­ci­ple of equality.

In a sit­u­a­tion that requires the release of pris­on­ers as a mat­ter of safe­guard­ing the fun­da­men­tal right to life; a reg­u­la­tion that keeps behind bars intel­lec­tu­als, politi­cians, artists and oth­ers who were impris­oned for “ter­ror­ism” for tweet­ing, writ­ing or mak­ing music; will lead to fur­ther wounds in the pub­lic conscience.

As inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions have been warn­ing, tens of thou­sands of peo­ple today con­tin­ue to face ter­ror­ism-relat­ed charges, which are in clear vio­la­tion of prin­ci­ples of legal­i­ty, pre­dictabil­i­ty, law­ful­ness, non-retroactivity.

Tens of thou­sands who have not been involved in or pro­mot­ed coer­cion and vio­lence, have been accused of lead­ing, being a mem­ber of or sup­port­ing ter­ror­ist organizations.

Tens of thou­sands who have had noth­ing to do with the crim­i­nal­ized actions have been inves­ti­gat­ed and pros­e­cut­ed sim­ply based on their views, in com­plete dis­re­gard of the indi­vid­u­al­i­ty of the crim­i­nal responsibility.

In order to put an end to this unlaw­ful­ness, the anti-ter­ror leg­is­la­tion should be relieved of ambi­gu­i­ty in a way to pro­tect all indi­vid­u­als who have not been involved in acts of vio­lence from ter­ror­ism-relat­ed charges.

A teacher was impris­oned for “dis­sem­i­nat­ing ter­ror­ist pro­pa­gan­da” sim­ply because she said, “Chil­dren should not die!” Hun­dreds of schol­ars known as “Aca­d­e­mics for Peace” were arrest­ed and sen­tenced to prison for urg­ing the war­ring parts in south­east­ern Turkey to end fight­ing. They signed a dec­la­ra­tion that said, “We will not be a par­ty to this crime.”  Thou­sands con­tin­ue to be held behind bars for express­ing their views.

At present, over 50,000 jour­nal­ists, writ­ers, politi­cians, musi­cians, aca­d­e­mics, human rights defend­ers, teach­ers, doc­tors, lawyers, uni­ver­si­ty stu­dents, busi­ness peo­ple, and home­mak­ers are incar­cer­at­ed on charges of terrorism.

We demand the release of those in pre­tri­al deten­tion over such accu­sa­tions in order to pro­tect their right to life, either through the judi­cial reform pack­age to be reviewed by the Par­lia­ment or through rul­ings to be direct­ly deliv­ered by the courts. As for those who are con­vict­ed, they should be able to ben­e­fit from the amend­ments. We also demand the removal of prob­lems relat­ed to the anti-ter­ror laws that are the root cause of all these injustices.

Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges |
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Le petit mag­a­zine qui ne se laisse pas caress­er dans le sens du poil.