During the week of December 19-26, 2000, 10,000 Turkish soldiers violently occupied 48 prisons to end two months of hunger strikes and ?death fasts? by hundreds of political prisoners. The hunger strikers were protesting the state?s plan to transfer its prisoners from large wards to US-style ?F-type? cells holding one to three occupants. Operation ?Return to Life? ? which left at least 31 prisoners and two soldiers dead ? lasted a few hours in most prisons, and up to three days at one prison. Eight prisoners were reportedly ?disappeared,? and at least 426 prisoners have been wounded. 1,005 prisoners have been transferred to F-type cells.
The armed operation ostensibly aimed to ?rescue? members of illegal, radical left organizations from ?forced? starvation at the hands of their leaders. But the official number of prisoners conducting death fasts has reportedly increased to 353 since the operation, up from 282. Unofficial reports say that up to 2,000 prisoners are starving themselves, with the active support of 10,000 others. Human rights groups suspect security forces of burning prisoners with firebombs during the operation. According to the Human Rights Foundation of Turkey, some bodies were buried without being identified, and other deceased prisoners? families and lawyers were not admitted to the autopsies.
Another small bit of justice was issued to the Dink family this week when a an Istanbul court found the state-owned Turkish Radio and Television Broadcasting Corporation guily of defamation for airing a documentary making unfounded accusations that Dink was responsible for the 1978 Maras massacres. After a long court battle (TRT ran the documentary in December 2008), the court ordered TRT, Bey Productions Company (the company that produced the documentary), and Maras MP Okkes Sandiller (a prime suspect of the Maras massacres who made the accusation) to pay a total of 20,000 TL in compensation. For more on the case, see this article from Bianet.
The mini-democracy reform package the government is planning to introduce to parliament by the end of March is said to include plans for a National Human Rights Board, which will reportedly involve a re-structuring of the Office of the Prime Ministry’s Human Rights Presidency. The organization is designed to be an answer to repeated EU calls for an office of ombudsman, which would investigate human rights violations committed by the state. However, as Today’s Zaman‘s Ayse Karabat reports, plans for the new institution are being sharply criticized by human rights groups as falling short of the Copenhagen political criteria and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’s Paris Principles designed to guide national institutions setup to protect human rights. The government’s plans for the board would have its members appointed by the government rather than elected in an independent process and would requires that members not have criminal convictions. The latter requirement is difficult in that many human rights activists and officials have and routinely do fall prey to complainants and prosecutors using criminal laws restricting freedom of speech. From Karabat:
One article in the criminal code – the infamous “301” on insulting “Turkishness” – has been used to prosecute award-winning novelists Orhan Pamuk and Elif
Not only are torture techniques like waterboarding, sleep deprivation, and forced stress positions evil, they don’t work very well for interrogation. Jacques Vallee talked about that on BB last year in his provocative essay, “Waterboarding’s curious corollaries.” This week’s New Scientist also considers the efficacy of torture and “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment” (CIDT). On the heels of Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, Obama established the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Group to study and practice “scientifically proven” techniques to interrogate without torture or CIDT, which are illegal.