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International Justice Day

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Since June 2010, July 17th has been chosen as the anniversary of the International Justice Day, as stated in art. 12 of Kampala Declaration. The date represents the most suitable time to remark the importance and primary need of having an appropriate International juridical system in dealing with crimes such as   genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The most significant component of this system is the International Criminal Court (2002), the world's first permanent judicial body competent in bringing perpetrators to justice and providing redress to victims in case of States' unwillingness or inability.

On the other hand, the anniversary of the adoption of the Rome Statute (1998) shows the hidden side of the Court's work: the ICC, in fact,  represents an incentive for all States to fulfill their primary obligations to prevent, investigate and prosecute the crimes, underlining the importance of domestic courts at national and international level, in the construction of an effective system of International Justice. The States, whether parties or not of the Rome Statute, are the first actors able to fulfill the “never-again” promise, issued on the aftermath of World War II.

Marking 2014's International Justice Day, the Human Rights Agenda Association and its President Dr. Gűnal Kurşun want to underline the importance and the centrality of the day in the country. Quoting verbatim the words appeared on the Minister of Foreign Affair Ahmet Davutoğlu's official twitter account in occasion of the commemoration of Srebrenica's massacre (11.07.2014):

“We will never forget forget Srebrenica and we will not let it be forgotten, even if everybody else does”

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Refugees under attack

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In December 2011, the court sentenced Cengiz Yıldız, a police officer who was on duty at the time of the incident, to four years and two months in prison for involuntary manslaughter in the death of Festus Okey. The trial process, however, caused several controversies. The police officer who was the suspect remained on active duty, the shirt Okey wore the day of the incident disappeared and the prosecution of local refugee rights organizations that criticized the investigation or demanded to be a part of the hearings. "The police officer pointed the gun at Festus Okey during the interrogation in order to scare [Okey] and to satisfy his own ego and was completely aware of the risk that it could result in killing the detainee," the prosecutor said in a statement. 

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YET ANOTHER DEATH UNDER DETENTION!

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Allegations about the death of asylum seeker Litfiullah Tacik should immediately be investigated.17 years old Afghanistan citizen Litfiullah Tacik lost his life at Van State Hospital on 31 May 2014 with the diagnosis of cerebral hemorrhage as a result of violence he had allegedly subject to at the Foreigners Department of the Van Directorate of Security Foreigners.

According to existing information, it was identified that during investigations of 28 cases of death under custody since 2007 today, video camera recordings were not accessed/or not available.

According to the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, if the health of a person deprived of liberty by public authorities was well before he/she was taken under custody, any injury in terms of health generated from the start of detention, the burden of proof rests with the State Authorities to reveal the truth. One of the important tools of the proof is the video camera recordings.

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Sympathetic toward death penalty, intolerant of criticism

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I was watching Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on TV after a tragic event that took place in Adana. A 4-year-old girl, Gizem, was kidnapped and then found violently killed. I saw Erdoğan on TV speaking with a young woman who was requesting that he give the child's killer the death penalty

He said, “I said this before. Haven't you heard? You know, the death penalty is what my heart desires. But we're governed by the rule of law and the death penalty does not exist [in Turkey] anymore. ... First, the death penalty is what my heart wants. If [that can't happen], then an aggravated life sentence [will]." The woman replied, “Please do not release the perpetrator of this act of violence,” and Erdoğan answered, “It is not possible for someone to be spend life in prison in our legal system." According to Law No. 5275, Article 107, dated 2004, those condemned to aggravated life imprisonment are able to request they be put on probation after serving 30 years in prison.

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Hundreds of Afghani refugees protesting the UNHCR in Turkey

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Eight Afghani refugees have stitched their mouth to protest UNHCR discriminatory policies against them.

Hundreds of Afghan women, men and children gathered in front of the UNHCR office in Ankara city to protest against the performance of UNHCR in considering their asylum applications. Protesters claim that the UNHCR Office in Turkey does not receive their asylum requests and does not conduct interviews with them which eventually cause them wait for longer than expected. Moreover, the resettlement of Afghani refugees are also stopped by the USA, EU member countries, Canada and Australia thereby making the human tragedy worse in Turkey for the Afgani refugees. At the moment no country accepts them for resettlement. That is why the UNHCR Turkey office does not submit their files to any country.

The protests have entered in its second week; the protesters are staying in front of the Unhcr Office day and night.

 “There’s no food, no water and all people sleeping together on the pedestrian, that’s not the way it should be,” Mahboba 28 from Kabul complained to public Turkish media before the protesters were cleared out of the road said early Saturday .

An Afghani refugee representative stated that “....... we are victim of the international politics. The main responsible of our tragedy is the USA, EU member countries and the UN itself. The USA has created war in our country and the EU and the UN is just watching. Now they are not even accepting us as refugee. The Unhcr policies are designed by the USA and EU strong member countries. Where are the justice and human rights they are talking about......” 

 

HRAA 

 

Conflict in Syria

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On 6 March 2014, over 100 organisations from over 30 countries including Association Européenne pour la Défense des Droits de l’Homme (AEDH), Amnesty International, Caritas Europa, CCME - Churches’ Commission for Migrants in Europe, European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network, European Network Against Racism, Human Rights Watch, International Catholic Migration Commission, International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT), Jesuit Refugee Service Europe, Reporters Sans Frontières and Save the Children EU Office launched a campaign to call on European governments and the EU institutions to make a concerted European effort to offer protection to those fleeing the conflict in Syria in a spirit of solidarity with Syria’s neighbouring countries. This campaign petitions European leaders to act now to ensure access to protection for the men, women and children feeing the conflict in Syria

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Roma target: a Pan-European stigma

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“Everyone is entitled to all the rights and freedoms set forth in this Declaration, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

This is the literal quotation of Article 2 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), one of the most important articles in fighting against violations of people's fundamental rights -- the well-known right to non-discrimination. With the same words, Article 14 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) remarks the importance of this provision within the EU's corpus juris. Although clearly institutionalized within legal international tools, the benefit does not seem to own the same strength as other fundamental freedoms: Its boundaries are blurred and easily penetrable; moreover, the idea of non-discrimination is strictly connected to several variables, from the time in which the violation was committed up to the social fabric of the structure in which the misbehavior took place.

Due to these factors, I personally consider the prescription as a legislative hybrid, a figure somewhere between the reality of the right and the conceptualization of the claim. To fully implement it, other social sciences must come to rescue this fundamental freedom from the pure legislative requirements. A sociological approach is needed to draw the border of the provision's intrinsic efficiency and identify its possible infractions.

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The Gezi Park Process and the new democratic values in Turkey

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From a peaceful sit-in in defense of a city park to a nation-wide protest movement. This could be a brief summary of the events that occurred in Turkey during the last few months. Just few words to describe an affair that is completely changing daily life all over the country. What began as an environmental assembly against the umpteenth “cementification project” of one of Istanbul's last urban green areas, has undergone several transformations, especially after the brutal intervention of the police in a violent attempt to clear out the park of the green occupants. Suddenly, plural demonstrations of solidarity were sparked all over Turkey; moreover, the protests have turned into a cross-movement disapproving of the government's recent policies. While the citizens faced police brutality during the rallies, the entire world ideologically joined them against the harsh repression of their civil and human liberties. The newly-born Gezi Park Movement inspired different actions and reactions in which it has been compared to almost all the manifestations of dissent or popular uprisings which punctuated the 2000s -- from the #OccupyMovement to #TahrirSquare, passing through the #TurkishSpring. Actually, it is not the aim of this article to analyze the similarities between the Gezi Park Movement and other modern protests. My intention is to show a different perspective of the remostrances, sharing my personal thoughts and setting the Gezi Park Movement and its developments inside the democratization process that is taking place since the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has ruled the nation.
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International Justice Day

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The 15th anniversary of the International Justice Day comes in a changing time for Turkey.  The efforts made the present Government for the democratization of the country are reaching now the pinnacle of the path thanks to the ongoing peace process between the Republic of  Turkey and the PKK members: the process is showing to the entire world the strong will, from both of the actors, to end a thirty years long conflict within the borders of the region. The peace talks were greeted by the whole international community but, at the same time and in this day, some remark must be done.

Since ten years Turkey is undergoing a renewal of the domestic policies, in an unprecedented attempt to grant democratic and civil liberties to all its citizens like never before. Unfortunately, not ratifying yet the Rome Statute shows Turkey as not expressing its will of becoming a part of the civilized world, instead of standing together with states like USA, Russia, China, Israel and Iran. These states, including Turkey, are the few states which are not state parties to the Rome Statute, that 139 states signed and 122 of them became party.

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Religious Freedom in Turkey

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HRAA General Secretary Salih Efe spoke about religious minorities rights in Turkey at a conference held at the EU Parliament on 03 July 2013 in Strasbourg, France. He was invited to be speaker at the conference by the European Centre for Law and Justice (ECLJ) and Mr. Peter Van Dalen, Member of the European Parliament for the Netherlands.  
 
The final stage of the Ottoman era was an unmitigated disaster for everyone in the empire. As a matter of fact, the end of the nineteenth century and first half of the twentieth century were a virtual “living hell” for minorities. The same dark period experienced in Turkey during this time was also happening across the world. When the new Republic of Turkey was formed, the Armenians, Greeks, Arameans, the Jewish people, and other non-Muslims (those who had managed to survive) all dreamed of a fresh beginning. This was because, after all, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his men all asserted that they were forming a modern, secular, and democratic new nation, and received the praise of the world in so doing.
While minorities maintained this vision for the newly arising country, the facts did not bear out such claims in practice. A new nation was formed upon an ideology that rejected the very people who constituted the nation. Serious mistakes made and wrong policies adopted during the formation of the Turkish Republic still deeply affect the policies prevailing today. With the bureaucracy of the state being entrusted to the hands of a new class in Turkey in 1921, particularly after the 1924 Constitution, everyone was required to be a Turk and to embrace the identity accorded them by the state. Then, “the feelings of guilt” from the 1915 Armenian massacre (which to some clearly constituted genocide) during the last years of the Ottoman period “transformed into hatred for Armenians and other minorities” in the new, strongly secular Republic[1]. After the 1938 massacre in Tunceli (Dersim at the time) against Alevi Kurds, no further large massacres could be carried out, but the minorities could be “brought to their knees” economically by the state’s constant harassment[2].
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What Happened in Taksim ?

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The protests born in Istanbul last week in defense of Taksim Gezi Park from an urban renovation project, which would deprived a megalopolis increasingly constrained by cement of another green area, reached Ankara on 31st May in late afternoon. After a peaceful meeting in Kuğulu Park, in the central district of Cankaya, close to embassies and governmental offices, the demonstrators decided to march all together showing their solidarity to the Istanbul-based occupiers.

During the gathering in the Capital's parlor, many participants noticed the complete absence of the police, the absolute freedom granted to the protesters balanced with the different attitude towards the settlers in Gezi Park. No policeman was around the “Park of Swans”-Kuğulu Park. A joyful, peaceful  atmosphere, made even more pleasant thanks to the urban green space and the mild weather, colored by different flags, emblems of several political beliefs, united in an act of civil resistance.

Unfortunately, it was just an illusion: once started to parade, the demonstrators were blocked by the so long expected police in Bestekar Street, a narrow road close to assembly's point. The officers were simply waiting for them in an unexpected place. After a while, the anti-riot police started to shoot tear-gas bombs in direction of the participants, trying to break up the rally. The same tactic used in Istanbul but they faced the same resistance in Ankara too. The clashes lasted all the weekend. On Sunday night something changed. After attempts to violently repress the events, after several clashes between demonstrators and security forces, the protest vehemently culminated in the Capital, showing that main subject of the complaints was not only the Istanbul's Park but the Government's policies too. So Ankara suddenly became the center of the riots.

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