Exhaustion of appeals



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  1. EXHAUSTION OF APPEALS:

There is no court in Turkey that remains independent, including the Constitutional Court. Judicial independence, which had already been hanging to life by thread before the June 15 coup attempt, has completely disappeared in its aftermath. This appeal has therefore been made directly to the European Court of Human Rights.

When we examine as a whole both the process that began with the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013 and that has continued up until the attempted coup of July 15, 2016, as well as what happened after the coup, the truth that surely emerges is this: without exception, in whatever case and investigation that has been opened and carried out in regards to the Gulen Movement, all the judges and prosecutors who have ruled on behalf of the defendants have been removed from duty, been reassigned, had audit inquiries initiated against them, been barred from their profession, or have been arrested for being a member of an armed terrorist organization and for overthrowing the government. In relation to this, judges and prosecutors at every level have been subjected to the same fate, from judges of the lower courts and public prosecutors to members of Council of State and the High Court, all the way up to members of the Constitutional Court. As of yet not one judge or prosecutor who has decided on behalf of the Gulen Movement has gone unpunished.

Special courts were formed in Turkey to deal with all the investigations and cases concerning the Gulen Movement. Judges affiliated with the government were then specially assigned to these courts. On June 22, 2014 when a journalist asked, “Will an operation be carried out against the Parallel Structure?” then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan stated, “The parallel judiciary is thwarting the government’s steps. Some of the configurations (the Criminal Judgeships of the Peace)1 we have made are now in front of the President. Rapid steps will be taken when he approves them.” In the same conversation, the Prime Minister announced, “We are developing a project. We are putting together the infrastructure for this task,” alluding to the operations that would be initiated on July 22, 2014 against the police officers who carried out the corruption operations.

Before the presidential elections, Prime Minister Erdoğan repeated his same views to representatives of the far right Great Unity Party (BBP). The BBP’s Vice Chairman, Remzi Çayır, announced this situation to the public, saying, “On his visit, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, ‘We have made configurations regarding criminal judgeships of the peace. At the moment these reorganizations are in front of Abdullah Bey (the President). When it comes out within a week or ten days, I will do away with them.’” Remzi Çayır repeated this statement on television for all to hear, and even so, by the time this appeal was made, the views in question have not been denied.

As it is understood from all that has been stated, the criminal peace judgeships, which are granted exclusive authorization to make arrests, were founded for the purpose of suppressing the people who they allege belong to the Gulen Movement, a movement they view as an enemy to the very power they hold over the government. By exceeding the boundaries prescribed by the rule of law, their aim is to deprive these people of their liberties, confiscate their assets, prevent them from exercising their most basic rights, and, as then-Prime Minister Erdoğan stated, to “wage war” on the Gulen Movement and to ultimately “do away with them.”

A closed loop system is formed when a challenge to a Criminal Peace Judge is determined as a different Criminal Peace Judgeship. Likewise, judges and prosecutors have been specially reorganized at the government’s behest at all the courts that will handle cases regarding the Gulen Movement throughout the judicial process, from the courts of first instance to the highest court of appeal. The enactment of these changes over the last three years clearly attests to this view, and everyone in Turkey is well aware of the situation.

Following the Corruption Operation of December 17-25, the executive branch placed special importance on the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HYSK) elections as part of their takeover of the judiciary. They also founded the Association of Judicial Unity Platform just prior to the 2014 elections. The above-mentioned platform was openly supported by the Minister of Justice and his undersecretary, who provided the platform with every kind of logistic support.

The election was won by a margin of about 1000 votes with the government effectively taking over the HYSK. These results were achieved by employing throughout the election process such methods as providing incentives bordering on bribery that included promises of salary increases and appointments to the High Court and Council of State in the event that the platform, with its close ties to power, should win, as well as openly threatening to blacklist independent candidates and label them as Gulen Movement affiliates. At the end of the election, the platform that the government put together received approximately 6000 votes while independent candidates received around 5000 votes. Over the course of the election process, the judges that supported the independent candidates were blacklisted as dissenters by the platform that was close to the government. A great majority of them were forced out of their profession and arrested following the coup on the grounds that they in fact engaged in the coup and were members of the Gulen Movement.

Following the elections, the HSYK acted as a representative of the Government, and openly stated as much. They placed all of the judges and prosecutors under active surveillance to determine whether they ruled in favor of the government, and applied particular pressure to ensure that the decisions ruled in favor of the Government. They even created special tip hotlines for this. The judges that ruled against the executive branch were immediately flagged and quickly removed from the case and the investigation, and transferred to a different post. Then, after they were made open targets by a group of pro-government news outlets known as “pool media,”2 audit inquiries were opened against them and they were eventually removed from their duties and arrested.

As independent judges and prosecutors were being targeted and devoured by the media-HSYK collaboration on the one hand, the Government had re-staffed in a way never before seen in history. The Ministry of Justice handled the hiring of judges and prosecutors. Contrary to all precedents, newly hired pro-government nominees were brought into critical positions just after they had began their careers. Partisan judges and prosecutors were assigned specifically to cases dealing with the Gulen Movement, and in general to all courts and prosecution offices that were of critical judicial importance. Even so, those who showed sufficient loyalty and ability were replaced by new hires. In the aftermath of the coup, all the interns began their assignments without having finished their judge and prosecutor internships, which was made possible by a regulation passed for the purpose of quickly replacing the 4000 judges who were dismissed from their positions.

On his return from a visit to Ukraine on March 20, 2015, President Erdoğan stated, “We are closely monitoring the judges who are making the decisions in cases dealing with the Parallel Structure.”

On November 20, 2015, the Ministry of the Interior, via a “confidential” writ (Number: … -2043. (31420) 152488 – Topic: Judicial Rulings) sent to the HSYK, demanded that action be taken against the judges who worked in the 78 administrative courts in charge of administrative justice, who had ruled against the ministry. In response, the Third Chamber of the HSYK took the decision to investigate the judges in question while the Second Chamber halted the promotion process of 12 judges on the grounds that they had ruled against the ministry. This is just one more example that sufficiently demonstrates that in Turkey the judiciary is now controlled by the executive branch. .

On June 12, 2015, General Secretary of HSYK, Bilgin Başaran, gave a statement to the newspaper Yeni Şafak. According to the daily, “...General Secretary of HSYK, Bilgin Başaran, who affirmed that the HSYK supports the members of the judiciary assigned to the Parallel Structure investigations, expressed that what needs to be done will be done again in the same way should anyone plan something similar to the kamikaze judge affair that occurred in May, or in the event that it is implemented.”

Sabah, a daily newspaper under government control, printed an article on July 26, 2015 under the headline, “Authority Downgrade against Judge Wavering on Parallel.” The article stated that “Judges who maintained a decisive attitude throughout the Parallel Structure investigations were given promotions, such as membership to the heavy penal court, while judges that showed hesitancy were demoted to lower courts, such as family courts and criminal courts of first instance.”

Upon his return from Belgium on May 12, 2015 the President, referring to the arrest of four prosecutors and a colonel who were conducting the investigations into the MIT semi-trailer truck scandal in Adana, told journalists, “This process of arrests here will probably extend to others. That is what it looks like.” On September 15, 2015, Süleyman Karaçöl, a judge who was a signatory in the rulings of the magistracy in the corruption investigations, was arrested on charges of belonging to a criminal organization and attempting to overthrow the Government.

Two judges of the Istanbul Criminal Court of First Instance, Metin Özçelik and Mustafa Başer, were arrested on April 30 and May 1, 2015 respectively. They had made the final rulings on the request to challenge and the dismissal pleas made by the 62 police officers and one journalist alleged to be affiliated with the Parallel Structure. Their decisions had freed the suspects. Consequently, these two judges were charged with attempt to overthrow the government and with belonging to an armed terrorist organization. No concrete evidence of guilt apart from the judicial rulings they had given (see January 20, 2016 AYM (Constitutional Court) decision, part 135 and Justification of Dissenting Vote) has been presented. This appears to be the meaning behind the message that President Erdoğan gave upon his return from Ukraine.

However, the intervention of the executive branch into the judiciary was not limited to the arrests of the two judges. Immediately after the April 25, 2015 decision to release the 63 suspects, the HSYK convened and opened an investigation into the two judges. Nevertheless, the President complained on April 26, 2015 that, “The HSYK acted too late.” In response, the head of the HSYK Second Chamber, Mehmet Yılmaz, announced to the public, “We were late. We apologize.”

Halil Koç, Head of the First Chamber of the HSYK, told Sabah, “Certainly, there will be retribution for this” referring to the two judges’ decision to release [the suspected officers and journalist.] Consequently, the media close to the government and the president rendered the Constitutional Court (AYM) an open target on April 25, 2015. Taking into account its specific role in preserving liberties and its position on the matter of individual appeal, the court fell victim to an intimidation attack, which was instigated by all the members connected with the government.

In a comment made to reporters at Turkey’s Nigerian Embassy on March 4, 2016 during his visit to West Africa, President Erdoğan stated, “The President of the Constitutional Court said, ‘The decision made by the Constitutional Court stands above everything. It is binding to everyone.’ It is binding in terms of constitutional and legal amendments, yes, but as it relates to individual appeals, you cannot assert such a thing. If it were binding, then it has to not go back to the first court again. If the first court makes a decision and stands on it, then there is no ruling that the Constitutional Court can give. Where would this go? If those people want, they can go to the European Court of Human Rights. If the European Court of Human Rights decides with the direction given by the Constitutional Court, then that is only binding in terms of compensation. The state then either objects to the compensation or it pays the compensation. I’m sorry but if these type of trials without arrests are administered against those who jeopardize national security secrets, we would be in big trouble.”

Then on March 11, 2016 in a speech he gave in Burdur, President Erdoğan said, “The Constitutional Court, in open defiance of the Constitution, put itself in the place of the lower court, and made a decision that has nothing to do with individual rights of appeal. ... What was your hurry? ... Look at this statement: They wanted to release these people from prison “on the grounds that there is no strong criminal suspicion.” Even though the court has absolutely no authority in this area, they got involved in the matter by passing a decision. … The lower court was able to remain firm on its decision. What will the AYM do then? We’ll see about that. … This issue does not even remotely concern judiciary independence. Whoever oversteps his authority in this regard finds me against him. If the Constitutional Court chooses such a course, I will not hesitate to voice my objections against it in the name of my people. If I remain silent in the face of these kinds of injustices I would not be worthy of my people’s trust. That’s the issue. … The Constitutional Court is the primary institution in this country that should be the most sensitive about the rights, interests, and wellbeing of the state and the people. But this institution, especially its president and a few of its members, have not hesitated from ruling against their country and their people on a concrete example of one of the greatest attacks against Turkey in recent times. What did I say to an institution that disrespects its own country and its interests? I said, ‘I don’t respect this decision then.’ … I wish the Constitutional Court would not get involved in these ways that lead to discussions over the court’s own existence and legitimacy.”

According to a Cumhuriyet newspaper article dated April 26, 2016 regarding the AYM decision about Can Dündar and Erdem Gül, the President “scoldingly” told the AYM board and (AYM President Zühtü) Arslan, with whom he had met, “‘the ruling you made is wrong, because for us the issue (articles concerning the 2014 MIT tractor trailer scandal) is a national security issue. We expected you to make a decision that was reflective of our sensitivity on the topic.’ ... In response to Erdoğan’s statements about ‘the demonstration of sensitivity on the national security issue,’ the AYM President cited the AYM’s rejection of appeals for ‘curfews’ in Turkey’s East and Southeast. Arslan delivered a message that said, ‘Yet we evaluated the curfews in context and we made our decision within the government’s national security policy framework,’ indicating that the curfew would be seen as a rights violation, in case it was believed that the high court’s rights violations were ‘committed by order of those running the government.’” There is no further need to explain the effect that the message President Erdoğan, who has effectively become the Republic of Turkey’s most important decision maker, sent to AYM members saying, “We expected you to make the decision that was reflective of our sensitivity on the topic,” will have on those members or how it will effect future decisions on similar topics. This article was not refuted as of the date this appeal was made.

On August 4, 2016, during the State of Emergency period following the July 16 coup attempt, the Constitutional Court dismissed Alparslan Altan and Prof. Dr. Erdal Tezcan, two voting members of the Lower Criminal magistracies, for unconstitutionality by employing Executive Order KHK/667. The decision relied on no concrete evidence. The decision to remove them from their professions was made only on the grounds of the opinions of the other members and by reason of these two members’ social environment. If the fact is taken into account that the Constitutional Court’s own members were charged with being a member (member, ally, liaison) of a terrorist organization and dismissed from duty by an executive order that runs completely contrary to the law, then there is no doubt that this court has lost its independence and that every member who bravely votes positive in this vote or in whatever appeal will be made will be subjected to the fate of their colleagues. In this regard, the Constitutional Court, like all the other courts, has is lost its judicial independence. Any appeal made here is useless and a waste of time.

After this and many other similar actions and statements, the Venice Commission published on March 16, 2016, a declaration “on undue interference in the work of Constitutional Courts in its member States.” In short, the Venice Commission stated that it has serious concerns over the statements made by politicians and that the “threats directed at the Constitutional Court of Turkey are in clear violation of the Council of Europe’s fundamental principles” (democracy, rule of law, and the protection of human rights) to which Turkey is bound. The Venice Commission’s former member, Constitutional Law Professor Ergün Özbudun, made a statement on October 15, 2015 at the “Rule of Law Conference” organized by the Freedom Research Association at the Taksim Elite World Hotel in Istanbul. In it, he said, “The area in which our democracy has taken the biggest hit in recent years is the judiciary, judicial independence, and rule of law. ... The event that essentially triggered the strain on, and deterioration of, the judiciary was the December 17-25 investigations. A series of laws that have been passed for the purpose of covering this up have consequently zeroed in on judicial independence. To begin with, the laws regarding judicial police were changed. Then the certain HSYK Law and the law, which I believe, opened the biggest wound, the one that established the lower criminal courts.... In the end, the law and restructuring that pursued the goal of changing the structure of the two high courts to favor the government pursued the goal of completely filling these courts with their own supporters. And it appears that they succeeded in doing just that. Additionally, it can be said that the attempt at seizing the judiciary branch or creating a dependent judiciary branch has been for the most part a success. This was evident in the HSYK elections. The group that the government supported logistically openly confessed that their goal during the election (the October 13, 2013 HSYK election) was to coordinate with the legislative and the executive branches. The duty of the judiciary that I know is not to cooperate with the legislative and the executive branches, but to check them. So, aside from a section of the Constitutional Court, it appears as though the process to take over the judiciary is complete.” Essentially, these evaluations are important evaluations made by an objective observer that summarize what has been happening in Turkey’s judiciary within the last thirty months and that attest to the latest situation.

On May 13, 2016, former European Court of Human Rights judge, Rıza Türmen, made a statement in an article titled “There is a need for a democracy front,” which was posted on an internet news portal called http://m.t24.com.tr. He said, “There is a consensus both at home and abroad that the system of government in Turkey is not a democracy. There is no possibility to otherwise see that the judiciary is not independent, that basic rights and freedoms, such as the right to assemble and protest, and the freedom of expression and the press are constantly being violated, that all the power has been consolidated in one hand through the erosion of the separation of powers, that all forms of criticism have been suppressed on the pretext of the ‘parallel structure’ or the ‘war on terror,’ that fear and oppression dominate society, that every day dozens of people’s lives are ruined and cities emptied out in a civil war in which we know from our experiences and the experiences of other countries that there will neither be winners nor losers, and that we are heading toward a cliff in a Turkey that is gradually turning in on itself and sinking into its own darkness. The party in power also sees this. But for them, there is an ‘agenda’ more important than anything else. That is, to form a hegemonic structure over the 50 percent who did not vote for them and thereby establish a new, religiously rooted Turkey based on the will of a single authoritarian man.” His words provide a snapshot of contemporary Turkey and affirm that the separation of powers has disappeared along with judiciary independence.

Following a May 26, 2016 National Security Council (MGK) meeting, President Erdoğan made a speech during Ahilik Week celebrations in the province of Kırşehir on May 27, 2016, in which he said, “Yesterday we made another new decision (at the MGK meeting). We have called it illegal terrorist organization under in legal perspective. We made a recommendation for the Gulenist Terror Organization and sent it to the Government. Now we are awaiting the Cabinet decision from the Government. We will register them as a terrorist organization. They will be put through the prosecution process under the same category as the PYD, YPG and the PKK. For they have made this nation suffer so much. They have divided this nation, this community. We cannot give them the opportunity to fracture the community. Some of them have fled, some of them are in prison.” The leaders of the High Court, Council of State, and Chamber of Accounts were among those who listened to the President in the front rows at this rally where he spoke these words, which took place 187 km from Ankara. They were observed applauding the President following remarks he made criticizing the main opposition party. This fact was echoed in the media.

The executive branch once again appointed specially designated judges to these courts, which were established to specifically fight the Gulen Movement. The 112 people who were appointed as Lower Criminal Court judges by the HSYK were almost all members of the Judicial Unity Platform, which was founded by the government and had won the HSYK elections. For example, Bekir Altun, Hulusi Pur, İslam Çiçek, Recep Uyanık, Cevdet Özcan, and Fevzi Keleş were appointed as judges to Lower Court in Istanbul. When we look at the decisions, it will be clearly seen that these six appointees had been specially chosen in advance. For instance, İslam Çiçek, one of the names appointed as a judge to the Lower Criminal Court had freed the five suspects – former Minister of the Interior Muammer Güler; Reza Zarrab; the son of former minister Zafer Çağlayan, Salih Kaan Çağlayan; Özgür Özdemir and Hikmet Tuner – who had been arrested as part of the December 17 corruption and bribery operation. It came out that Judge Çiçek was an admirer of Prime Minister Recep Erdoğan. The content the judge had posted on his Facebook page garnered much reaction as a result of his decision to release the suspects. Another name appointed as a lower criminal court judge was Hulusi Pur. Pur, who gained notoriety for sending world-famous pianist Fazıl Say to prison, released six people who were arrested in the corruption operation, including former Halk Bank General Manager Süleyman Aslan. Recep Uyanık, who was appointed as a Lower Criminal Court judge, lifted the precautionary measure requests that had been placed on the defendants’ assets as part of the corruption investigation. Judge Bekir Altun’s name also came up over the course of the corruption and bribery operation. He too was appointed as a Lower Criminal Court judge. Altun was dubbed “the judge who prevented the coup” by the pro-government media.

As much as the government has tried to appoint judges close to itself to these courts, those who have not demonstrated adequate performance in fighting the Gulen Movement have been gradually removed from these courts. The first lower court judges to be appointed to the Ankara Judiciary, using HYSK Order No. 1644 dated July 16, 2014, were Hülya Tıraş, Seyhan Aksar, Hasan Çavaç, Bahadır Çoşlu, Yavuz Kökten, Orhan Yalmancı, Deniz Gül, and Faruk Kırmacı. Seven of these eight lower criminal court judges working in Ankara were relieved from duty within the span of one year, from when the first appointments were made on July 16, 2014, to July 28, 2015. Yavuz Kökten and Süleyman Köksaldı were the first lower criminal court judges whom the government wanted to arrest, as they had ordered the release of several police officers. They were dismissed from duty and assigned to different courts. Orhan Yalmancı, who did not arrest the 24 police officers whose arrests had been called for on March 1, 2015, was dismissed from duty nine days later on March 9, 2015, along with Hasan Çavaç, who had rejected a portion of the challenges, and Seyhan Aksar, who had released the accused police officers in an earlier operation aimed at the officers. Seventh Ankara Lower Criminal Court Judge Hülya Tıraş was relieved from duty on July 14, 2015, two weeks after this decision, for ruling for the release of 25 suspects who had been detained for 110 days. Yaşar Sezikli and Ramazan Kanmaz, who ruled for release in the same case file, were also relieved of their duties, this time using HYSK Executive Order KHK/1157 dated July 23, 2015. Osman Doğan, who had released 18 police officers who had been sent to court to be arrested for their involvement with an illegal wiretapping operation on former intelligence police in Ankara, was also dismissed from duty. Ramazan Kanmaz, a Fourth Lower Criminal Court judge was assigned to a different court without even having fulfilled one year of duty in his current position. He had released 25 people who were arrested in the Public Personnel Selection Examination (KPSS) investigation, one of the many operations that the government used against the Gulen Movement. The reason these judges were relieved from basic duty was either their decision for release, or their rejections of arrest requests, which they had made in February, March, and July of 2015, and of which the government did not approve.

The end result of all this is that the executive branch, working in tandem with the HYSK and the media, has seized all the judiciary organs in Turkey. Nearly 4,000 judges and prosecutors have been issued arrest warrants, and members of the judiciary have been purged from their professions in a witch-hunt atmosphere using executive orders that were put in play following the coup attempt. In such an atmosphere, no judge or prosecutor, including members of the Constitutional Court, have no chance to rule in favor of the defendants in cases related to the Gulen Movment. The most significant judicial fact is that every judge and prosecutor who ruled in favor of the Gulen Movement, from the corruption investigations until now, were subjected to punishments, which, at the very least, begins with their authority being revoked, and ends in their dismissal and arrest.

Immediately following the heinous coup attempt of July 15, 2016, 2,745 judges and prosecutors were ordered to be detained the next day on July 16, 2016 on charges of being a member of the alleged FETÖ/PDY (Gulenist Terror Organization/Parallel State Structure) terror organization. On the same day, the HSYK made the decision to remove all of these judges and prosecutors from duty. In two rulings, one dated August 24, 2016 and the other August 31, 2016, the HSYK expelled a total of 3,390 (2847+543) judges and prosecutors from their jobs, including the applicant, without recognizing any right of defense. They justified these actions using the third article of Executive Order KHK/667.

The day after the coup attempt, the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) convened at around 9:30 on Saturday morning. Around noon that day they announced that 2,745 judges and prosecutors were suspended from duty. These judges and prosecutors were charged with the same crimes. This is an unbelievable situation. How could it be that these government institutions that were able to confirm in such a short amount of time as this that thousands of judges and prosecutors had supported the attempted coup, but were not able to detect the usurpers beforehand and stop them? These were not just judges and prosecutors who worked in the big cities such as Ankara and Istanbul where the coup took place, but also in small districts, in which not even HSYK members would be able to find them.

Even though all the Criminal Peace Judgeships were chosen from among the members of the Judicial Unity Platform close to the government, and specially appointed, the HSYK, the chief prosecutor offices and the commission presidents opened a special line of communication to supervise the criminal peace judges so that there would be no shrinkage in arrests. As they had no evidence on which to make arrests, the judges were sent a list of questions to be asked and the names of those to be arrested. The commission presidents and chief prosecutors personally oversaw the process.

The prosecutors who recommended the arrests and the judges that were to make the arrests in the first round following the coup feared that if they did not make those arrests that they themselves would appear on a second list and be dismissed from their jobs and arrested. Below are a few of the examples out of hundreds of what has been occurring all throughout Turkey.

In Denizli following the coup, the HSYK appointed Judge S.U. to the position left vacant by Criminal Peace Judge H.A. on the same day that H.A. decided not to arrest certain judges, citing the fact that there was not a shred of evidence other than the list that HSYK sent out on which appeared the names of judges and prosecutors that must be arrested. Judge S.U., however, had all 23 judges arrested.

Two married judge-prosecutor couples who had breastfeeding babies were arrested in the courthouse in Düzce province. K.O., the lower criminal court judge on duty had reviewed and agreed to their request to challenge their arrest on the grounds that the two female judges had nursing babies. During the challenge process, the deputy chief prosecutor put pressure on K.O. by saying “No one will be released, right, your honor?” In response to the release decision, the head prosecutor, deputy, and commission president made a verbal complaint to the Ministry of Justice and to the HYSK against the judge who had ruled for release, and the same judge was immediately taken off the roster. After this complaint the same judge was laid off and a decision was made to detain him. The night of the release decision, when the president of the heavy criminal court, F.A., bar president A.D., and the deputy head prosecutor Ahmet Altun criticized the decision to release, when one of the people who was there said, “but these female judges have nursing babies,” the deputy head prosecutor this time responded, “Screw her baby.” The bar president in Düzce explained this incident to lawyers.

When the decision was made to arrest Kars Prosecutor Y.H. and his wife, Judge E.H., they had to cut short their vacation in Izmir midway through and return to Kars even though they were with their three-and-a-half-year-old child and nine-month-old baby. They were both arrested, and the Kars Chief Prosecutor rejected the arrested judge’s request to breastfeed her baby. The same chief prosecutor called the judge and prosecutor “traitors.”

The decision was made to detain Diyarbakır Judge K.K. and her husband, Prosecutor T.K. With tears in his eyes, a fellow prosecutor did not call for the arrest of Judge K.K., as he knew that the female judge had a child with Down syndrome. He stated that this decision put himself at great risk and that he heard that they were drafting a new, 1,500-name judge and prosecutor purge list. These are important examples showing what kind of coercion judges and prosecutors have been under and what could happen to them as a result of the decisions they have made or might make.

On August 13, 2016, HSYK Vice President Mehmet Yılmaz posted this message on his Twitter account: “Judiciary members who have been proven beyond a doubt that they are members of an armed terrorist organization have been promptly removed from duty following the treacherous coup attempt” (@mehmetyilmaz073 – 13.08.2016 – 14.03). His statement completely disregards the presumption of innocence.

This court has forfeited its judiciary independence by using the July 23, 2016 law to prematurely terminate all memberships to the High Court and the Council of State before the term periods were up. After this date, the pro-government Judiciary Unity Platform members were chosen as members on condition of their loyalty to the government.

In the early hours of the day after the coup attempt, a decision was made to arrest close to 200 members of the High Court and Council of State. Afterwards, the HSYK General Council met early in the morning, even though it was a nonbusiness day, and decided to downgrade the membership of five members, who incidentally were not called to the meeting. These Council of State members were summoned to their places of work and detained. Decisions were subsequently made to illegally arrest them using courses of action that do not comply with the methods of investigation concerning members of the high court, which is outlined in detail in the legislation of the High Court, Council of State and the Constitutional Court.



  1. THE PEOPLE ARRESTED AND DETAINED IN CONNECTION WITH THE FETÖ INVESTIGATION HAVE BEEN SUBJECTED TO SYSTEMATIC TORTURE AT THE HANDS OF THE STATE IN DETENTION CENTERS AND PRISONS ACROSS TURKEY. THESE ACTS FALL WITHIN THE DEFINITION OF GENOCIDE, CRIMES AGAINST HUMANITY AND TORTURE.

Raphael Lempkin first coined the term genocide and was the originator of the concept. Lempkin describes genocide as a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the disintegration of essential foundations of the life of a group. The justifications for such a plan are not carried out against individuals because they are individuals, but because they are members of a national group. This plan can include effacing a group’s dignity, health and liberty, and destroying the group’s economic existence, national feelings, language, culture, and political and social institutions.

In the aftermath of the coup, all walks of society were intimidated and became insensitive to the serious violations aimed at the Gulen Movement. Top-level government administrators consciously use hate speech, in particular the President, Prime Minister, the Cabinet Ministers, President of the Bars Association, and the presidents of the High Court and Council of State. Before and after the coup, the state has deliberately employed antagonizing and hateful speech against the Gulen group. This hate speech condones torture and proves that its use is systematic, which constitutes a crime against humanity. This situation continues to worsen.

Economic Minister Nihat Zeybekci expressed these chilling sentiments regarding people whom he alleged were members of the Gulenist Terror Organization (FETÖ): “… Never mind the death penalty, we will punish them in such a way they will beg to be killed and saved. We will make them beg. We will put them in the hole, and they will suffer their punishment in these prisons in such a way that they will never see God’s sun as long as they live. They will not see the light of the sun. They will not hear the voice of another human again. They will beg us to kill them. Kill us, they will say. It will be worse than the death penalty…”

With respect to reasonable doubt and the detainees in the criminal investigations following July 15, 2016 coup attempt, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım went on CNN Türk news channel’s live broadcast program on August 2, 2016 and said, “We will catch them, and they will prove to us that they are innocent” (@Asalepci -2/8/16 – 21:06).

The judiciary bodies, prosecutors and courts that would enable the detection and punishment of torture are deliberately trying to conceal these incidents. Both lawyers who are pro-government and those who are not hesitate to take cases; the former for the above reason, the latter out of fear. Human rights violations go unreported in the media, as the press has either been seized or silenced by the government. Conversely, both printed and visual media consciously legitimize the genocide being carried out against the Gulen Movement.

The government systematically carried out torture, and drew no distinction between soldiers or other civil servants. Gökhan Açıkkollu, a teacher who was detained under accusations of being a member of the FETÖ/PDY terror group was held in police custody for 13 days. His family said that he had diabetes and that he was not given permission to take his medications. He died before he could even make his statement. On August 8, 2016 the Turkish Medical Association and the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey announced in a joint statement that Gökhan Açıkkollu was denied effective treatment opportunities. The authorities refused to hand his body over to his family before the funeral, saying that he would be buried in the “traitors’ cemetery.” They later handed his remains over to his family under the condition that he not be buried in Istanbul. His family brought his body to the small Konya town of Ahırlı, where permission was granted that only his family could bury him. A private citizen voluntarily had to preform the prayer service, as the local imam did not give the funeral prayers due to a new Religious Affairs Directorate rule.

A report released by Amnesty International states that people detained at official and unofficial holding facilities following the coup attempt have been subjected to beatings, torture and maltreatment. The report found that these people have been left without food, water and medical treatment, and have suffered sexual assaults, including rape. The report also states that independent observers have not been allowed to observe the situation of the detainees. The number of suspicious deaths in prisons and detention centers continues to rise. According to information supplied by Turkey’s Center for Prison Studies, rear handcuffing, beatings with wooden batons, and strip searches were applied almost routinely after July 15, 2016. Even former convicts began to feel uncomfortable with the images they saw of torture that were administered to the detainees after the coup.

As there was no link between the accusations and the people arrested after the coup, the authorities concentrated their efforts on extracting confessions through torture, the only means at their disposal. Since for the government each passing moment meant the return of the normal process of law and that the unlawful acts they committed would come to light, they are extending the state of emergency on the one hand and on they other they are ramping up the degree of torture to draw out confessions. To this end, a portion of the prisoners who are thought to have more information by dint of their previous official and unofficial duties were put in solitary confinement as per a Ministry of Justice directive.

On July 20, 2016 the newspaper Hürriyet and the state-run Anadolu Agency ran an article announcing that the Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar’s aid-de-camp, Lieutenant Colonel Levent Türkkan, had given some confessions. Alongside the article, they published a picture showing the aid-de-camp with his lower torso and both hands completely bound in gauze, and with clear signs of heavy abuse on many places of his body, including his face and head. He had clearly been tortured. The article attributed the following statement to the aide-de-camp: “I want to indicate that I was not persuaded to say these things during the interrogation at the police station. While I waited at the police station I asked for a paper and pen because I wanted to write my own statement. This way my testimony would not be coerced...” The article purports that a person who has both his hands bandaged almost completely in gauze, and who appears to have been severely tortured, wrote a confession under no pressure with those selfsame hands. Torture is applied as a method to force a confession and to obtain evidence. People were taken to prison on the pretext of the coup, where the authorities attempted to get evidence by means of torture, even though there existed no evidence against them. The people who have died as a result of this torture were written off as having committed suicide.

It is obvious to everybody that following the July 15 coup attempt the rights guaranteed by law, treaties and the Turkish Constitution are being obstructed or prevented from being applied, that the right of defense is being actively blocked, that the Law has been completely suspended, that human rights are being systematically violated – especially the right to live – and that torture is being systematically applied to prisoners and detainees. A climate of fear has been created using threats and intimidation. Prisoners in jail are being denied contact with their families, and have been unable to send and receive documents related to their defense, not to mention that any petition they make will be evaluated in the context of their alleged organization. Property has also been confiscated in order to inflict punishment on the prisoners’ families.

It is also apparent that until now inhumane treatment and crimes against humanity have not been perpetrated on the European continent so extensively and systematically at the hands of the state since the Holocaust. Those who could possibly file a complaint against the perpetrators of these crimes have been detained under terror suspicions and subjected to the so-called confession process following days of torture, so as to prevent them from ever taking action.

In regards to the protection of the right to life, it is well known that medications are not being given to people with chronic illnesses who depend on them, which has lead to prisoner deaths, yet no investigations into the officials that violated the right to live have been opened. Torture has been systematically applied to prisoners and detainees, who are being exposed to days of treatments that constitute torture, as the government exploits the fact that the detainment period has been extended 30 days, even though it has nothing to do with the State of Emergency declaration. The prisoners and detainees are being held in detention for long periods to make sure that the signs of torture disappear before they are released.

Doctors have been unable to give independent reports to detect signs of torture, while requests made by detainees and prisoners to see a doctor are not being met. Doctors are being coerced and threatened to not write signs of torture into their reports.

Those taken into custody are being housed 36 people to an 18-person dormitory, where detainees sleep in shifts and are entitled to one five-minute bath a week.

It has been observed that the lawyers appointed as counsel are connected to the state intelligent organizations, and that these lawyers do not render counsel services. They make no effort on the part of their clients, citing prohibitions made by the investigating authorities. It is obvious that they serve no other purpose but to break the morale of the accused. They do not share documents or information, nor do they give comprehensive information to the families of the accused. The lawyers back down from this power of attorney relationship under threat and coercion by systematic outside intervention, even though the detainees were originally told in meetings with lawyers that they would be able to get representation. Many of those detained and arrested were unable to get a lawyer, and those that did find lawyers saw them resign under threat of coercion. The meetings between lawyer and prisoner, or the prisoner’s spouse or close relative, were recorded, denying them the possibility of a comfortable meeting. Government observers actively listened in on these meetings.

It has also been observed that while an investigation must be launched immediately, no investigation has yet been opened despite the evidence regarding dozens of torture and human rights violations that have affected the public. None of those responsible have been suspended from duty and faced with consequences. Rather, the government has tolerated the violations of these two most basic rights, and even gone beyond tolerance. Despite available images and signs of torture, and even though international organizations and Amnesty International have come out and said, “there is evidence of serious torture, including rape,” the Ministry of Justice talks as if there is no mistreatment. Regardless of the fact that serious evidence for torture and right to life violations is published in the media, the government and the investigative bodies do not take action of any form.

In an official letter sent to all provinces, the Assistant Chief of National Police Ali Baştürk stated, “It was announced at a ‘coordination meeting’ that took place on August 25, 2016 in the Foreign Ministry, that the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture will be visiting our country between August 28, 2016 and September 6, 2016, and during the trip, site visits may be spontaneously conducted at any detention center in the country. With this in mind, I kindly request that care is taken to not use places such as gymnasiums, etc. that are being used as detention units, to act according to existing legal and international standards, and that rearrangements be made urgently to all the detention units so they are appropriate for the aforementioned visits.” This explicit official letter clearly demonstrates that state torture was heavily used and that they attempted to hide the evidence.

By granting public officials who carried out torture legal, administrative and criminal immunity by executive order, they received the message saying, “You do the torture and we protect you.” The detention period was extended by executive order to 30 days, and the time needed to administer torture in detainment conditions was created by extending the State of Emergency period.



The prison monitoring boards have been relieved of their duties. This is a deliberate step towards facilitating the use of torture. The President of the Grand National Assembly’s Turkish Prison Subcommission, AKP deputy Mehmet Metiner, openly stated that “they will not visit FETÖ prisoners, and allegations of mistreatment and torture related to them will not be examined.” In such an environment as this, the state is both encouraging torture as well as coordinating it. Human rights abuses against the Gulen Movement in Turkey are so widespread and systematic that the Turkish Bars Association president, Fetin Feyzioğlu, could easily say at a meeting he participated in the United States that there was no torture in Turkey. This situation alone would be enough to reveal the scale of violations in Turkey.
All of this clearly demonstrates that the Turkish state is committing right to live violations and torture. Despite the allegations of torture that appear in the press, the appropriate authorities are not carrying out positive or negative obligations to prevent these atrocities. In fact, according to the European Court of Human Rights, public officials whose involvement with torture and mistreatment can be substantiated must be suspended from duty immediately while a criminal and administrative investigation is opened up against. If their guilt is determined, they must be dismissed from their professions and punished. The fact that no investigation has been started in name or in deed despite the overwhelming evidence and that the responsible public officials still continue to perform their duties is being taken up with the European Court of Human Rights with a request for interim measures (RULE 39), as the executive body, military officials, investigative organs, and the judiciary demonstrate tolerance to incidences of right to live violations and torture, and do not conform to positive and negative obligations and that no judiciary body in Turkey, including the Constitutional Court, remains independent and neutral.


1 Sulh Ceza Hakimlikleri

2 Media properites purchased with a pool of money contributed by corporations who wish to win big government contracts, and therefore operate in the service of the government.

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