Parliament Needs to Deal With Torture
In an interview with bianet, Akin Birdal, humanrights activist and independent candidate in Diyarbakir in the upcoming general elections, has listed the changes that Turkey needs to make in order to put an end to torture.
A life committed to human rights
Birdal was the general secretary of the Human Rights Association (IHD, founded in 1986) from 1986 to 1992, and the president from 1992 to 1999. In 1998 he was attacked by two armed men at the Ankara headquarters of the IHD, but survived the attack with injuries. A leader of the so-called "Turkish Revenge Brigade" (TIT), Semih Tufan Gülaltay, was sentenced to 19 years imprisonment for organising the attack; however, he was released after four and a half years under a controversial general amnesty.
In 1998, Birdal was sentenced to imprisonment under Article 312 by the Ankara State Security Court for a speech he made on Peace Day in 1996. International rights organisations started a campaign for his
release. He was freed in 1999. Birdal is a founding member of the United Socialist Party (BSP) and the Freedom and Solidarity Party (ÖDP). He is the honorary preseident of the Socialist Democracy Party (SDP), of which he was president in 2002. He has been vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).
Prevention of torture
According to Birdal, torture can only be prevented if the following are done:
* The new Law on Police Duties and Authorities needs to be taken to the Constitutional Court by parliament and cancelled
* The constitution and the legal system, which at present hinder human rights and freedoms, need to be democratised.
* The international and regional conventions against torture which Turkey has signed need to be internalised.
* The Supplementary Protocol to the Convention against Torture needs to be ratified and applied.
* Mechanisms to punish torturers and to end the encouragement and reward of torturers need to be put into place.
"A package against torture"
Birdal, who is running for parliament as an independent candidate in Diyarbakir's second constituency, says that these changes could be brought into parliament as a "package against torture".
He expressed the hope that a group of independent MPs, himself included, could ensure that such a package was part of a coalition government's agenda, or that a parliamentary group made up of independent candidates could raise the issue in parliament.
"AKP weak on human rights"
Birdal recalled that after the new police law has come into operation, there have been 3 deaths in detention in the last 15 days. He evaluated the ruling Justice and Development (AKP)'s performance on human rights as "weak", saying "Zero tolerance to torture has remained a slogan. The most important thing is the internalisation of human rights standards".
The three cases he referred to were:
* Hakki Cangi in Canakkale (west of Turkey), said to have "hanged himself while in detention"
* E.T., said to have "hanged himself while in detention" in Izmir (Aegean coast of Turkey)
* Mustafa Kükce, who was arrested last week in Ümraniye, a quarter of Istanbul, in a healthy state, but who died in prison while in detention.
Constitutional change essential
Birdal emphasised that constitutional change was essential. "We need to change the constitution and the legal system which were put in place after the military coup of 12 September . We need a humanist constitution which conforms to international legal norms and to human rights standards, which is pluralist, participatory and pacifist, which takes the judiciary as its highest reference, and which ensures
rights and freedoms." (TK/EÜ/AG)
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Diyarbakır - BÄ°A News Center
27 June 2007, Wednesday