The Permanent Peoples Tribunal met on the 15 & 16 March, 2018 to examine the alleged crimes committed by the Turkish Republic against the Kurdish people
“GUILTY”! (…of war crimes, targeted assassinations, extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances, etc. etc. etc.)
“The Turkish state president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is directly responsible for the war crimes and the state crimes committed particularly in the cities of the southeast of Anatolia…” Philippe Texier, vice president of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal.
The Permanent Peoples Tribunal met on the 15 & 16 March, 2018 to examine the alleged crimes committed by the Turkish Republic against the Kurdish people, both on its own and Kurdish territory and abroad.
The hearings took place during the Turkish offensive into the Democratic Federation of Northern Syria – Rojava, launched in January 2018 and focused on events between 2015 and 2017, in particular the Turkish military assault on the Kurdish cities and towns “under curfew” in the south-east, as well as other acts of “counter-insurgency” both in Turkey and abroad.
Despite an invitation to attend, Turkey chose not to participate.
The proposal for the hearing had been formally accepted by the Tribunal on the 14th December 2017 and the Tribunal itself was held on both days in the French capital Paris.
On Thursday, 24 May, 2018 after almost 2 months deliberating, the Tribunal released its verdicts.
That day, Julie Ward, British Labour Party MEP tweeted:
“Glad to be opening the Declaration of the Verdict of the Permanent Peoples’ on #Turkey and the #Kurds with my colleagues @MCVergiat @GabiZimmerMEP @cmavrides!”
“[The] Turkish State responsible for denying the right to self-international determination of the Kurdish People, the negation of the Kurdish people’s identity and presence, and the repression of its participation in the political, economic and cultural life of the country, which is interpreted as a threat to the Turkish State’s authority.
The PPT identified the denial of the right to self-determination as the root cause of the armed conflict between the Kurds and Turkey”.
That: “…the armed confrontation between Turkey and the Kurds amounted to a non-international armed conflict ruled by international humanitarian law. The PPT criticised as inadequate the Turkish State’s characterisation of the conflict as a matter of terrorism to be regulated by anti-terrorist legislation”.
That: “…the Turkish State, the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the commander of the military operations against the Kurdish cities between 1 January 2015 and 1 January 2017, General Adem Huduti, guilty of committing war crimes during that period.”
That: “President Erdoğan was responsible for inciting and legitimizing the disproportionate and indiscriminate violence of the operations against both the armed Kurdish fighters and the civilian population through his repeated and indiscriminate qualifications of the Kurds living in the conflict areas, as well as of their chosen representatives, as ‘terrorists’”.
The Tribunal, in addition, found:
That: “…the Turkish State [is] guilty of State crimes, including targeted assassinations, extrajudicial executions, forced disappearances, committed by different branches of the State’s security forces and secret services, in Turkey and abroad, particularly in France”.
…with particular reference to the assassination of Sakine Cansiz, Fidan Dogan and Leyla Saylemez, in Paris, in January 2013.
Following its findings against the Turkish State, the Tribunal issued a number of recommendations.
- Turkey must immediately end all military operations carried out by its army in Syria and must withdraw its troops to within its national borders.
The Turkish offensive, launched against the Afrin enclave and the other areas of Syria where there is a majority Kurdish population, is a clear violation of international law, contradicting the principle of the non-use of force as embodied in Article 2, paragraph 4, of the Charter of the United Nations and it constitutes a crime of aggression, pursuant to Article 5 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
The facts show that military operations against heavily populated cities or regions amount to war crimes, pursuant to art. 8, paragraph 2, of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, such as murders, torture, massive destruction of property not justified by military operations, deportation or forced transfer of populations. Therefore, these facts constitute grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, especially of art. 147 of the IV Convention, to which Turkey is bound.
- Turkey is obliged to investigate and punish the persons responsible for war crimes, ascertained by the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal, committed in southeastern Anatolia during the period from 1 June 2015 to 31 January 2017.
This on the basis of the conventional obligation referred to the rule in common to the four Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949 (Article 49 of the I, Article 50 of the II, Article 129 of the III and Article 144 of the IV), which provides that: “Each High Contracting Party shall be under the obligation to search for persons alleged to have committed, or to have ordered to be committed, such grave breaches, and shall bring such persons, regardless of their nationality, before its own courts”.
The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal is aware that the determining of the crimes and the punishment of their perpetrators will never be possible unless the mechanisms and guarantees of the rule of law are restored, first of all the independence of the judiciary and the freedom of information. In Turkey, after the failed coup of July 2016, 4,279 magistrates (judges and prosecutors) were dismissed, 3,000 of them are in pre-trial detention, hundreds of media have been closed down (radio, newspapers, websites) and currently 150 journalists are detained, while thousands of teachers have been removed from their posts at universities and all levels in schools.
These events prevent the exercise of legal control against abuses committed by government agents, which can be implemented only if the independence of the judiciary is ensured and if a free and independent mass media that exercises influence on public opinion is guaranteed.
Therefore, the PPT, supporting the statement of the Platform for an Independent Judiciary in Turkey, considers that:
- Turkey must restore the rule of law, release still-detained magistrates and journalists, restore the rights of teachers and magistrates (judges and prosecutors) who have resigned or, have been dismissed from July 2016, restore freedom of press and information, end the state of emergency and fully implement the European Convention on Human Rights.
The war crimes and the crimes against humanity determined by the Court derive from the Turkish state’s refusal to recognize the Kurdish people’s right to self-determination, which led Turkey to ban the use of the Kurdish language in public life for years, to persecute Kurdish political parties and their leaders, to curb the Kurdish media, to imprison Kurdish politicians and journalists. This scale of discriminatory measures led to the emergence of various forms of resistance, including guerrilla actions conducted by the Kurdistan Workers Party, PKK.
The military offensives launched in the south east of Anatolia, and extended to the Kurdish regions across the border, are officially justified by the Turkish government with the claim that it is suppressing terrorism and protecting the national territorial and political integrity. However, the security of the State cannot be assured by denying the identity of a people, destined to live with Turkish people within the given borders. On the contrary, it is only by recognizing the identity of the Kurdish people that it is possible to end the conflict and a long period of conflict and suffering for both parties.
Ending the conflict is the only way to guarantee security. It should be noted that the recognition of the right to self-determination of the Kurdish people does not involve any form of secession because the principles of the border’s inviolability and respect for the territorial integrity of each State cannot be questioned, as affirmed by the Helsinki Final Act of 1975. Therefore, the recognition of the Kurdish people’s identity and dignity and their right to live peacefully with the other people living in the territory of the Turkish state is the key to ensure security, freedom, peace and justice for all the citizens of Turkey. As a result, the PPT considers that:
- Prior immediate proclamation of all military activity truce, Turkey must resume negotiations in good faith for a peaceful solution to the conflict — interrupted on October 30, 2014 — and complete them within a reasonable time frame.
During the negotiations, measures must be taken to ease the climate of hostility between the parties, in particular the release of prisoners, the re-opening of newspapers and other media, the restoration of local representatives removed from their positions. It is not for the PPT to indicate specific solutions that allow the Kurdish people’s right to self-determination to be accorded to the needs of cohabitation and good administration within the Turkish state.
Such solutions need not be difficult; they have historical precedents. One can point to the special status of autonomy granted by the Italian Republic to the Region of Alto Adige / South Tyrol, characterized by the presence of a strong ethnic group of Germans and Austrians. At the conclusion of the peace negotiations, an amnesty must follow for all crimes committed by both parties, both in Turkey and abroad. Only under these conditions could Turkey be relieved of the obligation to ensure the punishment of those responsible for war crimes and against humanity determined by the PPT, according to point 2.
- At the conclusion of the peace agreement, an amnesty must be issued for the crimes committed by all parties during the conflict, and all still-detained political prisoners must be released.”
The Tribunal concluded
“…the tragedy that has been tormenting the South East of Anatolia — causing incalculable suffering to the Kurdish people — is avoidable. It results from the errors, burdened by time, of a nationalistic dogma which provoked the Armenian genocide a century ago.
The Turkish and Kurdish people can avoid a similar fate by totally transforming the current policy and rooting out its origins. Although today the fatal rituals of hostility and denial continue, tomorrow could see a restoration and flourishing of justice, friendship and peace.
The judges asked all relevant international institutions to give due consideration to the verdict and reaffirmed that the decision of the PPT contains “important findings and recommendations that should serve as guidelines for all relevant international bodies and institutions”.
The Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal was established in Bologna in 1979 following on from the work of the Russell Tribunal II which investigated the crimes committed by the Latin American dictatorships in the mid-70’s. The “TPP is a grass-root initiative and the result of the need to create an independent tool for researching and analysing for the cognitive, cultural and doctrinal development needed to start the process of liberation and justice of the people….the existence of the Permanent People’s Tribunal is due, even today, to the absence of a competent international court to rule on the allegations and claims of individuals conceived in their collective dimension.”
The work of the Tribunal is based on the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Peoples proclaimed in Algiers in 1976 as well as the other international agreements protecting human rights. “According to the Charter, peoples are important collective subjects but marginalized by a law designed for States as the only recipients of rights, including the individual and collective dimensions in a single legal system serving both individuals and peoples.”
Following the verdict of the Tribunal the Canary added:
“But there was also a note of warning at the conference; that the international community must actually act upon the PPT’s findings.
With this in mind, Kariane Westrheim from the University of Bergen in Norway reminded the conference of the testimony of Mehmet Tunç – a Kurdish opposition politician who made a call directly to a European Union conference room from a basement during the bombardment of Cizre. Tunç begged the EU officials to prevent the Turkish state from murdering him and those hiding with him.
As Kurdish human rights lawyer Mahmut Sakar told the conference:
‘They did nothing, and then he was burned alive. His screams echo in these very walls.’”
Where to now must be the question, in particular to the international community and Turkey’s NATO allies with their lip-service to democratic standards and their human rights rhetoric.
It is imperative that the findings of this Tribunal be translated into a plan of action to insist that peace and dialogue is the only civilized and humane way forward out of the current abyss.
Philippe Texier, vice president of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal:
“The tragedy that has been tormenting the South East of Anatolia, causing incalculable suffering to the Kurdish people, and which affects the Turkish people, is avoidable. It results from the errors, burdened by time, of a nationalistic dogma which in the past provoked the Armenian genocide. The Turkish and Kurdish people can avoid a similar fate…”
War…is avoidable. Peace…is possible: a message to the Turkish people as they now prepare once more to elect those who will govern them….